By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament field is set, and the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine will take on Mississippi State in a first-round match on Friday at 2:00 p.m. ESPN Honolulu will bring you that match live from Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. Our pre-match coverage will start at 1:00 p.m., and first serve is set for 2:00. Tiff Wells will call the action.
The Hawaii-Mississippi State winner will play the winner of the Washington-Brown match on Friday at 5:00 p.m.
Here’s a quick look at the four teams competing in this part of the bracket:
WASHINGTON: The prohibitive favorite to advance from this region. Huskies (24-4 overall, 17-3 in the Pac-12) are the Pac-12 champions and the No. 15 seed in the tournament. This is the program’s 20th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, which is the fifth-longest active streak in the NCAA. The Huskies were a Final Four team last season, falling to eventual National champion Kentucky. They are 11-1 this season at Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington is led by AVCA First-Team All-American outside hitter Samantha Drechsel (367 kills, 228 digs) and Second-Team All-American outside hitter Claire Hoffman (362 kills, 39 service aces).
BROWN: The Ivy League champs (20-5 overall, 13-1 in conference) posted their first 20-win season since 1998, which was their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance. That year, the Bears were swept by a Heather Bown-led Rainbow Wahine team in the first round. The team’s top offensive weapon is first-year player Kate Sheire, a sophomore right-side hitter who,leads the Bears in kills (281) and points (327.5).
HAWAII: The Rainbow Wahine (21-7 overall, 18-2 in the Big West) have punched their ticket to their 28th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. This will be the sixth time since 2010 that Hawaii has been sent to Seattle for the Tournament’s first round. Hawaii features a balanced offensive attack led by senior outside hitter Brooke Van Sickle (361 kills), sophomore middle blocker Amber Igiede (290) and sophomore opposite hitter Riley Wagoner (242). Igiede is tops in blocks (127), while freshman libero Tayli Ikenaga leads the Rainbow Wahine in digs (334).
MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs are making their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, having earned an at-large bid. Mississippi State finished 25-5 overall this season (16-2 in the SEC). The team is currently ranked No. 24 in the AVCA Top 25. The player to watch is senior middle blocker Gabby Waden, who leads Mississippi State in a number of categories, including kills (409). Friday will be the first-ever meeting between the Bulldogs and Rainbow Wahine. The two schools have one common opponent in the regular season: Texas A&M. Hawaii swept the Aggies 3-0 on Aug. 29, while the Bulldogs beat the Aggies twice (3-1, 3-1) on Oct. 23 and 24.