FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University volleyball team will play top-seeded and host University of Tampa in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II South Regional Tournament, Friday evening (Nov. 18) at 7:30 p.m.
The quarterfinal round will have four matches on Friday in Tampa’s Bob Martinez Sports Center: Florida Gulf Coast University (25-3) vs. Presbyterian College (32-4) at noon, Florida Southern College (32-3) vs. Wingate University (25-5) at 2:30 p.m., Barry University (17-9) vs. Rollins College (25-10) at 5 p.m., and FMU’s match at 7:30 p.m. Tampa is 25-3 and ranked No. 6 in the country.
The regional semifinals are set for Saturday at 5 and 7:30 p.m. If FMU wins its quarterfinal match, the Patriots would face the Barry/Rollins winner in the second semifinal. The championship match is slated for Sunday at 7 p.m. Barry is the defending NCAA Division II national champion.
Francis Marion is 29-10 and last weekend earned the PBC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II national tournament by virtue of winning the conference tournament. The 29 victories is the fourth-highest win total in team history and the NCAA invitation is only the second for the Patriots. FMU, which lost more then 20 matches in 2003, has now put together back-to-back 20-win seasons.
The Patriots’ previous trip to the NCAA tournament occurred in 1998, and FMU was defeated by Tampa in three games, again on the Spartans’ home floor.
This season’s FMU squad has won nine straight matches. The Patriots faced Tampa earlier this season at the AASU Volleyball Clash in Savannah, Ga., with the Spartans winning in three close games 31-29, 30-23, 30-28. Francis Marion faced five of the other seven teams in the regional during the 2005 campaign, but FMU’s lone win came against Rollins.
Junior Lezlie Logan leads FMU in kills (3.61 per game), while senior Jessica Bartlett leads the squad in hitting percentage (.294). Freshman setter Jenna Kaiser is averaging 10.32 assists per game, tops in the PBC. Junior libero Jessica Strader leads the Patriots in digs (4.99 per game), also best in the PBC. Logan, Bartlett, and senior Kelly Feber all have more than 1,000 career kills, while both Feber and Strader have surpassed 1,000 career digs.
This will be the third trip to the NCAA tournament for FMU head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick. He earlier coached his alma mater Lycoming College to the 1997 and 1998 Division III tournaments.
The 2005 NCAA Division II field includes 63 teams competing in eight regional tournaments. The regional champions will advance to the Elite Eight, Dec. 1-3, at the site of one of the competing schools.