Cornell’s volleyball team takes on perennial power St. Thomas on its home court at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament in St. Paul, Minn.
The Rams (20-10) learned of their challenging draw during Monday’s NCAA Selection Show as the final pairing in this year’s 64-team field. Seventh-ranked St. Thomas (34-1) is the No. 1 seed in the eight-team region, which included four teams the Rams have played this season.
The Cornell-St. Thomas winner plays the Wartburg/UW-Eau Claire winner in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. The regional championship is 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov 10. All matches are held at St. Thomas’ Schoenecker Arena located in the Anderson Athletics and Recreation Complex.
In the top half of the St. Paul bracket, 23rd-ranked St. Benedict (27-5) meets Dominican (24-8) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by Northwestern (26-8) and 20th-ranked UW-Stevens Point (29-7) at 3 p.m. No. 11 Wartburg (32-5) plays UW-Eau Claire (25-11) at 5:30 p.m.
Complete tournament pairing can be found at NCAA Division III Volleyball Championships.
Coach Jeff Meeker’s Rams punched their ticket to nationals with a 25-18, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21 victory over St. Norbert in Saturday’s Midwest Conference Tournament Final. Cornell carries a 12-match winning streak into Thursday’s contest with the Tommies, who will be the 12th regionally-ranked opponent the battle-tested Rams have faced this season.
Cornell is 2-2 against the regional field, having swept both Northwestern and Dominican while falling to Wartburg (2-3) and UW-Eau Claire (0-3).
The Rams made their NCAA Volleyball Tournament debut in 2011, when they dropped a first-round, five-set battle to Elmhurst in St. Louis, Mo. Cornell returns six players who played key roles at nationals last year.
St. Thomas enters the tournament on a 29-match winning streak, including a five-set win over St. Benedict in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Final. The Tommies have won 26 consecutive matches on their home floor spanning three seasons.
St. Thomas’ lone loss of the year was to fifth-ranked Emory in five sets back on Sept. 7 in Atlanta, Ga. The Tommies have finished in the Top 11 in the final AVCA Division III Poll each of the last seven seasons. St. Thomas is making its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and 14th overall.
The Rams are led by junior outside hitter Kathleen O’Connor, who tallied 20 kills in the MWC Tournament Final. O’Connor averages 3.8 kills per set while adding 291 digs, 57 blocks and 44 aces on the year. Sophomore Taylor Dicus ranks fifth nationally in total blocks (1.33 bps) and posts a team-best .270 hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Kylea Weber is 22nd in Division III with 5.87 digs per set.