Tops to face Jackson State in opening round of NCAA Tournament
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -If Western Kentucky Volleyball wasn’t an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, Sunday afternoon’s selection show would’ve been much more suspenseful as the Tops were one of the last four teams relieved in the bracket.
WKU will face Jackson State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. The match will take place on Wednesday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
This is the 13th tournament appearance for head coach Travis Hudson and WKU.
“Just excited to be a part of the NCAA Tournament in any given year,” Hudson said. “Our team and our program are all really excited to be a part of an incredibly unique NCAA Tournament experience. There’s never been anything like this. There will probably never be anything like this again.”
This year’s tournament is in a bubble format, similar to the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.
“Obviously we’re really excited just to be in this tournament and be playing such amazing teams,” said senior Kayland Jackson.
Jackson State (11-0) are the champions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Hilltoppers have never face the Lady Tigers before.
“In an NCAA tournament, everyone can play,” Hudson said. “When you get that field paired down to 48 you know that you’re dealing with teams that can play.”
Now for Hudson and the Tops comes balancing the days leading up to their opening match, as WKU will have a 10-day break before Jackson State. Hudson says he wants to give his players some rest but also keep them sharp.
“You’re going to leave on most likely Sunday and then your not going to be allowed to practice until Tuesday,” Hudson said. “There’s just going to be a lot of trying to punch the right buttons and figure out how to keep your team in a good place and be ready to perform at a high level.”
“It’s a fine line between staying healthy, not going too hard, but also pushing yourself to make sure you’re prepared to get in that tournament and do some really good work,” Jackson said. “It will be a fight. We just have to get in the gym and make sure we take care of what we can take care of.”
WKU was left out of the 16 seeded teams that get a first-round bye in the tournament. Hudson said if his team deserved to be seeded then they’ll prove it when they get the opportunity.
“That team we had that was seeded two years ago in Diddle Arena, it was and always will be a really special team,” said Hudson. “But I do believe this team we have right now is playing at a higher level.”
Wednesday’s winner will face 15 seed Washington State on Thursday, April 15.
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