For the first time in program history, the Wesleyan University volleyball team has advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III Championships. The Cardinals won the Providence Regional by defeating No. 2 Johnson & Wales, 3-1, in which they snapped the Wildcats' 33-match win streak. The final eight teams remaining in the tournament were reseeded and Wesleyan (20-5) secured the No. 7 seed. The Cardinals will continue their quest for a national title on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. against seconded-seeded Juniata (27-3) in the A.J. Palumbo Center on the campus of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. Saint Vincent College and Sports PITTSBURGH will serve as tournament hosts.
Wesleyan and Juniata have not played each other this season but did see each other twice last year. The Eagles were victorious in both matchups, claiming a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-16) win on Sept. 23 and another 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-22) victory on Oct. 21. Thursday's match is just the third-ever meeting between the two programs and can be viewed HERE. The winner will advance to the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. with the national championship scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
- Wesleyan boasts a 20-5 overall record and finished 9-1 in the NESCAC.
- The Cardinals are riding a historic stretch, reaching the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time in program history.
- Last year, Wesleyan won its first-ever NESCAC Championship and finished the year with a 22-6 mark.
- The team is led by AVCA All-Americans Phia Bellizzi (2018) and Nicole Hilton (2017), and All-America Honorable Mentions Kaira Muraoka-Robertson (2018) and Stasie Litinsky (2017). Bellizzi ranks 12th in the country in digs, averaging 5.95 per set. Additionally, she was named a First Team All-NESCAC honoree and Mia Hogan was named to the Second Team.
- Head Coach Ben Somera is in his fourth season at the helm and has completely revitalized the program. After going 5-15 his first year, the Cardinals finished 15-8 the next season before posting back-to-back 20-win campaigns.
- Wesleyan is 5-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- Juniata owns a 27-3 overall record and went 6-0 in the Landmark Conference while winning its 38th conference title.
- After starting the season 2-3, the Eagles have gone 25-0 since. The team's three losses came against two Elite Eight teams, then-No. 2 Calvin (3-2) and then-No. 8 Ithaca (3-2), as well as then-No. 3 Wittenberg (3-2).
- The Eagles are led by five All-Americans – senior middle hitter Marybeth Weihbrecht, junior middle hitter Dejia Danhi, sophomore outside hitter Victoria Taylor, senior defensive specialist Katie Byrne, and junior opposite hitter Morgan Edwards. Weihbrecht was named the Landmark Player of the Year and ranks second in the country in hitting percentage (.418)
- Head Coach Heather Pavlik is in her eighth season at the helm of the program and boasts a 221-55 (.801) record.
- Juniata is a two-time NCAA Champion (2006, '04) and six-time runner-up. The Eagles have been to more NCAA Tournaments than any Division III team (38) and own a 107-43 (.713) all-time record in the postseason.
THE REST OF THE FIELD:
- No. 1 Calvin (31-1): Ranked No. 1 in the country | Three-time NCAA Champion | 58-26 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- No. 3 Emory (27-6): Ranked No. 9 in the country | 2008 National Champions | 51-23 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- No. 4 Wisconsin-Eau Claire (32-3): Ranked No. 14 in the country | 17-16 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- No. 5 Babson (26-8): Receiving votes in the top-25 polls | 7-3 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- No. 6 Ithaca (21-7): Ranked No. 25 in the country | 27-22 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- No. 8 Aurora (26-8): Receiving votes in the top-25 polls | 3-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament