TSU and SW Minnesota State to meet in NCAA Tournament action Thursday

Click here to watch the game live.

First Serve:

For the 13th time in school history, the Truman volleyball team will participate in the NCAA Div. II national tournament, earning a No. 7 seed in the 2012 Central regional. The Bulldogs will face the No. 2 seeded Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs at 2:30 pm on Thursday, November 29 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach: Ben Briney

Career Record: 96-41 || .701 || 4th season

At Truman: Same

MIAA Record: 50-26 || .658

Assistant Coaches: Megan Wargo-Kearney (4th season); Lauren Mathewson (GA; 2nd season)

Series Notes vs. Southwest Minnesota:

Series Record: Southwest Minnesota leads 1-0

Last Meeting: Sept. 13, 2008 - SMSU 3, TSU 1 (at St. Paul, Minn.)

Series Streak: Southwest Minnesota W-1

Briney vs. SMSU: 0-0

Weekly Preview with Coach Briney:

The weekly video with head coach Ben Briney will be available on Monday, November 26.

Bulldog Season Review:

Truman enters the national tournament having compiled a 27-6 overall record during the 2012 regular season and MIAA tournament.

The Bulldogs finished fourth in the MIAA with a 15-3 conference record, having amassed a 16-match overall winning streak that ran from Sept. 25 through Nov. 2.

Sophomore outside hitter Allie Brak and senior middle blocker Megan Sharpe led seven players that were named all-MIAA, as Brak (3.80 kills/set, 2.79 digs/set) led the MIAA in kills with Sharpe (3.13 kills/set, 1.26 blocks/set) ranking in the MIAA top-10 in three separate categories. In addition to the two first-teamers, sophomore setter Meghan Zimmerman was named to the second-team, freshman opposite hitter Abby Heise was named league freshman of the year and a third-team pick, and senior middle blocker Emily Briseno, sophomore libero Abby Moser and freshman outside hitter Ali Patterson all earned honorable mention accolades.

The 'Dogs hit .239 as a team throughout the season, holding opponents to just a .144 mark, while averaging 13.5 kills, 17.0 digs and 2.0 blocks per set.

Four different players average more than two kills per set, with Truman also dealing 170 total aces (1.37/set) on the year.

NCAA Tournament History/Notes:

The 2012 NCAA tournament marks the 13th in program history, with the Bulldogs recording a 23-12 (.657) career record in tournament play.

Truman has advanced to two national championship matches (2002, 2004), while also reaching the Elite Eight five times (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008).

Truman last reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2008, also held on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul, where the squad advanced to the national semifinals before falling 3-0 to eventual runner-up CSU-San Bernardino.

In regional-only play, the Bulldogs have been lower than a three seed on just two occasions, first in 2009 as a six-seed before earning the No. 7 seed this year. Truman is 18-7 in regional competition but will be looking to snap a two-match losing streak on Thursday.

Only the current senior class has experienced NCAA tournament play, with Sharpe averaging 2.4 kills/set and hitting .167; Briseno averaging 1.3 kills/set and hitting .138, and Stellmach averaging 0.8 kills/set with three digs in limited action.

Sixâ?¦is a Serious Number:

With the NCAA tournament consisting of eight, 8-team regions, a team needs six wins to capture the 2012 title.

All eight regions will play this Thursday through Saturday, with each regional winner advancing to the final weekend, Dec. 6-8 in Pensacola, Fla., on the campus of the University of West Florida.

Lucky #13:

With no poll being released this week, Truman held onto the No. 13 spot in the AVCA top-25 coaches' poll.

Truman has been listed in the top-25 161 times since the 2000 season, one of the highest totals in Division II.

Truman is one of four MIAA teams in the poll, joining No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 4 Washburn and No. 8 Central Missouri. No other league has as many programs in the top-15 as the MIAA.

Also joining the top-25 from the Central region is top-ranked Concordia-St. Paul, No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State, No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 16 Wayne (Neb.) State and No. 24 Minnesota State.

The AVCA poll was not used as selection criteria for the national tournament.

Sharpe Named All-Region for Fourth Time:

Megan Sharpe was named an honorable mention all-region player by the AVCA, marking the fourth time she picked up all-region accolades in her career.

She posted her highest career kills per set and blocks per set marks in her final season, averaging 3.13 kills and 1.26 blocks per frame, while also hitting .346 overall.

In addition, she recorded her 500th career block in the MIAA quarterfinal round against Emporia State, becoming just the third player in Truman history to surpass 1,000 kills and 500 blocks.

She ranks seventh all-time in program history with 1,435 career kills and fourth with 500 blocks.

With five more blocks, she will tie Allie Cherven for third all-time and is 15 away from tying Gretchen Bouton (1994-97) for second on the all-time chart.

A Look at the Mustangs:

Southwest Minnesota State enters the tournament with a 29-2 overall record, having finished tied for first in the NSIC regular season standings, earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, then defeating top-seeded Concordia in the tournament championship.

The squad's only two losses this year came at the hands of CSP during the regular season, with the Mustangs spending four weeks earlier this season atop the AVCA top-25 coaches' poll.

The Mustangs are hitting .259 as a team and holding opponents to a .145 mark. The maroon and gold average 15.1 kills/set, 16.8 digs/set and 2.0 blocks/set, having won 87 of 102 sets this season. SMSU is 9-0 in neutral-site matches this season, having swept three MIAA teams (Missouri Western, Emporia State, Northwest Missouri) at the Missouri S&T tournament in early September.

A balanced bunch, the Mustangs have five different players averaging at least 2.3 kills/set individually, with Brooke Burmeister (3.29 k/s), Mary Groth (3.23 k/s) and Abbey Thissen (3.02 k/s) leading the way. All three were named first-team NSIC, along with Devin Diedrich (2.91 k/s) and NSIC freshman of the year setter Emilee Gutzmer (12.75 a/s; 2.47 di/s).

Terry Culhane, the NSIC coach of the year, is in his ninth season at the helm of the SMSU program.

He has a career record of 232-62 and has led the Mustangs to the NCAA tournament each season.

Up Next:

The winner of Thursday's match will face either 3rd-seeded UNK or 6th-seeded WU in the regional semifinals at 5:00 pm on Friday, November 30.

At the end of the weekend, the Central region victor will advance to the national quarterfinals, where they will face the Southeast region champion on Thursday, December 6 in Pensacola, Fla.

Courtesy Truman State University