AU Volleyball Faces Kentucky in NCAA First Round

AU Volleyball Faces Kentucky in NCAA First Round

2015 NCAA Volleyball Tournament First Round
Friday, Dec. 4 – 4:30 p.m. – Columbus, Ohio
American (26-7) vs. Kentucky (21-9)
Series Record: American leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: American 3, Kentucky 2 — Nov. 27, 2014 at Long Beach, Calif.
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The American University volleyball team makes its 15th NCAA Championship appearance in program history this Friday, Dec. 4, when it takes on 24th-ranked Kentucky in a first-round contest on the campus of Ohio State. 

First serve between the Eagles and Wildcats is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Meanwhile, site host Ohio State, the 12th-seed in the 64-team bracket, will face Robert Morris at 7 p.m.

American captured its 13th Patriot League title in 15 seasons, sweeping Colgate and Army West Point in the league tournament held Nov. 21-22 at Bender Arena. Senior outside hitter Allison Cappellino was selected as the PL Tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by senior opposite Kristyna Lindovska and freshman outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala.

Kazala posted a career-high 15 kills to lead the Eagles in a 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 semifinal victory over Colgate.  Cappellino added 11 kills and senior setter Monika Smidova recorded her 19th double-double of the year with 29 assists and a team-best 14 digs.

In the championship match against Army West Point, American scored a 26-24, 25-17, 26-14 victory to capture the title. Cappellino led the Eagles with 17 kills, while Kazala added 11 kills.

American enters the NCAA Tournament with a 27-6 overall after posting a perfect 18-0 mark against Patriot League competition this season. The Eagles have won 10 consecutive matches and 19 of their last 20, with the lone loss during that stretch coming at George Washington in five sets.

Senior Allison Cappellino, a unanimous first-team All-Patriot League selection, leads American with 3.38 kills per set, while fellow unanimous first-team all-league pick Kristyna Lindovska adds 2.51 kills and 0.88 blocks per set. Senior Monika Smidova, who earned both the PL Player and Setter of the Year awards, averages 9.97 assists, 3.10 digs, 1.41 kills, 0.63 blocks and 0.42 service aces per set.

Other leaders for American include sophomore Hoakalei Dawson, a second-team all-league selection who was honored as the PL Libero of the Year with a team-leading 3.76 digs per set, and PL Rookie of the Year Carmen Unzue, who averages 0.86 blocks per set and a team-high .338 hitting percentage. 

Kentucky, ranked 22nd in the latest AVCA coaches poll, enters the tournament with a 21-9 overall record. The Wildcats make their 11th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, earning an at-large bid after tying for second in the SEC with a 14-4 ledger.

Three Kentucky players were named to the All-SEC team, including sophomore Ashley Dusek, who was tabbed the Libero of the Year, averaging 5.07 digs per set. Joining Dusek on the All-SEC team were senior setter Morgan Bergen, who averages 10.43 assists and 1.02 kills per set, and sophomore middle blocker Kaz Brown, who averages 2.75 kills and 1.63 blocks per set. Additionally, sophomore Darian Mack averages a team-best 3.23 kills per set.
The Wildcats are coached by Craig Skinner, who has posted 250 career victories in his 11 years at the helm of the program.

The winner of the American-Kentucky match will advance to the second round to face the winner of Friday's match between host Ohio State and Robert Morris. The second-round winner then heads to Lexington, Ky., for the regional semifinal on Dec. 11.

Ohio State, ranked 14th in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, owns a 23-9 record on the season and compiled a 12-8 conference mark to finish sixth in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in three of the last five seasons.

Meanwhile, Robert Morris earned its spot in the NCAA Tournament by capturing its eighth NEC Championship and first since 2003. The Colonials own a 19-12 overall record and are on a seven-match winning streak.