Beavers to face #5 Washington University
November 10, 2014
BLUFFTON, Ohio - For the second consecutive season and the third time in the past six years, Coach Yarnell and his Bluffton University volleyball team will play in the NCAA Regionals following their Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship win at Defiance. The Beavers will travel over 400 miles for a date with #5 ranked and regional host Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. at 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14.
The #2 seeded Bears finished the regular season with a phenomenal 33-5 record, but Washington University needed an at-large bid after falling to Chicago University in the University Athletic Association tournament semifinals last Saturday. Two of Washington's losses came at the hands of a Chicago squad that Bluffton matched up with at Benedictine just over a week ago when the Beavers took part in an Eagle Classic in which six of the eight teams saw their names on the tournament board unveiled Monday morning!
The other three regional quarterfinal matchups Friday feature No. 23 Millikin University against Thomas More College at 12:30 p.m., No. 6 Emory University against Webster University at 3 p.m., and Hendrix College against Maryville College (Tenn.) at 5:30 p.m. Semifinal matches are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, with the regional championship set for 4 p.m. Sunday.
Washington University has won an NCAA Division III record 10 national championships with the most recent in 2009. The Bears are making their 28th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with an impressive 94-18 mark in the NCAA Tournament. The #1 seed in the regional is also a member of the UAA. Emory knocked off Chicago in the conference final, securing its 20th bid. The Eagles (34-3) have advanced to the national semifinal four times, including a national championship in 2010.
This will be Bluffton's sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament with three coming in the last six years. Bluffton went three times between 1994 and 1997 before Coach Yarnell made his first trip in 2009 when the Beavers (27-6 overall) traveled to Hope College for a first-round matchup with Ohio Northern after rolling through the HCAC with a perfect 8-0 mark. Bluffton followed that up with an improbable run to the tourney last year when they became the first #6 seed to make it through the HCAC tournament with a 3-0 mark that culminated with a four-set victory over another surprise finalist, #5 seeded Hanover College. Bluffton fell to #10 Wittenberg in the first round at Calvin College following their 2013 HCAC title.
With a 23-11 overall record, Bluffton has overcome numerous challenges in reaching the NCAA tournament again. The Beavers bolted out to a 3-0 mark in conference play, including wins over battle-tested Transylvania and Mount St. Joseph before sandwiching losses to Franklin and Hanover around a victory at Anderson. With a conference tourney berth and then seeding positions up for grabs, Bluffton won its final three contests, with the last one a 3-0 rout at rival Defiance which solidified the second seed for the HCAC tournament.
In the semifinals, the Beavers faced Hanover College in a re-match of the 2013 final. They swept the Panthers in three sets. After the first two sets were decided by a combined four points, Bluffton pulled away 25-16 in the clincher. Bluffton's win over Hanover vaulted the Beavers into their fourth HCAC championship game in six seasons. The HCAC final was another battle with the Beavers facing their conference rival Defiance, again on their home court. After splitting the first two sets, Bluffton pulled away 25-19 before wrapping up the match 25-21 for its second HCAC tournament title in as many years.