Blue Raiders Face Louisville
First Round of NCAA TournamentDecember 1, 2006 · MT Media Relations
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Middle Tennessee volleyball (26-7) faces Louisville (25-6) at 6 p.m. on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
The Blue Raiders are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1995. The 11-year absence is a culmination of a long and arduous road for the club that shows the perseverance of the club to reach a goal.
It has been a delicate balance trying to keep the team focused but still build on the excitement level of reaching the tournament. Practices have been long but have had purpose since the Blue Raiders discovered their opponent on Sunday.
"I know the girls are excited but I have told them from day one we are not just happy to be here," said Head Coach Matt Peck. "We are going to go into this tournament and we are going to win some games. I'm not going in thinking we are just happy to be here and then go home."
Middle Tennessee reached the NCAA Tournament after winning the Sun Belt Tournament on November 18 with a 3-0 win over Florida International. The club faces a Louisville team that earned a bid to the NCAAs with a 3-2 victory over Notre Dame in the Big East Championships.
"Louisville is a tall team across the board," Peck said. "And I think if our team tries to play like they are a smaller team it will be a big mistake.'
The Blue Raiders will try and combat Louisville's size with their athleticism. The club has three Sun Belt First Team All-Conference members in Ashley Adams, Ashley Asberry and Quanshell Scott. Adams was voted the Sun Belt Tournament MVP after our outstanding performance in the tournament and Scott and Jessica Robinson were named to the All-Tournament team.
"I think if we play a good ball control match and we are aggressive we will play really well," Peck said. "I don't think Louisville sees teams like us and has seen the kind of athletes we have."
Adams leads the club in kills with 502 kills and is averaging 4.40 kills per game. Freshman setter Leslie Clark became the first Blue Raider freshman to go over 1,000 assists in a season and currently has 1,052.
Blocking has been a strong point for the team this season and a lot can be attributed to Asberry. The sophomore middle blocker from Murfreesboro leads the team and the Sun Belt in blocks averaging 1.50 blocks per game.
Louisville will try and combat Middle Tennessee's high-octane attack with Big East Player of the Year Ana Stewart. The Cardinal senior finished the season as the top individual in the conference in hitting percentage (.438), led the team in hitting percentage (.438) and blocks (1.37 bpg). In addition, the Anapa, Russia native ranked second on the team in digs (2.52 dpg) and third in kills (2.46 kpg).
Should Middle Tennessee get past Louisville the club will play either No. 18 Ohio State or Belmont on Saturday at 4 p.m.
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