FSU volleyball looks ahead to NCAA regional

Bulldogs seeded second in Midwest regional

BIG RAPIDS — After a one-year absence from the NCAA tournament, Ferris State’s volleyball team is headed back to regionals this year with a familiar foe awaiting them in Hillsdale.

The Bulldogs (26-3) will continue its post-season action after earning a berth in this week’s NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Women’s Volleyball Tournament, which was announced late Sunday evening by the national women’s volleyball committee.

Ferris State, which is seeded second overall in the field, will go up against the tourney’s No. 7 seed Saginaw Valley State at 2:30 p.m. on Friday in quarterfinal-round action at Jesse Philips Arena in Hillsdale. It will be the second of four quarterfinal matches.

ATTACK: Ferris State's Mallory Kopa goes up for the kill against Ashland in the GLIAC tournament. (Pioneer file photo)

Coming off a 3-0 loss to Hillsdale in the final of the GLIAC tournament, Ferris State coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm said she and the Bulldogs are excited to be back in the tournament, facing a talented SVSU team.

“At this point, it’s just one match at a time,” she said. “Your next match is your most important match.”

Senior libero Lisa Tobiczyk said taking on a familiar opponent has its advantages, but doesn’t change the fact that SVSU is a talented team.

“Playing somebody that is familiar, that we’ve already played twice this season, is an advantage,” she said. “It does help, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult when you’re playing a good team. They have a big front row and they’re pretty aggressive on offense. We’ll continue to do what we’ve done all season, which is take care of our side of the net.”

FSU captured the 2011 GLIAC North Division Championship this campaign with a 18-1 overall league mark and are presently ranked 12th nationally. SVSU owns a 18-10 record to date after falling to Hillsdale by a 3-1 count in Saturday’s league tournament semifinals held at FSU.

Ferris State and Saginaw Valley State met twice earlier this season in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action with the Bulldogs beating the Cardinals by identical 3-0 scores both in Big Rapids and at University Center.

Brandel-Wilhelm said the Cardinals boast a solid team defense with a dynamic outside hitter in All-GLIAC member Annie Buxton.

“They’re a scrappy team defensively that can keep a lot of balls in play,” she said.

Brandel-Wilhelm said she’s excited to be returning to the tournament after a one-year absence and competing against some of the top teams in country in Division II.

Being seeded second doesn’t make much of a difference to Brandel-Wilhelm or her players, she said.

“The seeding doesn’t make a difference because everyone you play at this point is good,” she said. “We’re going to need to focus on our play. That’s going to be a critical factor.”

Hillsdale, ranked No. 8 nationally, was chosen as the top seed and will host the regional tournament from Friday to Sunday. Semifinals will take place on Saturday night with the championship match on Sunday.

Tobiczyk said the team is fully aware that the possibility of a rematch against the Chargers exists if both teams win their first two matches, but that isn’t a concern right now.

“There’s no denying that the possibility (of a rematch) is out there,” she said. “At the same time, it would be foolish to think that far ahead.”

Tickets will be $10 for adults and $3 for students. Those prices will get those fans into all matches for one day of competition. There will be no weekend passes for sale. Fans who want to attend multiple days of competition will have to buy a new ticket on the second day, and another new one on the third day.

Ferris State will be making its first NCAA-II Regional appearance since 2009, when the Bulldogs dropped a 3-0 decision to Lewis (Ill.) to Indianapolis, Ind. FSU’s upcoming regional appearance will represent the program’s 16th all-time as the Bulldogs have compiled a 7-16 overall record in NCAA Tournament competition.

Brandel-Wilhelm said the team will focus on taking care of the little things in practice this week in preparation for the regional competition.

“At the end of the year, you’re more focused on the details and making small adjustments,” she said. “We just want to be healthy and strong headed into regionals. You expect that everyone is playing their best volleyball this time of year.”

The winners of each of the 2011 eight regionals will advance to the national finals from Dec. 1 to 3, which will be conducted on the campus of a participating institution.

They key to the Bulldogs being successful at the regional competition will come down to playing with the same type of consistency that has become their trademark this season.

“We’re a team that continues to play to our strengths,” she said. “I don’t know that we played badly (in the GLIAC title game), it was just that Hillsdale was very focused and played really well. We’re just so honored to be in the tournament, and focused on winning the next match.”

Tobiczyk said every team who reaches the tournament has the dream of winning a national title, but the Bulldogs are concentrated on winning the match in front of them. Still, there are some goals in the back of her mind.

“I think a big thing for our program would be to reach the Elite Eight,” she said.

Midwest Region
Hosted by Hillsdale – Nov. 18-20

Quarterfinals – Friday

  • No. 3 Indianapolis (21-7) vs. No. 6 Southern Indiana (20-10), noon
  • No. 2 Ferris State (26-3) vs. No. 7 Saginaw Valley (18-10), 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 4 Northern Kentucky (25-5) vs. No. 5 Lewis (25-5), 5 p.m.
  • No. 1 Hillsdale (27-2) vs. No. 8 Missouri S&T (24-9), 7:30 p.m.

Semifinals – Saturday

  • 5:00 – 3/6 winner vs. 2/7 winner
  • 7:30 – 1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner

Championship – Sunday

  • 4:00 – championship match

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