AMES - For the third straight season the Iowa State volleyball team has earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cyclones (19-12) will head to Minneapolis, Minn., to face Northern Iowa (25-8) in the opening round of the 2008 NCAA Volleyball Championships on Friday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion.
Northern Iowa defeated Iowa State, 3-1, earlier this season at Hilton Coliseum.
Should the Cyclones win they will face the winner between host Minnesota (26-6), the sixth-seed in the tournament, and North Dakota State (24-3).
Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson said she felt more comfortable that the team was likely in than in years past, but it was the waiting to see who and where that made for anxious moments.
"I felt pretty good about us getting in so I was more concerned about who are we playing and where are we going," Johnson said. "A lot of us guessed that we were going to Minneapolis. We had a feeling that we were going to play UNI as well.
"There is some relief there though, early in the season and at the start of the Big 12 schedule I was not sure if we were going to be a tournament team. To get to this point and to see how the team has progressed over the season and to be in the tournament and to be a team that can make a run in the tournament, that is very exciting."
Senior middle blocker Jen Malcom echoed Johnson thoughts and said the team is comfortable with the situation they are heading into, having played UNI this season and Minnesota last spring.
"I think it is a really good bracket," Malcom said. "We lost to UNI earlier in the season but we feel like we are better than we were back then. Playing at Minnesota is good for us as well with having played there and at their gym before."
The Cyclones return to the tournament for the third-straight year and fourth time overall. ISU, which finished tied for fourth in the Big 12, is led by senior middle blocker Jen Malcom, who ranks fourth in the league with a .372 hitting percentage.
Setter Kaylee Manns leads the Cyclone offensive attack, which is hitting a school-best .238 on the season, with 11.71 assists per set.
Outside hitter Victoria Henson leads the team in kills with 458 on the season while libero
Ashley Mass is the Big 12 leader in digs per set with 5.12.
The Panthers received an at-large bid out of the Missouri Valley Conference after advancing to the championship match of the league tournament.
UNI had six players earn all-conference honors, including Ashten Stelken and Amy Sampson who were first-team selections.
Johnson was pleased with Iowa State's bracket and expects the competition to be stiff.
"They are all good teams," Johnson said. "North Dakota State won its conference pretty easily. UNI is a great program and a team that beat us at home earlier in the season and Minnesota is having a great season. It is a great bracket, I like that we are taking a bus over flying. It is a great draw and it is a great situation."
Iowa State University
1995 - Second Round
Def. No. 22 Idaho
Lost at No.12 Notre Dame
2006 - Second Round
Lost at No.10 Wisconsin
2007 - Regional Semifinal
Def. No. 16 San Diego
Def. No. 8 Wisconsin
Lost to No. 6 California