Five Things to Know: South Dakota, Denver’s NCAA Tournament Opener

South Dakota and Denver will represent the league at the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Tournament Friday.
South Dakota and Denver will represent the league at the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Tournament Friday.

By: Aubrie Laufenberg
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. –For the first time in Summit League history, two teams will be representing the league in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Tournament. South Dakota received the league's automatic bid after knocking off top-seeded Denver in a five-set thriller to claim the title. This is the first time at the Division I national tournament for the Coyotes.

Denver earned the program's first at-large bid after an impressive season. The Pioneers finished the season with a 27-2 mark, having swept 16 matches on the year with 12 being at home inside Hamilton Gymnasium. Before their loss to South Dakota, the Pioneers had tallied a program-record 24-match win streak. This year's trip to the tournament will be Denver's fifth-consecutive appearance.

The first serve for South Dakota and Creighton will be at 6 p.m. CT inside D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb. The match will air on Fox Sports Go at no charge with live streaming available via here.

The match between Denver and Utah will begin at 4 p.m. MT in Provo, Utah, inside Smith Field House. Streaming for the match will be available here.

Five Things to Know for the opening round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament

  1. South Dakota will meet Creighton for the fifth time in program history. The last time the Coyotes saw the Bluejays was back in 2014 at the Creighton Classic where they notched the program's only victory over Creighton.
  2. Creighton is a five-time BIG EAST champion and earned the No. 9 national seed. This is the third time in program history that the Bluejays have been seeded. In the last nine years, this is the eighth NCAA Tournament appearance for Creighton.
  3. Denver looks to advance to the second round in the tournament for the first time in program history. The Pioneer's 27-2 season record is the best in program history and their only two losses came in five sets. The first loss was to then-No. 19 Utah back on Aug. 25.
  4. Utah is making its 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and enters the tournament having won its last three matches and five of its past six. The Utes finished the regular season tied for sixth in the Pac-12.
  5. Summit League Player of the Year Hayley Dotseth of South Dakota leads the league in kills per set (4.04), while the league's Defensive Player of the Year Anne Rasmussen leads the league in digs per set (5.45) and total digs (589). For Denver, Lydia Bartalo leads the league in service aces per set (0.56) and has remained in the top ten nationally for a majority of the season.

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Through 36 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 115,000 at nine institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Purdue Fort Wayne (Purdue University Fort Wayne), the University of North Dakota, 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. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced 12 NCAA Champions along with over 100 Academic All-Americans, nearly 125 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.