Cougars to face No. 23 Miami on Friday in NCAA volleyball tournament

The College of Charleston volleyball team will face No. 23 Miami in the first round of the NCAA volleyball tournament this Friday at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

The match is set to start at 5 p.m.

This will be the fourth straight time the Cougars have played in a Gainesville regional during the single-elimination NCAA tournament. The Cougars played on Florida’s campus during the NCAA tournament in 2009, 2007 and 2006. The Cougars fell to Florida 3-0 in 2009 and 2007, and lost to Arizona State, 3-1, in 2006.

The winner of the College of Charleston-Miami match will take on the winner of Florida-Tulsa on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The host Gators earned the tournament’s 14th overall seed in the 64-team field.

Miami advanced to the title match of the ACC Tournament but fell to Florida State, 3-1, but received an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

“I’m very happy with the draw that we got today,” said College of Charleston volleyball head coach Jason Kepner. “In my two previous trips we’ve gone to Gainesville and had to play Florida on their home floor. Miami is a great team, but any time that you get a chance to play on a neutral site, you have to be happy. We’re really confident right now. The team is playing great together and that’s what you need to do when you go to the NCAA Tournament. You need everyone to be a part of the offense and defense together.”

The Cougars earned an automatic bid to this year’s tournament by defeating Furman in a five-set thriller in the title match of the Southern Conference Tournament in Davidson, N.C. last Monday night.

“We look forward to preparing to play College of Charleston, knowing historically that [CofC head coach Jason Kepner] has done a great job with that program,” said Miami coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. “Anyone can beat anyone in the NCAA Tournament, so we will have to play at our best in order to win this weekend.”

The College of Charleston will be making its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament. With the 2012 title, the Cougars have now won 12 straight regular season or SoCon tournament championships, the second-longest streak in the nation. With a 2005 first-round victory over North Carolina, College of Charleston is the only SoCon program to ever win a match in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cougars have been led this season by redshirt-junior Darcy Dorton who transferred to the college of Charleston from Penn State. She has amassed 498 kills and will look to become the first Cougar player in the rally scoring era (since 2001) to record 500 kills in one season.

Sophomore Sloane White, who earned SoCon tournament MVP honors, finished the season on a tear, hitting .453 in the SoCon Tournament and finishing second on the team with 336 kills.

The CofC middle blockers stepped up immensely after entering the season with relatively little playing time as Emily Neideffer (228 kills, 87 blocks) and Kerstin Koehler (185 kills, 101 blocks) helped to shore up the middle of the net and take over after the departures of CofC greats Elyse Chubb and Sarah Havel.

Freshman Melissa Morello was a surprising performer as she earned SoCon All-Freshman honors after finishing third on the team with 241 kills. Setter Taeler Davis also surprised many by averaging 12.04 assists per set as the full-time starter after taking over for the injured Kallie McKown. Finally, senior Emily Shelton closed out her final season with 638 digs, the third-most in a single season in CofC history.

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