Cats volleyball makes NCAA field

The UK volleyball team has something to be thankful for after this holiday weekend.

For a school-record sixth season in a row the Cats were selected into the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament Sunday afternoon, according to a UK Athletics news release.

It is the sixth time in six seasons UK head coach Craig Skinner’s team will play in the tournament, and the 12th time in school history that the Cats will participate in postseason play.

Skinner and his squad will head to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on the No. 16 overall seed, the Purdue Boilermakers.

“We are excited to start the NCAA Tournament,” Skinner said in the news release. “We’ve played a lot of good teams this year to prepare us for this. Purdue is playing very well right now, so we will really need to focus in this week.”

UK (17-13, 11-9 SEC) won three of its last four matches, including matches at home against No. 15 Louisiana State and at Mississippi, to propel itself into the field.

Despite ending its season with a straight-set loss to the Tennessee Volunteers, UK did enough in the eyes of the selection committee to earn itself a bid to the tournament.

UK faced Purdue in West Lafayette in the NCAA tournament in 2006. The teams played in the second round of the tournament, with the Boilermakers prevailing over the Cats in straight sets. In 17 previous meetings overall between the two schools, Purdue holds a slim 9-8 edge in the series. Purdue is led by offensive playmakers Ariel Turner and Jaclyn Hart, who combine for 4.96 kills per set, as well as defensive specialist Carly Cramer, who leads the team with 4.01 digs per set.

The winner of the UK-Purdue match will face the victor of the game between Louisville and Middle Tennessee State in the second round.

Play begins Friday, Dec. 3 beginning with the match between Louisville and Middle Tennessee State, followed by UK’s match against Purdue. The winners of those matches will face off Sunday, Dec. 5 in the second round with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.

In 2009, Skinner’s Cats reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, and they will look to make it back in 2010 out of the West Lafayette regionals.