The Michigan volleyball team has played in the NCAA tournament six times, but it has never played host. Until now.
The home-court advantage could be the key to early-round success for the Wolverines.
At 22-10, Michigan finished with its best regular-season record in 26 years.
Michigan coach Mark Rosen hopes hosting the first and second rounds of the tournament will help his team come out strong. Even though the team will still be at home, its weekend matchups will be played at Crisler Arena.
“Certainly, we’re excited about hosting the tournament,” Rosen said. “We don’t have to travel, and we get more practice time this week. It’ll be fun to have our home crowd, and it’ll be fun for the players to have their family and friends here to support them.”
The Wolverines will face Miami (Ohio) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round. Tickets are normally $6 for students, but the volleyball program received an anonymous donation, which will cover admission for the first 500 Michigan students.
With a first-round victory, the Wolverines would take on the winner of Illinois State and Colorado State.
The second-round match, set for Saturday at 7 p.m., determines who will advance to the NCAA Regional in State College.
Rosen said the team feels confident it can have success against the opponents in the early part of the draw.
The Wolverines faced Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 31, defeating the RedHawks 3-0 (30-23, 30-22, 30-28). Michigan has not lost to the RedHawks since 1984 and has also beaten potential opponent Colorado State earlier this season in four games.
The Wolverines received a bid to the NCAA tournament in seven of the past nine years, but it has never made it past the second round.
Michigan hopes to rebound from a 1-3 (21-30, 22-30, 32-30, 21-30) loss to No. 1 Penn State last Saturday in their final regular-season game.
“We played a great third and fourth game against Penn State,” senior co-captain Lyndsay Miller said. “I think that fired us up, playing really well against a good team. I think we’re ready to go now. We definitely have momentum.”
The solid play and leadership by its seniors contributed to the team’s end-of-season success, where the Wolverines won five out of their final eight contests – all against Big Ten teams.
But Michigan has its sights set on an even stronger finish.
“We’ve been playing really well this past month,” Rosen said. “One of the goals the team has had from day one was not just to get into the tournament but to advance in the tournament.”