Harvard will be making its first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament (Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard women's volleyball team will make its first appearance in the NCAA tournament on Friday, Dec. 4, against fourth-seeded Nebraska, it was announced Sunday night during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show live on ESPNU. The match will start at either 8 p.m. EST or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 5:30 p.m. EST match, which features Kansas State and Wichita State.
All-session tickets for the first and second rounds in Lincoln will go on sale Monday at 9 a.m. EST. Tickets will be available online at Huskers.com, by calling Nebraska Athletics Development and Ticketing at 800-8-BIGRED, or by visiting Nebraska Athletics Development and Ticketing in person after 9 a.m. EST. All-session ticket prices are set at $34 (reserved A and B levels) and $30 (C level). All-session tickets include the two first-round matches on Friday, as well as the second-round match on Saturday.
The Crimson heard its name called for the first time in program history after defeating Princeton last Friday at home in the Ivy League Playoff, 3-1, for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament. Harvard has earned a share of three Ivy League titles under head coach Jennifer Weiss, but previously missed out on trips to the Big Dance with losses in the conference playoff in 2004 and 2014.
For Harvard's seniors, the NCAA tournament appearance marks the natural progression to a process which began during their freshman year when the team went 10-15 overall and 7-7 against the Ancient Eight, good for fifth place. The following season Harvard went 14-9 overall and finished second in the conference at 9-5, before earning a share of the Ivy title last year with a 19-5 overall mark and 12-2 record against the Ivies. The Crimson suffered a 3-0 loss at home to its rival Yale in the 2014 Ivy League Playoff to be denied the program's first trip to the postseason.
Harvard will enter the NCAA tournament with a 15-10 overall record after sharing the Ivy League championship with Princeton with a 10-4 mark. The Crimson's strength this season has been its dominance on the defensive side of the net, where it ranks eighth in the NCAA in blocks per set (2.98) and is 21st in opponent hitting percentage (.161). Christina Cornelius, who was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and first team All-Ivy, has been at the center of it all, ranking sixth individually with 1.57 blocks per set while turning in the second-most total blocks (129) in school history.
Harvard also boasts a pair of unanimous first team All-Ivy picks in Corinne Bain and Kathleen Wallace. Playing both the setter and outside hitter positions in Harvard's 6-2 system, Bain ranked among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category this season including kills per set (13th, 2.40), assists per set (9th, 5.64), digs per set (8th, 3.42), blocks per set (14th, 0.78), aces per set (7th, 0.25) and points per set (13th, 3.1). Bain, who is only a junior, has already become the first student-athlete in program history to be named first team all-conference three times, and ranks third in the NCAA with seven triple-doubles while contributing 18 double-doubles in 24 matches.
For Wallace this marked her second All-Ivy accolade after also being named to the first team in 2013. The San Francisco native became a six-rotation player for the Crimson this season, posting career-highs in kills per set (3.26), digs per set (2.48) and blocks per set (0.65). Wallace boasts eight double-doubles on the year, including seven in Ivy play, while her career 2.69 kills per set average ranks eighth in program history.
The Crimson's rotation also features All-Ivy League second team selection Caroline Holte and honorable mention Sindhu Vegesena. Holte became the program's all-time leader in block assists this season and currently boasts 350, with her 387 total blocks ranking second in program history, 11th in Ivy annals. Vegesena, meanwhile, is third in Harvard history with 4.16 digs per set with her 4.65 digs per set this year ranking fourth in single-season history.
The Huskers finished the regular season 26-4 and 17-3 in the Big Ten Conference, good for second place in the standings behind Minnesota, and closed the regular season on a 10-match win streak, including a sweep of No. 7 Penn State on Saturday night. Nebraska is 92-30 (.754) in 33 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, ranking second among NCAA schools in wins and third in winning percentage.
Friday's winners will meet in the second round at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 5 to battle for a spot in the Lexington, Kentucky, Regional on Dec. 11-12.