Nov. 29—After finishing fourth in the Big West Conference, the Cal State Bakersfield women's volleyball team accepted an invitation to participate in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, a postseason competition for NCAA Division I teams who do not make the top tournament.
The Roadrunners will be in action Friday. The same day, their crosstown community college counterparts from Bakersfield College begin play in Fresno for the California Community College Athletic Association Women's Volleyball Championship tournament.
The nationwide footprint of Bakersfield volleyball will extend much further than these two squads, as local products compete at the highest levels.
Here's a little bit more detail on the teams and players representing the city in postseason competition.
CSUB: The NIVC revealed CSUB as one of its 31 participants Sunday night. The Roadrunners, who finished fourth in the Big West at 11-9 (18-10 overall), received an at-large berth after Hawaii made the NCAA Tournament, UCSB seemingly declined an automatic NIVC invite and Cal Poly finished both below .500 and outside of the top 120 in rating percentage index (RPI).
So the Roadrunners will make their first NIVC appearance, their third postseason trip under coach Giovana Melo, and travel to Ogden, Utah, to face Weber State at 5 p.m Friday. The Wildcats finished the season first in the Big Sky Conference, but lost to Northern Colorado 3-2 in the tournament finals. Their attack has been led by Rylin Adams and Dani Nay, with both hitting .208. Nay is also sixth in the nation in aces per set at 0.59.
Weber State won its first 10 conference matches and then split its next six, fading down the stretch prior to that loss to the Bears. The Wildcats will look to rebound against CSUB, which most recently was swept by UC Irvine. The Roadrunners' offense has been distributed among a large group of hitters led by Hayley McCluskey and fueled by setter Seleisa Elisaia, who averages 9.18 assists per set.
The two teams have played just twice overall and not since 2008, when the Wildcats won 3-1. The winner will play Saturday afternoon against either Pacific or Portland State.
BC: BC swept Orange Coast Saturday night behind 13 kills each from middle blockers Aly Dees and Tia Jules to move to 22-1 on the season, and also keep its four-year home winning streak intact until next season.
As one of the top eight teams remaining, the Renegades have earned a trip to Fresno City College this weekend to participate in the state playoffs. One win would be enough for their best finish since 1993, when they finished fourth. Three more wins will earn them their first CCCAA championship.
The CCCAA has not released an official bracket at time of writing; one second-round match involving Moorpark was delayed until Monday night because of an issue involving an ineligible player at Long Beach City College. However, BC has stated that it will play its first match Friday morning at 10 a.m. against the fourth-place team in the Northern California regionals.
That looks to be American River, the fifth seed, which swept No. 4 Sierra to earn its spot. The Beavers are 25-6 and had finished second in the Big 8 behind Sierra. They have Awelina Fakalata, a 6-foot-2 freshman who hits .310 and averages 4.72 kills per set. However, American River might not be as proficient as BC defensively, with four fewer digs per set. (BC is second in the state in that metric.)
The rest of the bracket contains teams that have given BC trouble in the past. Grossmont, which emerged from the south as a No. 13 seed, eliminated the Renegades during their playoff run in 2019. The top two teams in the state, Feather River and West Valley, are still in play, as is Fresno City, which knocked out BC at state in 2018. Whether the Renegades will get a chance at revenge on Saturday depends on their ability to pass the first round.
Around the country: Even if CSUB isn't in the NCAA Tournament, there's lots of local representation. For example, the North Carolina-Tennessee matchup pits Emma Reynolds, a Liberty High School graduate and reserve setter who spent four years at Cal Poly, against Breana Runnels, an Independence High School alumna and current Colorado State Ram who leads the Lady Volunteers in kills per set as an outside hitter.
Setter Elise Ferreira has been the assist leader for the Oregon Ducks this year. Also a Liberty High School graduate and the daughter of current BC and former Ducks coach Carl Ferreira, she will hope to power the team to a first-round victory over Kansas.
Mahalia Swink, a former Independence standout, will make her second tournament appearance as a graduate student at Dayton after transferring following three seasons at Alabama. The Flyers take on Marquette Thursday.
The Campbell Camels are making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in volleyball against Nebraska, and that means a postseason for third-year outside hitter and Garces alum Lailah Green, who has combined with Sarah Colla and Chloe Cook to carry the team's offense.
In the NIVC, UNLV earned an at-large bid, which means setter Lauryn Burt, a former BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year at Liberty, will get a crack at the postseason for the fourth straight year. The Rebels open against New Mexico State on Friday. The winner will have a chance of playing host Arizona, which has yet another Liberty player, defensive specialist Jaleesa Caroccio.
Ava Palm, a graduate of Bakersfield High School, will also be competing in the NIVC as part of a UTEP squad that went 21-7 in the regular season. Last year, Palm was one of the top freshmen in Conference USA; this year, she has continued to contribute as a role player for the Miners, who face Tulsa on Thursday.
Down in Division II, former Liberty captain Kaitlan Tucker will be the lone Bakersfield representative, as her Cal Poly Pomona Broncos take on Cal State LA on Thursday.
Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.