By Greg Halbleib
NORMAL – Illinois State volleyball will travel to Madison to take on the nation’s Number 4 seed Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
The Redbirds won the Missouri Valley Conference’s automatic bid to the tournament with a straight-set championship match win Saturday over host Northern Iowa. First serve Friday in Madison is 7 p.m.
UNI also received a bid and will face Missouri in the first round at Lincoln, Nebraska. Illinois picked up an at-large berth and travels to Utah to face the hosts in the first round.
Illinois State coach Leah Johnson said the chance to play a national power is a great opportunity.
“How awesome to go play Wisconsin, a Number 4 seed,” Johnson said shortly after learning the Redbirds’ opponent. “We’re excited about the challenge and know they’re playing great volleyball, but this is why you play.”
Johnson said the Redbirds are possibly playing their best volleyball now.
“I think Saturday mirrors our home tournament when we upset Illinois, when we beat UCF and when we took Marquette who was seventh at the time in the country to the brink in five sets,” Johnson said. “I think we look more parallel to that team, and that’s the team we thought had some promise in the postseason.”
The Redbirds will be making the program’s 15th NCAA tournament appearance.
Sports Director Greg Halbleib can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.