PREVIEW: Bulldog Volleyball Heads To Iowa For NCAA Division II Elite Eight

NCAA Division II Elite Eight:

Ferris State vs. BYU-Hawaii
National Quarterfinal Match
Thursday, Dec. 12 – 3:30 p.m. (ET)
U.S. Cellular Center - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
   
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*The Opening Serve:
The Ferris State University women's volleyball team captured the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship this past weekend to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight set for Thursday thru Saturday (Dec. 12-14) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Bulldogs will face BYU-Hawaii in the national quarterfinals on Thursday (Dec. 12) at 3:30 p.m. (ET) at the U.S. Cellular Center.

*Ticket Information: Tickets will be sold at the U.S. Celluar Center at the event and prices for a single-session are $12 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens along with $2 for a child. An all-session ticket can be purchased for either $30 for adults or $15 for students/seniors. Spectator parking for the tournament will be available at and around the U.S. Cellular Center.

*Media Coverage: Ferris State's appearance in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight is set to be carried live on Sunny 97.3 FM and the Bulldog Sports Network with Rob Bentley calling the play-by-play action starting with the Meijer Pregame Show a half-hour prior to match time. The broadcast will also be streamed live online at FerrisStateBulldogs.com. Thursday's quarterfinal and Friday's semifinal would be live on both the internet and Sunny 97.3 with Saturday's title match an internet-only broadcast if needed. The NCAA will also provide live video and live internet statistics of all Elite Eight matches along with complete pre and post-tourney coverage at www.ncaa.com.

*Regional Champions: Ferris State overcame the odds in thrilling fashion to claim the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship and move on to the Elite Eight as the Bulldogs topped archrival Grand Valley State 3-2 in a come from behind victory in the title match on Saturday (Dec. 7) in Allendale. FSU dropped the opening two sets of Saturday's match and trailed 11-7 in the fifth and final frame before climbing back to notch the improbable victory. It capped an exciting three-day run for the Bulldogs as they marched to the regional championship.

*Regional Title History: The Bulldogs were making their first appearance in a regional final since 1992. This year's NCAA Tournament appearance represented FSU's 18th in school history, including the third consecutive year in which Ferris State has reached at least the regional semifinals. Saturday night's victory marked the third time in which FSU has claimed a regional championship as the Bulldogs previously won crowns back in 1987 and 1989.

*NCAA Tourney History: Ferris State is making its third-straight NCAA-II Tournament appearance following back-to-back trips to the regional semifinals the last two years.  FSU's appearance in 2011 was its first since 2009 (Nov. 9) when the Bulldogs dropped a 3-0 decision to Lewis (Ill.) to Indianapolis, Ind.  FSU's national tournament appearance this season represents the program's 18th all-time as the Bulldogs have compiled a 12-18 overall record to date in NCAA Tournament competition.

*The Elite Eight Field: The Bulldogs are one of eight regional champions who will descend on the U.S. Cellular Center aiming for a national championship. Along with the Bulldogs, the other seven participants will include LIU-Post, West Texas A&M, Tampa, Concordia-St. Paul, BYU-Hawaii, Wingate and Wheeling Jesuit.

*41st Season: The 2013 campaign represents Ferris State's 41st season of women's volleyball. The Bulldogs own an all-time record of 884-481 (.648). Since the program's inception in 1973, the Bulldogs have won 10 GLIAC titles, qualified 18 times for the NCAA-II Tournament and registered 33 winning seasons.

*Fan Info: More info on the Elite Eight, including directions and hotel info, can be found on host Upper Iowa's website at:
http://upperiowaathletics.com/sports/2013/11/11/WVB_1111133116.aspx?id=109

*Thursday's Match: The Ferris State women's volleyball team claimed its third-ever regional championship to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight and will next face perennial power BYU-Hawaii on Thursday (Dec. 12) at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The nationally 23rd-ranked Bulldogs and the fourth-ranked Seasiders will square off in the second of four national quarterfinal contests starting at 3:30 p.m. (ET). The Seasiders are 27-1 and claimed the NCAA West Regional crown with a 3-2 win over top-seeded Cal-State San Bernardino on Saturday night.

*Second-Ever Matchup: Thursday afternoon's match will mark the second-ever series' tilt between the Bulldogs and BYU-Hawaii. The two teams previously squared off in 1996 during regular-season tournament play with the Seasiders scoring an impressive 15-0, 15-0, 15-5 victory over a Bulldog team that finished with a 19-12 overall record.

*Against The Field: Ferris State has faced four of the other seven remaining teams found in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight at some point in school history. The Bulldogs hold all-time records of 0-1 against BYU-Hawaii, 5-2 versus Wheeling Jesuit, 3-3 versus Tampa along with 1-2 against West Texas A&M.  FSU has never faced LIU-Post, Concordia-St. Paul or Wingate. Ferris State's most recent match against any of the seven remaining teams was a 3-0 home win over Wheeling Jesuit in 2008.

*About BYU-Hawaii: The Seasiders entered the season ranked fifth in the AVCA Division II Preseason National Rankings. They previously reached the NCAA-II National Semifinals a year ago while falling to the eventual national champion in Concordia-St. Paul. Their lone loss this year was a 3-2 setback at Hawaii Pacific on Sept. 26 in PacWest Conference action. They have won their last 20 matches in a row, including 14 in 3-0 sweeps. Head coach Mona Ah-Hoy was named interim head coach in early 2013 and is a former standout who played on two NAIA National Championship teams at BYU-Hawaii in the 1980's.

*Region All-Tourney Team: Three Bulldog players were named to the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional All-Tourament Team at the conclusion of Saturday's match in freshman setter Stephanie Sikorski along with senior libero Brandie Merren and junior outside hitter Courtney Rehm. In addition, senior middle hitter Angi Kent was also honored prior to the start of the tournament as a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Honorable Mention All-Region Team this season.

* The Division II Tourney: The Division II Women's Volleyball Committee selected a total of 64 teams to participate in the 2013 Division II Women's Volleyball Championship. Eight teams were selected from each of the following eight regions: Atlantic, Central, East, Midwest, South, South Central, Southeast and West. The eight, eight-team regionals were played at on-campus sites. Regional competition was single-elimination, best-of-five set matches. The winners of each of the eight regionals advanced to the championship finals, Dec. 12-14. Competition at the final site will be single-elimination, best-of-five set matches during the NCAA-II Elite Eight at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Here is the schedule for the 2013 NCAA-II Elite Eight:
(Note: All times have been converted to Eastern Time)

Thursday, December 12
1:00 p.m. – Match # 1 East–LIU Post vs. South Central–West Texas A&M
3:30 p.m. – Match # 2 West-BYU-Hawaii vs. Midwest-Ferris State
6:00 p.m. – Match # 3 South-Tampa vs. Central-Concordia St. Paul
8:30 p.m. – Match # 4 Southeast-Wingate vs. Atlantic-Wheeling Jesuit

Friday, December 13
6:00 p.m. – Match # 5 Match # 1 winner vs. Match # 2 winner
8:30 p.m. – Match # 6 Match # 3 winner vs. Match # 4 winner

Saturday, December 14
8:00 p.m. – NCAA Division II Women's Volleyball National Championship Match

*2013 Record: Ferris State currently maintains a 25-8 overall record and was 15-3 in the GLIAC during regular-season action en route to finishing tied for second overall in the conference standings.

*League Tourney: The Bulldogs, seeded second in the regional, claimed the crown to advance to the Elite Eight. The action was FSU's first since being upset in the quartefinal-round of the GLIAC Tournament by fifth-seeded Northwood in a 3-1 decision on Nov. 20 at FSU's Ewigleben Sports Arena in Big Rapids.  FSU had posted back-to-back road sweeps over two regionally-ranked teams in Hillsdale and Northwood (Nov. 9-10) in its last two regular-season matches prior to the upset loss in the league tournament.

*Conference Finish: The Bulldogs placed tied for second overall this season in the GLIAC standings with a 15-3 league mark and it marked the third-straight year in which FSU finished either first or second in the conference.

*500 Career Wins: FSU head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm (Alma, 1990), who is midst her 18th year at Ferris State, recorded her 500th career coaching victory with Ferris State's triumph over rival Grand Valley State in the regional title match. Brandel-Wilhelm ranks among the nation's top active coaches with a 500-200 (.714) career record.  She holds a record of 382-180 (.680) at the Bulldog helm. Brandel-Wilhelm entered the 2013 campaign as Ferris State's all-time winningest coach. She became the program's fifth head coach in June 1996 after posting 118 wins at West Virginia Wesleyan.  Brandel-Wilhelm notched her 350th win at the Ferris State helm in 2012 and has 382 career victories to date at the FSU helm.

*2013 GLIAC Volleyball Preseason Poll: Ferris State was selected second in the 2013 GLIAC Preseason North Division Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs captured two first-place votes and 42 total points in being chosen behind Northwood in the division. Hillsdale came in third overall in the North Division with Grand Valley State fourth and Northern Michigan fifth in the top five.

*National Attention: Ferris State was ranked 23rd nationally in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II National Poll released on Nov. 18.  Two years ago, FSU's 11th-place national ranking was the program's highest ranking in 20 years. The Bulldogs have been ranked for most of this season and were one of two GLIAC member schools found in the top 25 along with 13th-ranked Grand Valley State.

*GLIAC Award Recipients: FSU had four players receive recognition as the 2013 All-GLIAC Awards were presented in conjunction with the conference volleyball tournament. Bulldog senior libero Brandie Merren (Hopkins) was chosen as the league's "Libero of the Year" for the second-straight year. Additionally, the Bulldogs had two first team All-GLIAC
honorees in Merren and sophomore outside hitter Alexis Huntey (Stanwood/Morley-Stanwood). Junior outside hitter Courtney Rehm (Portage/Central) was a second-team pick with senior middle hitter Angi Kent (Lansing/Waverly) claiming honorable mention All-GLIAC laurels in voting conducted by the league's head coaches.

*Libero of The Year: Senior Brandie Merren attained GLIAC Libero of the Year honors for the second-straight year. Merren leads the Bulldogs with 579 digs to date this campaign. The returning all-region honoree and two-time all-conference pick became the 14th player in school history earlier this season to notch 1,000 career digs. A three-year letterwinner, she's averaged 4.82 digs while helping lead the Bulldogs to an  NCAA Division II Tournament berth and top 25 national ranking this campaign.

*First-Year Impact: Ferris State sophomore Alexis Huntey has played a major role this season and competed in nearly every set for the Bulldogs this season in her first year at FSU. She's posted 10 or more kills in 21 matches. She's also totaled 10 digs or more 17 times and ranked among the GLIAC leaders in both kills and points this year. Her 362 kills and 37 aces both rank as team season-bests. The sophomore outside hitter is midst her first season at Ferris State after transferring from NCAA Division I George Washington.

*Senior Standout: Senior Angi Kent has made the most of her senior campaign as the four-year letterwinner was among the conference's top performers in both attack percentage and blocks. She is hitting a team-leading .299 on the season with 250 kills in 116 sets. Her 82 total blocks also are second on the team.

*Bulldog Bites: Junior Courtney Rehm attained all-conference honors for the third year in a row. Rehm amade the All-GLIAC list as an outside hitter and plays a versatile role in the Bulldog lineup. She's among the team's top performers in nearly every statistical category with 329 kills, 276 digs, 49 blocks and 25 service aces. Previously, she was honored as the GLIAC Freshman of the Year two seasons ago and also attained GLIAC Player of the Week recognition in 2013.

*2013 FSU Roster: Ferris State's 2013 active roster includes two seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen. Nine of the 15 players are outside hitters, three are middle hitters and the three others fill the squad's setter, defensive specialist and libero roles.  All but two members of the team are from Michigan.

*Ewigleben Sports Arena: The Bulldogs have compiled a 330-87 (.791) record to date in 32 seasons of competition at the Ewigleben Sports Arena since moving from the Health and Physical Education (HPE) Building in 1981. Ferris, which has accumulated six undefeated home seasons in the facility, produced a 15-1 home ledger in 2011 and was 12-2 at home this campaign. Overall, Ferris is 183-47 (.796) in home matches under head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm.

*Two Years Ago: The Bulldogs won the GLIAC North Division Championship while also reaching the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Semifinals in 2011 with a 27-4 overall record.  Ferris State finished as league co-champions after posting an 18-1 conference mark under head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm.

*Did You Know: The Bulldogs appeared in their 16th straight GLIAC Tournament this season.

*All-Tourney Honors: Fhe Bulldogs had several players earn all-tournament team or GLIAC Player of the Week honors in the 2013 campaign.  FSU senior Brandie Merren along with Alexis Huntey and Caroline Heitzman claimed all-tourney recognition after the squad's own Ferris State Invitational to open the year. Meanwhile, senior Angi Kent was an all-
tournament team honoree at the Central Missouri Peggy Martin Challenge.  Finally, the Bulldogs have had two players chosen as GLIAC North Division Players of the Week in Alexis Huntey and Courtney Rehm.

*Twenty More Wins: This year marks the 12th time the Bulldogs have won 20 or more matches in a season under 18th-year head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm. The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament nine times in that span and advanced to the GLIAC Tournament the last 16 consecutive years to date.

*Yearbook Available Online: The 2013 Ferris State University Women's Yearbook is available to view online in a PDF format. The publication features such information as 2013 player rosters, season outlook, player biographies, coaching staff information, 2012 season statistics, career and season statistical records, series records, game records, etc.

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