(Editor's note: Montana State athletics release.)
BOZEMAN — After suffering a five-set defeat to Weber State on Friday night in the championship match of the Big Sky Conference tournament, the Montana State volleyball team learned Sunday night that its season was extended, receiving a berth in the 32-team National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
Montana State (21-8) faces Pacific (18-10) on Thursday at 5 p.m. Mountain time at The Nest on the campus of Sacramento State. Sacramento State (21-11) hosts the first two rounds. The Hornets play UNLV (19-12) at 8 p.m. following MSU’s contest. The winner of Thursday’s matches meets Friday at 8 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Round of 8.
All three matches at Sacramento State will be steamed on ESPN+.
“It’s a really exciting moment for Montana State,” said MSU first-year head coach Matt Houk. “We felt some heartbreak this past weekend being so close to winning our first Big Sky championship and coming up just a little bit short.
“The fact that the NIVC committee saw our body of work this year, and especially how well we were playing down the stretch is a testament to what this group’s done this year.”
Pacific finished fourth in the West Coast Conference with a 10-6 league mark. The WCC was won by Pepperdine. The Tigers faced four common opponents with MSU, notching wins over Nevada (3-0), Seattle U (3-0), Eastern Washington (3-0) and Sacramento State (3-1).
UP is under the direction of 14th-year head coach Greg Gibbons. Offensively, the Tigers are led by the one-two punch of outside hitters Biamba Kabengele and Alexa Edwards, who average 3.71 and 3.47 kills per set. Setter Jenna Heller guided the Pacific offense dishing out 8.32 aps. All three players garnered First Team All-WCC accolades.
“To be the first team in program history to get to play in the postseason is pretty neat,” Houk said. “I’m really excited that we’re not done yet. I wasn’t ready for this season to be over, so it’s a pretty cool thing we get to play a little bit longer.
“We don’t know anything about Pacific,” he added. “The staff will get on them tonight and start building a report.”
Northern Colorado also received an NIVC at-large berth and hosts its quad. The Bears play Valparaiso. Also playing in Greeley are South Dakota and Wyoming.
The NIVC, which is the equivalent to the basketball NIT, offers bids to teams that do not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The NIVC was originally played from 1989-95, made its return in 2017. The tournament features 16 first-round games, followed by eight second-round games, four third-round games, two semifinal games, and the championship.