BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) released its 12 opening round matches for volleyball today, and Union College will host No. 20 Cornerstone (Mich.) on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are one of 24 teams playing in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round for a trip to the final site in Sioux City, Iowa. Nineteen teams and host Morningside (Iowa) received automatic byes to the final site. The remaining spots in the final field will come from the 12 opening round matches. (For more on the NAIA National Tournament field announcement, click here.) Action inside the Tyson Events Center starts with three days of pool play from Nov. 29-1. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the elimination bracket on Dec. 2, and the national champion will be crowned Dec. 3 the with first-serve set for 7 p.m. CST on ESPN3.
First serve is set for 4 p.m. at Robsion Arena.
Union is making its third NAIA Opening Round appearance in a row and fifth overall. However, this marks the first time the Bulldogs will serve as the host. Union is also in search of its first national tournament win. The Bulldogs qualified for the tournament by winning both the AAC regular-season and tournament championships, marking only the second time in program history they won both in the same season.
Head coach Jeremy Wise and the Bulldogs enter postseason play with a 32-9 overall record. Union is led by AAC Player of the Year Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ), who ranks 27th in the NAIA in hitting percentage (0.330) to go along with a team-best 352 kills. Marissa Elam (JR/Muncie, Ind.) is next in line with 321 kills, while Elle Barnett (JR/Lexington, Ky.) (247 kills) and Maddie Jergesen (FR/Carson City, Nev.) (237 kills) rank among the team's top hitters. Jergesen is second on the team in blocks with 116.0, while Julia Edmonds (SR/Burlington, Ky.) ranks 33rd in the NAIA in total blocks at 126.0. Defensively, Paulina Hileman (JR/Johnstown, Colo.) has racked up 723 digs to rank her 17th nationally. Maggie McGraw (SO/Elkhorn, Wis.) is 34th in the NAIA in service aces with 52.
As a team, Union ranks ninth nationally in kills (1,867), 12th in total assists (1,646), 14th in total digs (2,428) and 17th in total blocks (290.0).
Cornerstone enters the national tournament with a 32-8 overall mark and qualified by finishing as the runner-up of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). This is the Golden Eagles' second ever trip to the national tournament with their first trip coming in 2004.
Head coach Ryan Campbell's squad is one of the best in the nation at the net. The Golden Eagles rank second in the NAIA in total blocks (370.5), third in total assists (1,756), sixth in total kills (1,917) and 10th in total digs (2,502).
Kendra Zwart leads the nation in total blocks (207), and Heather Green is 14th in total kills (493).
The game will be broadcast live online by the Bulldog Sports Network.