ASUN Champion Hatters Wait to Hear About NCAA Championship Field
As the excitement from Saturday’s dramatic ASUN Championship victory over FGCU subsides, the Stetson Hatters return to practice this week with one prominent question on their minds, “Are we in?”
The eight-team NCAA Championship field won’t be unveiled until Sunday night, April 28. The selection committee will choose three teams from the east region, three teams from the west region, and two at-large berths to compete in Gulf Shores, Ala., on May 3-5.
Meanwhile, the Stetson team was ranked seventh in the nation on Monday in this week’s AVCA Beach Volleyball coaches poll, following its third straight ASUN Championship win.
It is the Hatters’ highest AVCA ranking since finishing the 2015 season sixth in the country. Stetson was ranked eighth a week ago but moved past Cal Poly into the seventh spot.
“We really have to keep them focused during practice,” Stetson head coach Kristina Hernandez said. “It can be a long wait that seems like forever, so we just want to make sure we are practicing as well as we can, tweaking a few things, and making sure we are as prepared as possible.”
The Hatters (29-8) have made a substantial case to be included in this year’s field. Stetson is currently tied with LSU for the NCAA-lead in wins with 29, and 11 of those wins have come against ranked opponents.
“We have fought every single match and right now we are in the best position we could have hoped for to get into nationals,” sophomore Katinka Krahn said.
Stetson has also gone undefeated in the month of April. The Hatters have won a school-record 13 duals in a row, swept a tripleheader from FAU and FIU on April 12, and completed a perfect season in conference play.
“I think that we had some really specific goals these last two weeks, and we took care of those,” Hernandez said. “We are on a 13-game winning streak, so from that standpoint we finished as best as we could and didn’t leave any questions.”
The Hatters competed in the inaugural NCAA championship in 2016. For most of this year’s senior class, this season represents their last opportunity to return to Gulf Shores.
“It would mean the world,” Sammee Thomas said. “I was there my freshman year (with Long Beach State), and I have been doing everything I can to get back.”
“It would mean everything,” Rachel Noble said. “We’ve worked so hard, we’ve had so many ups and downs with this team, but making the NCAAs would honestly be incredible. It would really take everything full circle.”
The selection show will air at 7 p.m. Sunday night on NCAA.com.
AVCA Week 9 Rankings, April 22:
1. UCLA (27 first place votes)
2. Southern California
3. Florida State
8. Cal Poly
9. Florida International
11. Loyola Marymount
12. Long Beach State
14. Grand Canyon
15. Georgia State
16. South Carolina
17. Florida Atlantic
19. Saint Mary’s