UIC volleyball team opens first NCAA Tournament at Louisville

The UIC volleyball team, which has qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, learned its first-round opponent Sunday evening when the full field of 64 teams was announced during the Selection Show on ESPNU. The Flames (20-11, 13-3 Horizon League) will be at No. 1 Louisville (28-0, 18-0 ACC) to take on the unbeaten Cardinals. The opening-round affair is set for Friday, Dec. 3, at L&N Federal Credit Union Arena. First serve between the Flames and Cardinals is set for 6 p.m.

The winner of the match between Louisville and UIC will take on the winner of a first-round match between Ball State and Michigan. Ball State has won 19 consecutive matches and captured its second Mid-American Conference championship in the last three seasons. Michigan won 18 matches overall in 2021, including 11 in Big Ten play. Ball State and Michigan will open first round play in Louisville with a 3 p.m. match Friday.

Friday’s match will be the third time that UIC has gone across the net from Louisville, and the first since 2008. The Flames won the first meeting in 1986 before falling, 3-1, on Sept. 13, 2008, at Chicago’s Mother McAuley High School. UIC is winless in three matches all-time against Ball State and has not won in five tries against Michigan.

The Flames earned the postseason bid by winning three five-set matches in as many days at the Horizon League Tournament, Nov. 19-21. Fourth-seeded UIC topped No. 5 Green Bay in the quarterfinal before orchestrating a reverse sweep of the top seed and host, Milwaukee. The Flames knocked out No. 2 Northern Kentucky less than 24 hours later to win the second conference tournament in program history, and the first since 1989 (North Star Conference).

UIC is one of six teams in the field for the first time along with Campbell, The Citadel, Mississippi State, South Alabama, and West Virginia.The NCAA Tournament’s top four national seeds are Louisville, Texas, Pitt and Wisconsin. Regional play opens Dec. 9. The national semifinals and championship will take place in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 16-18.

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