By Kyle Steiner, The Miami Student

The Miami University volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament after securing an at-large bid into the field of 64. This will be the program’s first appearance since the 2008 season.

“It’s a dream come true,” senior outside hitter Maris Below said. “We’ve been wanting this for the last four years. The fact that it’s actually happening is just amazing.”

The RedHawks (24-6 overall, 15-1 Mid-American Conference) were unable to clinch an automatic berth after falling 3-0 to archrival Northern Illinois University in the MAC title game. However, the squad’s 20-game winning streak and regular season MAC championship impressed the committee enough to earn the ‘Hawks a spot in the tournament.

Miami will square off against the University of Oregon in the first round 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“We are extremely excited to be in the NCAA tournament with the chance to play a great team like Oregon,” sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc said.

Five MU players will get the chance to play their first NCAA tournament game in their home state of Michigan.

The Ducks (20-9 overall, 13-7 conference) finished the season fourth in the Pacific-12 conference, arguably the nation’s top league. The conference boasts six teams in the latest edition of the AVCA Coaches’ Poll, with Oregon currently ranked 19th in the country.

The U of O attack is led by sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide. The 6-foot-3-inch standout leads the team with 353 kills on the season, averaging 3.24 per set.

The Ducks finished the year with a 3-3 record in their final six games.

MU enters the matchup with a renewed sense of life given that its tournament status was up in the air heading into Sunday night’s selection show. 

Having won 23 of their last 25 matches, the RedHawks are confident they have the ability to  compete against and take down top-notch competition.

“Our team has demonstrated so many times that they can grind and outwork opponents,” head coach Carolyn Condit said.

Miami will look to its diverse set of attackers to wear down the Oregon defense. Five different players recorded over 200 kills on the season for the ‘Hawks.

The winner of the first round matchup will square off against either the University of Michigan or American University at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

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