(Editor’s note: Big Sky Conference media release)
OGDEN, Utah – Northern Arizona will represent the Big Sky Conference at the 2018 NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The Lumberjacks will compete in the postseason for the third time in school history, as they will compete against the No. 16 national seed Washington State on Friday in Pullman, Wash.
The Pullman site features the host Cougars and Northern Arizona along with Tennessee and Colorado State. Tennessee and Colorado State open up tournament play Friday at 4 p.m. PT with Washington State and Northern Arizona following at 7 p.m.
Washington State finished fourth in the Pac-12 standings behind the No. 1 overall seed Stanford, No. 11 USC and No. 15 Oregon. The Cougars recorded a 21-9 overall mark with a 12-8 slate in league play and are led in part by Billings Senior High School alum Taylor Mims. Mims, now a senior at Washington State, has 363 kills and 55 total blocks this season. For her career, she ranks fourth in total blocks (431), tied for fourth in block assists (368), sixth for block solos (63) and seventh in all-time kills (1,262).
Mims was Montana’s 2014 Gatorade player of the year and helped lead the Broncs to three consecutive Class AA state championships (2012-14).
Tennessee finished second in the SEC with a 25-5 record and 16-2 league mark, while Colorado State finished first in the Mountain West standings following a 23-7 overall record and 15-3 mark in league action. The Lumberjacks earned the Big Sky’s automatic bid after sweeping Idaho in the conference championship match on Saturday night. Northern Arizona is 26-8 overall, including a 13-match win streak entering the tournament.
Northern Arizona swept all three of its Big Sky championship opponents – Montana State, Idaho State and Idaho – to claim its third league tournament championship. The Lumberjacks were also co-regular season champions.
Backed by Big Sky coach of the year Ken Murphy, the Lumberjacks defeated No. 8 Florida 3-2 in September for their first win over a nationally-ranked opponent since 1989. The nationally-ranked win was also the first for the Big Sky Conference since 2007.
Of the 64 teams, 32 teams are automatic qualifiers by either winning their conference or conference tournament — if the conference has a postseason tournament. The remaining 32 teams are at-large bids.
The top 16 teams in the tournament — determined by the committee — will be national seeds and host the first and second round on their home courts. Once the selection is complete, first round play will begin on Thursday, Nov. 29 with the second round concluding on Saturday, Dec. 1.
After the completion of the first two rounds, the regional sites will be determined based on the teams remaining in each section of the bracket. The 16 teams that advance to regionals will play on Friday, Dec. 7 with the regional final taking place the next day, Dec. 8.
All games in each round can be seen on the ESPN networks.
The last time a Big Sky team advanced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament was in 2007 when Sacramento State beat Minnesota (23-30, 30-25, 30-24, 30-17).