KEARNEY — The 12th-ranked University of Nebraska at Kearney volleyball team is in the NCAA Tournament for a 22nd straight season.
The Lopers will battle MIAA rival and No. 4 Northwest Missouri State in the first round of the Central Regional Dec. 2 at Warrensburg, Missouri.
The 64-team NCAA Tournament field was announced Monday night.
The 22-year NCAA run trails only the University of Tampa as the Spartans have made the “Big Dance” the past 25 years.
The Lopers (25-6), sixth seed in the regional, and third-seeded Bearcats (26-5) will be meeting for the third time this fall. Northwest won Oct. 1 in four sets at the UNK Health and Sports Center with the Lopers sweeping the Bearcats at Maryville on Oct. 30. UNK leads the all-time series 23-3.
The Central Region is far and away the best in the country, featuring top-ranked Central Missouri and nine other nationally ranked teams. The Top 25 teams from the Central Region left out of the tournament are No. 14 Wayne State, No. 17 Southwest Minnesota State and No. 25 Oklahoma Baptist.
In other first-round matches:
— No. 1 Central Missouri (28-3) plays Arkansas Tech (22-7).
— No. 7 St. Cloud State (27-4) plays No. 15 Concordia St. Paul (22-8).
— No. 6 Washburn (26-5) plays No. 10 Winona State (28-4).
The UNK/Northwest winner takes on either St. Cloud State or nine-time national champion Concordia-St. Paul in the semifinals with the eight regional winners advancing to the Elite Eight on Dec. 9-11 at Tampa.
UNK is 32-24 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight six times since 1955.
The Lopers were national runners-up in 2019 and 2005.