Oregon Ducks face Kansas Jayhawks in NCAA volleyball tournament opener

·3 min read
Oregon volleyball coach Matt Ulmer, center, wraps up a meeting with his team during the Oregon Invitational in August.
Oregon volleyball coach Matt Ulmer, center, wraps up a meeting with his team during the Oregon Invitational in August.

The postseason will begin where it ended last season for the Oregon volleyball team.

The Ducks earned an expected berth into the 64-team NCAA Tournament Sunday evening with a first-round match against Kansas at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Omaha, Neb.

Creighton — the host school — and Ole Miss will play at 5 p.m. Thursday. The second-round match between the two winners will be at 5 p.m. Friday.

Last April, during the postponed 2020 season, the Ducks were among the 48 teams in a modified NCAA Tournament bubble in Omaha, where they beat Notre Dame in the opener and then lost to Purdue in the Sweet 16.

“I’m just really excited for our team,” Oregon coach Matt Ulmer said. “This has been a really long year. They reported back the day after Christmas for the spring season, and here we are about a year later going back to Omaha.”

More: NCAA Tournament bracket

Nuneviller: Excited to go in as underdogs

Only 16 teams earn seeds in the NCAA Tournament and those teams get to host the first and second rounds. The No. 14 Bluejays (30-3) received one of the last remaining seeds after losing only two sets in a season-ending 13-match win streak.

There was hope a strong end to the season could help keep the Ducks home this week. But Oregon came into the final week ranked No. 19 in the AVCA national poll and No. 23 in the RPI, so it was long shot Sunday that it would get a one of the 16 seeds.

No big deal, said the Ducks' top player.

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“It’s really exciting being the underdog going into the tournament,” said senior outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller, who is in her third NCAA Tournament. “I know that this team is just filled with so much potential, so much talent. I kind of like being in the underdog position. Teams are going to underestimate us. We’ve been playing really well for the most part recently, and I’m excited to see what we can do in the postseason.”

Oregon finished the regular season with a 22-8 record in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the Pac-12 at 13-7.

The Ducks hit a rough patch in October where they lost four of five matches but with wins in seven of their last nine.

Plays challenger Kansas on Thursday

Kansas (16-11) is in the tournament for the first time since 2017. It finished tied for third in the Big 12 at 8-8.

“This group has worked really hard and have gone through a lot of stuff this year, as a lot of people have,” Ulmer said. “I’m just proud of our perseverance and resiliency, and I’m just excited to go to Omaha and get a chance to just keep playing.”

Louisville received the No. 1 overall seed with Texas, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin rounding out the top four.

Pac-12 runner-up UCLA is the No. 13 seed and conference champion Washington is the No. 15 seed. Other Pac-12 teams in the tournament are Utah, Stanford and Washington State.

The Final Four is in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 16-18.

Follow Chris Hansen on Twitter @chansen_RG or email at chansen@registerguard.com. For more sports coverage, visit registerguard.com. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Oregon Ducks play Kansas Jayhawks in NCAA volleyball tournament Thursday

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