Story by Blake Sandlin
The Murray State volleyball team will take on the University of Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, Nov. 30.
The Racers learned their opponent and destination on Sunday, Nov. 25 on the selection show on ESPNU. The first- and second-round games will be hosted by the University of Kentucky in
Senior outside hitter Dacia Brown said she was excited to learn she’d be staying in state to
“Personally, I was excited,” Brown said. “I thought even if we did go somewhere far that was cool, but it would be nice to play at UK. I think it’ll be a fun game.”
Despite not meeting in the regular season, Kentucky and Murray State actually have a history. Sophomore setter Ashley McBee said the two teams met in a tournament during their spring seasons and split sets.
“We split sets with them,” McBee said. “So that right there is like confidence for us because yes, it was the spring, but knowing that we split sets with them is something like ‘OK, yeah, we got this.’ They’re a big team, but you never know what could happen.”
Murray State’s women’s volleyball won the automatic bid on Nov. 17 by sweeping the Governors of Austin Peay in three sets in the OVC tournament championship. The win marked the 16th straight for the Racers this season.
The Racers finished the season 22-9 overall and 13-3 in OVC play. They are led by an imposing duo of outside hitters in Brown and junior Rachel Giustino. Giustino leads the team in kills with 459 this season, while Brown has accumulated 435. Giustino and Brown finished first and second in kills in the OVC this season.
Murray State excels on the offensive side of the net, but has struggled to do the same on the defensive side against conference opponents. The Racers rank No. 10 in the conference in blocks, a deficiency that could prove costly against a Kentucky team with considerable size.
The Wildcats went undefeated in conference play this season, winning the Southeastern Conference Championship for the second year in a row. UK’s success naturally garnered the attention of the entire SEC, as the Wildcats swept the SEC awards this season.
Kentucky junior outside hitter Leah Edmond was named Player of the Year, sophomore libero Gabby Curry was Libero of the Year, freshman outside hitter Alli Stumler was Freshman of the Year and their Head Coach Craig Skinner earned Coach of
The team is comprised of seven players 6-feet and taller, highlighted by senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan who is 6-foot-5. The Racers, on the other hand, have only one player that measures at 6 foot, freshman outside hitter Emily Matson.
Racer volleyball Head Coach David Schwepker has never played at the University of Kentucky in his 21 years coaching the Racers, and said he was excited for the challenge.
Despite the presumed disadvantage, junior right-side hitter Courtney Radle is very optimistic and determined to complete an upset bid against the Wildcats.
“I expect us to come out hard like any other day,” Radle said. “Everyone knows we are the underdog going into this game, so it is a no-pressure situation for us. As a team, we have a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset going into this weekend. Kentucky is a great team and will have a lot of fans, so we are excited for the opportunity ahead of us.”
UK is in the NCAA tournament for the 14th consecutive season and earned the No. 10 seed this year. The Racers also made it to the NCAA tournament in 2016, 2014 and 2003.
The Racers will meet the Wildcats for the second time since 2009, when they fell 3-0 at the Adidas Classic tournament in Bloomington, Indiana.
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 30 at Memorial Coliseum. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+ on WatchESPN.
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