Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats headed to Austin for NCAA tournament, set to take on Rice in first round
Texas State already knew it was going to its first NCAA tournament since 2013, but that didn’t mean the Bobcats weren’t anxious to find out who and where they would be playing in the first round.
At a standing-room only watch party at the Richard A. Castro Legacy Club inside Strahan Arena on Sunday, the team gasped and laughed as each part of the bracket was revealed on ESPNU’s selection show.
Then the cheers came. Texas State is headed to Austin. The Bobcats (26-6, 15-1 Sun Belt) are set to take on Rice (24-6, 12-2 Conference USA) on Thursday at 4 p.m. inside Gregory Gym.
“It’s been a special year no doubt about it,” head coach Karen Chisum said. “... We came back today. We talked to them a lot about being hungry. You’ve got to be as hungry right now as what you did August the 9th when we were talking about the (conference championship) ring.
“They can really leave a legacy at Texas State and the volleyball program … No one has taken us to the second round. This group is capable of doing that and I think they understand that.”
This will be the third match between Texas State and Rice in the last year. The Bobcats swept the Owls on Nov. 30, 2017 in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship first round in San Marcos. Texas State escaped a five-set thriller against Rice earlier this season at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston with a 3-2 win.
Texas State also avoided its normal spot in the NCAA tournament as a regional No. 4 seed.
For one round, the Bobcats postponed a date with No. 5 national seed Texas (20-4, 15-1 Big 12), which swept Texas State earlier in the 2018 campaign.
While the Bobcats have familiarity with their first round and potential second round opponents, Chisum said it’s been a long time since they’ve last played Rice and Texas.
“We’ve played a lot of ballgames,” Chisum said. “We’ve got so much video of all of these whether it’s when we played them or when we get them off of our volleymetrics. It’s nice to have that history. I remember when we played Texas after the match (head coach) Jerritt (Elliott) told me that night, he told me ‘Karen, we’re going to see you again.’ So that was a compliment. I knew he was very respectful of this group.
“We go to Rice. We play over there. It was a dogfight I’ll tell you that much. We came out on top. They’re very good. (Head coach) Genny (Volpe) and I are good friends and stuff. But we’re going to have to play well. They’re going to play well.”
Senior outside hitter Amy Pflughaupt said it gives the Bobcats confidence that they’re familiar with both Rice and Texas.
“Already playing Rice last year in the NIVC and playing them already, we already kind of have an up,” Pflughaupt said. “I know they’re going to be wanting revenge and so we’ll just have to be on top of our game. But it’s going to be fun. We already played Texas. It wasn’t our best so they don’t know what our best is. I think it’s going to be a fun round. Hopefully we win these two. That’s our goal.”
Making the NCAA tournament is exciting for senior middle blocker Madison Daigle and her teammates, but they aren’t satisfied with just qualifying for the big dance.
“It means a lot to me and the team,” Daigle said. “We’ve never done this before since I’ve been here in my career. We’re all really excited. We want to make a statement there to show that we’re the best team to come across at Texas State.”