ELMHURST, Ill. – In a league season marked by parity and competitive play, it is only fitting the sixth and final tournament seed for the upcoming Summit League Volleyball Championship would be solidified on the last day of the regular season.
Denver—who clinched the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye for the fourth-consecutive season with a win over South Dakota Friday—eliminated Western Illinois from playoff contention Sunday with a 3-1 victory, allowing the Fort Wayne Mastodons to slide in as the No. 6 seed in the 2017 #SummitVB Championship bracket.
The preseason No. 1 Pioneers (21-5, 12-2) recorded their best league winning percentage (.857) since they joined the Summit League and will look to repeat as tournament champs for the fourth-straight season—a feat that has not been accomplished by any Summit League volleyball team since Oral Roberts won six consecutive titles from 1997-2002. With the victory over the Leathernecks Sunday, Denver also became the outright regular season league champs, signifying the fourth-straight year the Pioneers have won/shared that honor.
Host Denver will face the winner of No. 4 North Dakota State (18-8, 9-5) and No. 5 Omaha (10-17, 7-7), who get things started on Friday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. MT (4 p.m. CT). The Bison are making their fourth-straight appearance in the league tournament (10th overall), while the Mavericks are making their second-ever trip to the #SummitVB Championship. North Dakota State won the season series, 2-0, and is riding a three-match win streak heading into Denver.
The No. 2 seed belongs to Oral Roberts (14-12, 11-3), who pieced together its best record in league play since the 2008 season. That year, the Golden Eagles went 13-3 and entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, falling in the championship match to NDSU, 3-1. This time around, ORU is led by Laura Milos, who ranks second in the nation in total kills (479), third in kills/set (5.32) and fourth in aces/set (0.54). She and the rest of the Golden Eagles are eying the team's eighth Summit League tournament title.
Playing for a Saturday match-up against ORU is No. 3 South Dakota (16-10, 10-4) and No. 6 Fort Wayne (12-18, 4-10). The season series is 2-0 in favor of the Coyotes, who are searching for their first Summit League tournament title in team history after finishing second last season. Fort Wayne has two league championships under its belt, with the most recent one coming in 2012. First serve between the two is set for 6 p.m. MT (7 p.m. CT) on Friday, Nov. 17.
For complete coverage of The Summit League Volleyball Championship, visit the official championship website at www.thesummitleague.org/championships and follow the championship Twitter feed @summitchamps.
Friday, Nov. 17
3 p.m. - Match One: (4) North Dakota State vs. (5) Omaha
6 p.m. - Match Two: (3) South Dakota vs. (6) Fort Wayne
Saturday, Nov. 18
3 p.m. – Match Three: Winner Match 1 vs. (1) Denver
6 p.m. – Match Four: Winner Match 2 vs. (2) Oral Roberts
Sunday, Nov. 19
2 p.m. – Championship Match: Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4
All times Mountain
ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Through 35 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 100,000 at eight institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Fort Wayne (Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne), North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University with the University of North Dakota becoming an official member on July 1, 2018. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced nine NCAA Champions along with over 90 Academic All-Americans, nearly 100 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.org website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.