A year ago, the Missouri volleyball team had to wait a while to see which teams would come to Columbia, where the Tigers would play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. This time, just minutes into the selection show on Sunday, some MU players weren’t even looking at the television yet when their first-round matchup was announced.
Missouri players began laughing when they saw MU and Kansas will play each other in the first round at Wichita State, the host school and the No. 16 seed in the bracket. Missouri and Kansas face one another at 6 p.m. Friday, and the winner will face the winner of Wichita State-Radford.
KU swept Mizzou, 3-0, two years ago at home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks rallied from 24-20 in the third set to win 27-25 at Horejsi Center.
“I think that was the loudest it’s ever been,” KU right side hitter Kelsie Payne said. “That probably was one of my favorite college matches ever.”
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The disappointing news for KU on Sunday was that it wouldn’t be a host in the first and second rounds, which breaks a five-year run of opening NCAA play at home. The 14th-ranked Jayhawks likely dropped out of contention Saturday when they fell, 3-2, in Lawrence to 17-12 West Virginia.
Mizzou coach Wayne Kreklow called the Jayhawks a “really, really difficult first round matchup,” one that he thinks is a bit unfair for both teams.
The Tigers, 20-11, finished third in the Southeastern Conference with a 13-5 league record. This will be Missouri’s 14th postseason appearance since 2000.
“It's almost to a point where, in any kind of tournament play, the committee looks at you’ve got a KU team qualified and a Missouri team qualified, what could be better than let’s just have them play each other?” Kreklow said. “I don’t think they pay attention to the seeding or anything.”
Kansas setter Ainise Havili was honest Sunday when saying that the West Virginia loss “probably” kept KU from being a host location.
“But it happened. It’s over. It’s time to move forward,” Havili said. “We get to play, and a lot of teams don’t get that opportunity.”