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Delaware's Alissa Alker (12)

Delaware To Face American In NCAA Volleyball Tournament

Courtesy: CAA
          Release: 11/27/2011
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- For the Colonial Athletic Association champion University of Delaware volleyball squad, its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament will be at a familiar venue, but against a different opponent.

The Blue Hens (20-12), headed to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years, will travel to State College, Pa. for its first round game for the second straight year. Delaware will take on Patriot League champion American University in a first round game this Friday, Dec. 2, at 5 p.m. at Penn State University's Rec Hall.

No. 9 ranked Penn State (23-7), the tournament No. 8 seed and the four-time defending national champions, will take on Big South champion Liberty (20-12) in the other first round game Friday at 7:30 p.m. The two winners will advance to play in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Delaware, led by head coach Bonnie Kenny, is 1-3 in NCAA Tournament play over the last five seasons, defeating Princeton in the first round in 2007 before falling to St. John's in the second round that same year and to Oregon in the first round in 2008 and to Virginia Tech in opening round at Penn State a year ago.

"It's always exciting for our program to be part of the NCAA field of 64 and to see our name come up," said Kenny, whose squad played four national Top 25 teams this season, including Stanford, Oregon, Florida State, and Northern Iowa. "It's an honor and a privilege to be competing. American is a team that is very similar to us and they are used to being in the NCAA Tournament. I have a lot of respect for their program. We look forward to playing them at Penn State."

American, which will enter the NCAA matchup riding a 10-game win streak, including Patriot League Tournament wins over Colgate and Army, has dominated the Patriot League of late, winning 10 titles in the last 11 seasons. The Eagles, led by head coach Barry Goldberg, have now advanced to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in the last 15 seasons.

Delaware and American faced three common opponents this season in Oregon, Villanova, and George Mason. Both teams lost to Oregon and Villanova while both defeated George Mason. The Blue Hens defeated their CAA foe Patriots twice.

The Blue Hens, who take a six-match win streak into the NCAA Tournament, including CAA Tournament wins over James Madison and Virginia Commonwealth, are led by CAA Setter of the Year Renee Tomko (10.7 assists per set), first team All-CAA hitter Alissa Alker (3.1 kills per set; .224 hitting pct.; 3.1 digs per set), second team All-CAA hitter Chelsea Lawrence (2.2 kills per set; .267 hitting pct., 1.7 blocks per set), and third team All-CAA pick Kim Stewart (2.5 kills per set; 3.3 digs per set).

"This never gets old," said Alker of her second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. "There is still the same amount of excitement. All the girls were really happy with our draw. We've been to Penn State, we've played there before, and we're ready. We've been training hard but we are not fatigued. We are excited about playing American and we are ready to take on the tournament."

American, which took powerful UCLA to five sets in losing its first round NCAA Tournament game a year ago, is led by freshman Sara Rishell (3.15 kps; .317 hitting pct.), who captured both the Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year awards this fall. In addition, Eagle players Rebecca Heath (2.59 kps; .264 hitting pct.) and Monika Smidova (5.6 aps; 2.4 dps) earned second team All-Patriot League honors. Goldberg is a three-time Patriot League Coach of the Year.

Delaware and American have met 14 times previously but not since the 2000 season when the Eagles posted a 3-0 victory. Delaware's last victory in the series came in 1996 but American has won three straight since that match.

NCAA Volleyball Tournament Information