BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – The Union College volleyball team will host No. 20 Cornerstone (Mich.) on Saturday in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
The 44-team event will get underway with 12 National Championship Opening Round matches at campus locations on Saturday. The top 19 seeds and championship host Morningside (Iowa) automatically advance to the national championship final site in Sioux City, Iowa. Action inside the Tyson Events Center starts with three days of pool play from Nov. 29-Dec. 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.
This is the fifth time in program history the Bulldogs have advanced to the opening round, but it is the first time for them to host.
Union enters the tournament 32-9 overall, marking only the third time it hit the 30-win mark in a season. The Bulldogs are riding a six-game win streak, all of which – including their three Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament matches - were 3-0 sweeps.
The Bulldogs qualified for the NAIA National Championship Tournament by winning both the AAC regular-season and tournament championships. Union posted a 20-2 league mark.
Cornerstone comes into the match at 32-8 overall and qualified for the tournament by finishing as the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) tournament runner-up. During the regular-season, the Golden Eagles posted a 15-1 record in the WHAC.
The Bulldogs ranks ninth in the NAIA in total kills (1,867) and 13th in total assists (1,646). Union also is 14th in total digs (2,428), 17th in total blocks (290.0) and 29th in total service aces (220). Union also checks in at 34th in hitting percentage (0.223) and 47th in kills per set (12.610).
Paulina Hileman (JR/Johnstown, Colo.) ranks 17th nationally in total digs (723). She is the sixth player in program history to notch 700 or more digs in a season. Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ), who was named the AAC Player of the Year, ranks 27th in the NAIA in hitting percentage (0.330), and Julia Edmonds (SR/Burlington, Ky.) checks in at No. 33 in total blocks (126.0). Maggie McGraw (SO/Elkhorn, Wis.) is 34th in total service aces (52).
Union boasts a balanced attack at the net with only four players registering over 200 kills. Andrews leads the way at 352, while Elam is next at 321. Elle Barnett (JR/Lexington, Ky.) follows with 247, and Maddie Jergesen (FR/Carson City, Nev.) sits at 237. Edmonds is close to the 200-kill plateau as she boasts 193. McGraw is close behind at 189.
Cornerstone is also very strong at the net, ranking No. 2 in the nation in total blocks (370.5) and sixth in total kills (1,917). The Golden Eagles are also fourth in total assists (1,756) and 10th in digs (2,502).
Individually, Kendra Zwart is the NAIA's top blocker with 207 to go along with her 373 kills. Hope Leppink ranks third nationally in total assists (1,464), and Heather Green registers 14th in the nation in total kills (493).
The Golden Eagles put together a program-best, 22-game win streak this season, and come into Saturday's contest having won 26 of their last 28. Cornerstone has proven to be clutch in tight situations as it is 10-0 in five-set matches.
Tickets to the match are $8 for adults and $5 for students/children. Union students will get in free with their college ID as Union Student Life will be covering their admission fees.
The game will be broadcast live online thanks to the Bulldog Sports Network. It can be viewed by clicking here. (Cost is $8 for the broadcast.)
Live stats are also available, and in-game updates will be provided on Union's official in-game Twitter account @UBulldogsInGame.