Sports: Wildcats squeeze into NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball National Championships as eight-seed

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Despite a tumultuous regular season, the Central women’s volleyball team managed to clinch the eighth seed in the NCAA Division II Western Regional Tournament.

The Wildcats (15-11 overall, 11-7 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) face No. 1 seed California State University San Bernardino, (25-5 overall, 21-1 California Collegiate Athletic Assosciation) this evening at 7:30 p.m. in San Bernardino, Calif. The Coyotes are joined by fellow CCAA members Sonoma State and UC San Diego.

The GNAC is represented by Western Washington University, Alaska-Anchorage and Central. The final two teams are from the Pacific West Conference, reigning West Region champion BYU-Hawaii and Dixie State.

The Wildcats (11-7 overall, 15-11 GNAC) finished the season in the fourth slot of the GNAC behind the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders. Western Oregon University led the conference, finishing  16-2 with an overall record of 23-3. After a season-opener five-set loss against Western Oregon, the Wildcats came back strong to shutout Saint Martin’s in the second match of the conference.

The rest of the season proved to be a cat-and-mouse battle as the team produced just as many wins as losses. However, a Wildcat win over Seattle Pacific on Oct. 10 led to a five-game win streak that included three shutouts against Montana State Billings, Northwest Nazarene and Alaska Anchorage.

The regional tournament will mark the No. 1 seeded San Bernardino Coyotes’ seventh time in eight years as host of the tournament. For eight consecutive seasons now the Coyotes have snagged the champion title of the CCAA after completing this season with a record of 25-5. The Wildcats faced CSUSB earlier in the season in the Coyote Classic and won 3-1, delivering one of the Coyotes’ five losses.

The Wildcats’ eighth-place seed marks their second consecutive year competing in the tournament and is the fifth appearance within the past 10 seasons.

CSUSB has become a familiar foe for head coach Mario Andaya in the postseason, as the last three playoff matches have been against the Coyotes. Central fell during the regional quarterfinals in 2006 and 2012 to CSUSB and suffered a regional semifinal loss in 2005 to the Coyotes.

Should Central come out on top again it will face the winner of the Sonoma State vs. Western Washington match at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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