CHARLESTON, S.C. - With an automatic bid already secured, College of Charleston waited with joyful anticipation on Sunday before learning that the Cougars will play No. 23 Miami (Fla.) in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
College of Charleston will travel to Gainesville, Fla., for a 5 p.m. match on Friday, Nov. 30, against the Hurricanes of the ACC. Miami advanced to the title match of the ACC Tournament but fell to Florida State, 3-1, to receive the runner-up trophy.
The winner of the CofC-Miami match will take on the winner of Florida-Tulsa on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The host Gators earned the overall 14th seed in the 64-team tournament.
Friday's match will mark the first time that the Cougars have faced Miami in the Division I era, although the venue will be similar as CofC has landed in Gainesville in each of the last four trips ('12, '09, '07, '06) to the NCAA Tournament. College of Charleston fell to Florida 3-0 in 2009 and 2007, and lost to Arizona State, 3-1, in 2006.
College of Charleston will enter the tournament with an updated RPI of 48. The Cougars have never finished a season higher than 65 in head coach Jason Kepner's tenure.
"I'm very happy with the draw that we got today," Kepner said. "In my two previous trips we've gone to Gainesville and had to play Florida on their home floor. Miami is a great team, but any time that you get a chance to play on a neutral site, you have to be happy. We're really confident right now. The team is playing great together and that's what you need to do when you go to the NCAA Tournament. You need everyone to be a part of the offense and defense together."
CofC earned an automatic bid to this year's tournament by defeating Furman in a five-set thriller in the title match of the Southern Conference Tournament in Davidson, N.C. last Monday night.
College of Charleston will be making its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament, more than any other SoCon program. With the 2012 title, the Cougars have now won 12 straight regular season or conference tournament championships, the second-longest streak in the nation. With a 2005 first-round victory over North Carolina, College of Charleston is the only SoCon program to ever win a match in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars have been led this season by a number of standout players including redshirt-junior Darcy Dorton who transferred to CofC from Penn State. She has amassed 498 kills and will look to become the first CofC player in the rally scoring era (since 2001) to tally 500 kills in one season.
Sophomore Sloane White, earned SoCon Tournament MVP honors after she finished the season on a tear, hitting .453 in the SoCon Tournament and finishing second on the team with 336 kills.
The CofC middle blockers stepped up immensely after entering the season with relatively little playing time as Emily Neideffer (228 kills, 87 blocks) and Kerstin Koehler (185 kills, 101 blocks) helped to shore up the middle of the net and take over after the departures of CofC greats Elyse Chubb and Sarah Havel.
Freshman Melissa Morello was a surprising performer as she earned SoCon All-Freshman honors after finishing third on the team with 241 kills. Setter Taeler Davis also surprised many by averaging 12.04 assists per set as the full-time starter after taking over for the injured Kallie McKown. Finally, senior Emily Shelton closed out her final season with 638 digs, the third-most in a single season in CofC history.
Friday's match will be streamed live through Florida's athletic website, www.GatorZone.com.