KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The Southeastern Conference Champion and 14th-seeded University of Tennessee volleyball team won’t be traveling for the first and second rounds of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, as Thompson-Boling Arena will host the opening rounds of the event over Dec. 1-2.
"We're very excited about being seeded and we're very excited about being in the NCAA Tournament," Lady Vol head volleyball coach Rob Patrick said.
"Obviously, we knew we were going to be in the tournament after winning the SEC Championship, but to see your name come up on the board and know who you are playing, it makes it more real. So we are excited about being able to host, playing in front of our fans and getting on to the first step of an NCAA Championship."
Having secured an automatic berth in the tournament by winning the league crown, Tennessee (27-3) will face off against Duke (21-8) at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday in the opening round after Ohio State (19-14) takes on Middle Tennessee State (21-11) at 4:30 p.m. The winner of both contests will move on to a second-round showdown at 7 p.m. on Friday for the right to advance to the NCAA Regional in Gainesville, Fla., Dec. 9-10.
"The first and second rounds are going to be very, very tough," Patrick said. "Duke has a very experienced team, so like this whole year, we are going to be playing against a team that is going to have a lot more experience on the court. Ohio State is coming out of one of the toughest conferences in the country and they were in the Sweet 16 last year, so they have been very successful. Middle Tennessee is always a dangerous team. They are a team that is kind of known as a giant killer and beat BCS schools on a regular basis."
This is the fourth time in program history that Tennessee has been seeded; with UT’s best national ranking of No. 11 coming last year, improving upon the two previous seeds of No. 12 in 2004 and No. 15 in 2005.
The NCAA Tournament bid marks UT's 13th all-time, fourth straight and seventh in the last eight years. The Lady Vols are 12-12 in their 13 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Tennessee's seed is a direct result of the success it achieved against a tough schedule, as the squad enters the postseason with a 6-2 record over fellow tournament teams. In addition to sweeping the season series' againstevery SEC school except Kentucky, the Lady Vols also knocked off Dayton, Louisville, Ohio, Villanova and Virginia Tech in non-conference action.
"We always try and prepare our team in our preseason tournaments to be ready for SEC play," Patrick said. "Looking long term, we also try to prepare them for the NCAA Tournament. We try and play very strong teams and teams with different types of offensive and defensive systems. I feel really comfortable with where our team is, who we played this year and being able to be successful against teams we are going to be seeing."
The Orange and White are one of three SEC teams selected to participate in the tournament and the only squad seeded, as Florida and Kentucky will also compete in postseason play. The Gators square off with future SEC member Missouri (21-12) in the opening round at Northern Iowa, who earned the No. 6 national seed. Kentucky will open against Dayton (26-5) in College Station,Texas.
The Big Ten Conference led all conferences with eight teams selected. The Big 12 Conference and the Pacific-12 Conference both have seven teams in the tournament.
TICKET INFORMATION (865-656-1200)
A package including admission to both sessions (all three matches) can be purchased at a discounted price of $10 general admission for adults, $6 for students/seniors and $4 for children 12 and under.
Day-of, single-session ticket sales are $6 general admission for adults, $5 for students/seniors and $4 for children 12 and under.
For more information, contact the UT Ticket Office at 865-656-1200.