When Missouri’s name flashed on the TV screen as a regional host and national No. 16 seed in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, it disappeared so fast that Jenny Duitsman didn’t believe it at first.
“I was looking as fast as I could, and I saw ‘Missouri’ and then it went off,” the senior said. “So I’m like, ‘Hey, we’re in,’ (the tournament field) but I didn’t know anything else. Everyone were like, ‘I think we’re here,’ and I was like, ‘No, don’t joke with me.’ Then it was true.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 24 in the latest coaches’ poll and not expecting a great tournament draw after a 3-0 loss to Kansas State on Saturday, were instead surprised Sunday when they watched a seeding show at Harpo’s. They were blessed with playing the first two rounds of the 64-team tournament at home.
“We were so shocked,” junior middle blocker Lindsey Noll said. “We couldn’t even say anything after we saw that. After our loss last night…we really didn’t think we had a chance at hosting. I think we all kind of took a double-take.”
Hearnes Center will house four teams this weekend. Missouri plays Arkansas, a team the Tigers beat 3-1 last season, on Friday. The winner of that match takes on the winner of Friday’s Illinois-Louisville match in the second round Saturday night.
Missouri wasn’t the only Big 12 Conference team given respect Sunday night. Nebraska was named the No. 1 seed and Texas was given the No. 6 seed. Texas A&M, Kansas State, and even Colorado and Kansas, which both finished 9-11 in conference play, were selected. The Big 12’s seven selections tied for the most with the Big Ten Conference.
“That’s one of the advantages we have,” Noll said. “Those are teams we have to play every night. We never have an easy game.”
If the Tigers can get out of Hearnes Center with two victories, an intriguing match-up with No. 1-seeded Nebraska could await in the third round at Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 10-11.
The Cornhuskers have swept the Tigers twice this season, but Duitsman says she would love to have a third shot.
“That would be huge,” Duitsman said. “I just want to beat them so bad. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself, but that’s a goal.”