Matt Botsford had his FGCU volleyball team prepared as it began to watch the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night.
"I told them there's about a 90% chance we would be within two hours of home, so they were pretty shocked as well as I was," he said.
The shock thankfully wasn't that the Eagles (26-5) weren't in the NCAA Tournament. They already had taken care of that by winning the ASUN Tournament after cruising to the regular-season title.
But when the bracket was announced FGCU wasn't heading to Miami or Florida. The Eagles are going as far north as they ever have, playing at the University of Wisconsin where they will face Texas Tech in the first round on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The host Badgers play Colgate after that, and then the winners meet Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"It's surprising," Botsford said. "We figured we would be in the state of Florida, whether that be at Miami or up in Gainesville. It's pretty odd that you ship as many Florida teams off as you see in this bracket. Interesting, but I'm excited. I think that adds to the experience for the girls. I know they were hoping for it, and they get an opponent in Texas Tech that we have not seen before, and they haven't seen us."
"We were all really convinced we were staying in Florida," said FGCU graduate student Cortney VanLiew. "... I think we're all really surprised, very excited to see a new part of the country. I don't think many of us have ever been to Wisconsin.
"I know we're all joking about needing to get some warmer clothes. so it'll be a really exciting time for us."
The Eagles will be making their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, but they made waves in their first, upsetting UCF on its home floor in 2018 before getting swept by the Gators.
Now they get to travel for their second one.
"That to me is the way it is meant to be," Botsford said. "Being in a situation where we have so many great Division I programs in close proximity here, it's unusual as I mention.
"Getting on a plane and going and playing in front of different crowds in these bigger arenas adds to the entire experience for them, so that's why they were so excited."
Texas Tech (17-12) went just 7-9 in the Big 12, and are coming off back-to-back losses to No. 2 Texas over the weekend.
"I think any team that we play in the NCAA Tournament would present a challenge, especially a team that we really haven't heard much about," said VanLiew, who started on that 2018 team that upset UCF. "When you're from Florida, you hear about the Florida schools. We've played a bunch of them in preseason.
"To play a team that we haven't even played in program history, that's very exciting. It'll be a unique challenge for us to quickly adjust and get ready for the games."
And then there's acquiring the needed attire. Botsford, VanLiew and star Erin Shomaker are all from the Midwest but said they didn't have more than sweatshirts. Freshman Skylar English, a Barron Collier grad, is in a little different situation.
"Everyone's freaking out about that right now, going to Wisconsin," she said. "I'm a Florida girl. I've never been that far north before. I'm definitely going to need to pack some extra heavy clothes."
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at email@example.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: FGCU volleyball going to Wisconsin to play Texas Tech in NCAAs Friday