The University of Central Arkansas volleyball team began the long trek west into history Wednesday.
The Sugar Bears, 30-4 and the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament champions, will take on the University of Washington on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament. The game will begin at 9 p.m. (CT) on the Washington campus at Seattle.
Washington is 5-0 against Southland schools while Central Arkansas has never played a school from the Pac-12, considered the toughest in the country.
The Sugar Bears won more than half of their matches via sweep (17). Central Arkansas led the conference with three first-team all-conference selection as Marissa Collins was tabbed as the setter of the year. Collins joined teammate Jessica Nagy and tournament MVP Jessica Hays on the all-tournament team. The Sugar Bears are in the top-10 nationally in assists per set (fifth), aces per set (sixth), kills per set (seventh) and winning percentage (ninth).
Washington finished the regular season fourth in the Pac-12 with a 23-6 record with a 13-2 mark at home. The Huskies are one of seven Pac-12 representatives in the NCAA Tournament and one of five Pac-12 schools to receive a national seed (5th). The Huskies started the season 16-0 including 12 sweeps and currently lead the nation in blocks per set (3.33). Washington is making its 17th appearance in the NCAA tournament and 11th consecutive. The Huskies won the 2005 title and currently sits 16th in the RPI rankings. UCA is 49th in RPI.
This will be the 19th consecutive season the Southland Conference has received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and it will be the 29th appearance by a Southland team dating back to 1983.