Ashland University's volleyball team will play in an NCAA Division II Midwest Regional tournament for the first time since 2013.
The No. 6-seed Eagles (23-10) will have some regional experience to lean on when they begin play on Thursday (Dec. 1) at 2:30 p.m. against No. 3-seed Lewis (25-7) at Ferris State University. Senior outside hitters Alli Cudworth and Casey Clark were freshmen on that 2013 squad, while leading that team were head coach Cass Dixon and assistant coach Justin Martin.
"It's knowing that we've been there before, that certain players have been there before," Dixon said. "They (Alli and Casey) are the only two (players) that have had that experience, but they're seniors, and they've been really great leaders for us all year, so I think that will just be extended into the NCAA Tournament."
It is rare that classmates join the exclusive 1,000 kills-1,000 digs club in the same season, but Clark and Cudworth each accomplished the feat earlier in 2016. Cudworth has 1,721 career kills (fourth all-time at AU) and 1,015 career digs, while Clark has 1,456 career digs (third all-time at Ashland) and 1,129 career kills.
ASHLAND, LEWIS ON A ROLL COMING IN
Heading into the regional tournament, the Eagles have won 13 of their last 15 matches, with the two losses coming on the road to Wheeling Jesuit and Ferris State – the No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals.
"We try to set up the schedule in that fashion, so that we are seeing those quality-level teams," Dixon said, "and it helps being in the GLIAC, too, because you get that competition pretty much on a weekly basis."
Lewis had a nine-match winning streak snapped by Truman State in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament semifinals.
MORE ON THE EAGLES
Ashland's three 20-plus-win seasons in the last five years is the program's best stretch since 2004-07 (four in a row)…Cudworth has moved into fifth place on Ashland's all-time service aces list with 186, passing Connie Taylor (185, 1985-88)…Eagle freshman outside hitter Shelby Woycik has had double-digit kills in 18 of the last 21 matches…AU sophomore middle blocker Reanne Neal has collected 29 total blocks in the last five matches…Ashland is 5-6 all-time in the NCAA Division II Tournament…The Eagles are 1-5 against the Midwest Regional tournament field in 2016 (1-1 vs. Findlay, 0-1 vs. Truman State and Saginaw Valley State and 0-2 vs. Ferris State).
MORE ON THE FLYERS
Lewis has qualified for the NCAA Division II postseason for the 11th consecutive season…The Flyers' top attackers are sophomore outside hitter Elizabeth Hyland (361 kills), junior middle hitter Aly Schneider (346) and junior right-side hitter Maddie Seliga (289)…Lewis' setter is sophomore Abby Becker (1,285 assists), and the defense is led by senior libero Nicole Yuede (584 digs)…The Flyers are 10-15 all-time in the D-II postseason…Lewis is 2-2 against the Midwest Regional tournament field in 2016 (1-0 vs. Rockhurst, 1-1 vs. Truman State and 0-1 vs. Ferris State).