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PULLMAN -- The WSU volleyball team received an at-large bid on Sunday to the 2009 NCAA Women's Championship Tournament. It's first trip to championship since 2002. Rachel Todorovich (Columbia '09 - shown at right) has been an important part of WSU's success this year.
[Update: LINCOLN, Neb. - In their first post-season competition since 2002, the WSU volleyball team ended its season with a 26-24, 25-21, 25-20 loss to No. 20 Northern Iowa in the first round match of the NCAA Championship tournament at the Nebraska University Coliseum.
WSU (18-13) was led by freshman Rachel Todorovich with a career-high 15 kills, a .556 hitting percentage (0 errors on 27 attacks) and 10 digs.]
The Cougars, 18-12 overall, 6-12 in Pacific-10 Conference (8th), will play Northern Iowa (30-2) in the first round, at 4:30 p.m. CT, Friday, Dec. 4, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska (23-6) and seeded 10th in the tournament takes on Coastal Carolina (20-13) at 7 p.m. CT, Dec. 4. The winners will meet in the second round of the tournament at 5 p.m. CT Saturday, Dec. 5. All matches will be played in 4,030-seat NU Coliseum on the University of Nebraska campus. The NU Coliseum has sold-out the past 133-consecutive Huskers volleyball matches.
"Anytime you accomplish something as a team, it is fun for me to see the excitement in the players' faces," WSU Head Coach Andrew Palileo said. "Today, seeing the frustration of all the hard work that they have put in over the last two years that I've been here go out the window, and seeing all of their smiles and excitement when they saw WSU on the TV screen. That is what is fun for me, at this point right now, before we get started preparing for the match."
This is the 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament for the WSU volleyball program and the first under second-year WSU Head Coach Palileo. This marks the first time WSU played in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament since the 2002 season. Ironically, in 2002, the Cindy Fredrick-coached WSU team defeated Northern Iowa 3-0 in the NCAA East Regional Semi-final match in Gainesville, Florida. Another irony is the fact that Palileo ended his highly successful seven-year coaching career at South Dakota State with the Jackrabbits' first trip to the NCAA Tournament, a 3-0 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln (Nov. 30, 2007).
"I actually know quite a bit about Northern Iowa volleyball. While I was coaching at South Dakota State we played Northern Iowa a few times in spring tournaments and twice during the years I was there," Palileo said. "It will be an exciting match. It will be fun for me to see old friends again."
Eight Pac-10 teams are playing in the tournament - Stanford, Washington, UCLA, California, USC, Oregon, Arizona and WSU. The Big 12 and the Big 10 Conferences each have six teams playing in the tournament.
The Cougars are still finalizing travel plans but are tentatively set to leave Pullman early Wed., Dec. 2. The WSU volleyball NCAA matches can be heard live on KQQQ 1150AM radio and through the Cougars All-Access on the internet. A live video internet streaming webcast of the match will also be available at www.ncaa.com.
"This is an awesome payoff for everything that all of us have put in," outside hitter Jackie Albright said. "It is just awesome to see, not just the past year but the four years of work we have put in. Last year I just worried about game-to-game and if it happened, it happened. Every single one of us are believers this year. (Going to the NCAA) This almost relieves the pressure. I think we will go into the tournament more relaxed than we have been all year."
"At the beginning of the year, when we went 12-0 in preseason, there was a realization that we could do it (advance to the NCAA tournament). Right when the Pac-10 started and we started beating some teams, and beating them well, that is when the team clicked on it," defensive specialist Kelly Hyder said. "I have a different role (from first three years on team), but we are winning and made the tournament and I am contributing in my own way so it's still good. I don't feel like there is any more pressure (to play in NCAA). We play in the Pac-10 so that's pressure enough every night so playing in the tournament will be the same thing."