| The News Record)
After a stellar season that saw the Bearcats finish 22–9 overall and 17–3 in the AAC, the ‘Cats will re-join The Dance as they take on Florida State on Friday at 4:30 PM in Gainesville, Florida.
This is UC’s first at-large bid since 2010, as their 2011 qualification was automatic after winning the Big East. In Cincinnati’s last tournament appearance in 2011, they opened with a 3–2 win over Samford before falling 3–2 in the second round against Florida State.
Head coach Molly Alvey took over before the 2011 season and has been slowly piloting the program back to national relevance. UC was 12–20 in the Big East in 2012 before plummeting to 3–29 in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference in 2013. In 2014, the turnaround was in full effect, as the Bearcats fell just short of .500 at 15–17.
Last season, the Bearcats exploded for a 21–10 record and a third-place conference finish before improving to 22–9 and second place this season in their return to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats are led by sophomore Jordan Thompson, who became the fastest player in AAC and UC history to reach 1,000 kills. She was named the 2016 AAC Preseason Player of the Year after competing on the U.S. Collegiate National Team this summer. She backed up the hype by finishing first in the conference (sixth nationally) in kills per set, finishing seventh nationally in points per set, ninth nationally in total kills, and tenth nationally in total points.
She’s an absolute monster. She’s 19 years old.
The Red & Black make their 11th appearance in the bracket this Friday, in search of their fifth win. The winner faces #11 Florida/Alabama State on Sunday with a Sweet 16 trip on the line.
Bearcats NCAA Volleyball Tournament History:
1981: 3–0 Loss vs Penn State
1999: 3–1 Loss vs Santa Clara
2000: 3–0 Loss vs #20 Notre Dame
2001: 3–1 Win vs Xavier, 3–1 Loss vs #10 Ohio State
2002: 3–2 Loss vs Arizona State
2003: 3–2 Loss vs UCF
2008: 3–2 Win vs Western Kentucky, 3–0 Loss vs #9 Illinois
2009: 3–1 Loss vs Ohio State
2010: 3–0 Win vs Western Kentucky, 3–1 Loss vs #14 Illinois
2011: 3–2 Win vs Samford, 3–2 Loss vs Florida State