Wisconsin’s path back to the Final Four runs through the UW Field House.
The Badgers volleyball team received a No. 1 seed in their 16-team region of the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Of the 64 teams in the tournament, the Badgers were ranked third overall.
The Badgers will host Quinnipiac in a first-round match at 7 p.m. Friday at home. Should the Badgers win, they’ll take on the winner of TCU-Washington at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Obviously, there is getting to sleep in your own bed (that is nice) and practicing here more days, but the Field House is so dang special, especially as a senior to have extra games in the Field House, you can’t ask for anything more,” senior middle blocker Danielle Hart said. “This is the cherry on top.”
Bracket:2022 NCAA Volleyball Tournament
Play for the 64-team field begins Thursday with each team competing for a spot in the Final Four, which will be held in Omaha, Nebraska, Dec. 15-17. This year marked the first time the top 32 teams were seeded.
Marquette, like Wisconsin, received a top-32 seed.
The Golden Eagles, the co-Big East champion, qualified for the field for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons and earned a No. 4 seed in their portion of the bracket. MU (27-3) will face Ball State at 7 p.m. on Thursday after Georgia Tech plays Wright State at 4 p.m. The winners will square off at 6 p.m. Friday.
Marquette (27-3) didn’t have to wait long to learn its fate, hearing its name called about five minutes into the selection show.
“It’s just always nerve-wracking, just not knowing exactly where they are going to place us at,” MU junior middle blocker Carsen Murray said. “But it was kind of a relief when we found out so quickly. I jumped out of my seat immediately.
“But I’m just happy we get the opportunity to host and play at home. It’s a huge advantage, and I’m excited for Thursday.”
Big East title run helps Marquette host for first time in four years
The Golden Eagles last hosted NCAA Tournament matches at the Al McGuire Center in 2018, when MU advanced to the regional semifinals.
“We’ll hope for a nice student turnout on Thursday night,” MU coach Ryan Theis said. “What else do you have to do but come to the game? So hopefully we’ll have a nice environment and the excitement to host will be there.”
MU shared the Big East regular-season title with Creighton and the two teams are coming off an epic match in the conference tournament championship on Saturday. The Bluejays earned a 16-25, 25-20, 25-18, 31-33, 15-12 victory in Omaha.
“Last night was terrific preparation for us to be in some tight matches,” Theis said. “We only had three five-setters all year.
“Trying to use block subs, serve subs, to try to create some advantages in certain situations that we practice a lot but a lot of times they don’t show up in matches if they don’t get that long or that extended. We were out of subs in the fourth and playing in a tough environment that I think made us a lot better.”
Wisconsin carries 18-match winning streak into the tournament
On four other occasions Wisconsin received a top-four overall seed for the tournament: No. 4 seed in 2021, No. 1 seed in 2020, No. 4 seed in 2019, No. 3 seed in 2016, and No. 4 seed in 2014. The last three times Wisconsin advanced to the national semifinals or further.
“There is excitement getting another week and another match with this group,” Badgers coach Kelly Sheffield said. “You’ve got to earn the right to move on and every match that you’re playing is kind of a gift.”
The Southeastern Conference received the most bids (seven). The Big Ten received six – UW, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue – with each of those teams earning a top-32 seed.
During the selection show, Pauline Thiros, the NCAA Division 1 volleyball committee chair, said there was discussion about whether Louisville or UW should receive the No. 2 seed overall. Ultimately, Louisville got that nod.
Sheffield offered no complaints.
“The bracket looks pretty balanced,” he said. “But you’re in a bad place if you start out doing a lot of judgment on the bracket or who you’re playing or things like that. You really have to have the mentality that we’ll take on anyone, anywhere at any time because that is the mentality you want your team going into the tournament (with).”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin, Marquette earn NCAA volleyball bids, will host first rounds