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Last updated: Thu. Nov. 29, 2012 - 12:20 am EDT

IPFW volleyball has upset feeling entering NCAA Tourney

Mastodons to battle Big 12 power in NCAA Tournament

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Tessa McGill wouldn't guarantee an upset, but the all-conference libero has a hunch about what the IPFW women's volleyball team will pull off in the NCAA Tournament opening round.

McGill, along with the IPFW players and coaches, are quick to admit they are the clear underdog in their road match against No. 18 Iowa State at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Ames, Iowa. For a team that has already won a conference championship, though, there is also a confidence that they have the potential to beat the nationally-ranked Cyclones.

"I've had a really good feeling about it all week, just like I did before the Summit League championship," McGill said. "I can't wait."

The NCAA Tournament match is first ever meeting between the Cyclones and the Mastodons. Iowa State finished the regular season in second place in the Big 12 and earned an at-large bid along with a top 16 seed to the NCAA Tournament.

IPFW is making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009 after winning the Summit League Tournament two weeks ago to earn the conference's lone automatic bid.

One of the biggest reasons for IPFW reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second time in its program history has been McGill. The senior ended the regular season fourth in the nation averaging 6.18 digs per game and set school's record for career digs.

Coach Kelley Hartley Hutton said IPFW's chances to beat Iowa State will likely be determined by her team's ability to dig Iowa State's kill attempts.

Despite not having a player ranked in the nation's top 50 for kills per game average, Iowa State leads the Big 12 and is in the nation's top 20 averaging 14.43 kills per game.

"They do have some arms. They hit the ball really hard. We've seen that before," Hutton said. "I don't think we are fearful of that. We have one of the best liberos in the country."

This will not be the first time the Mastodons have played a nationally ranked team on the road this season.

McGill had a match-high 29 digs as IPFW almost upset Michigan State in a five-game loss in September. In addition, the following day IPFW defeated a then-above .500 Georgia team in four games.

Hutton said the success in two non-conference matches gives the team confidence that it can pull the upset entering this match against Iowa State.

"We are the lower RPI school. We are the underdog. We get that. But we do feel like we can win a set. And if we win a set, then why not another," Hutton said.

McGill said IPFW is enjoying its role of being the underdog entering the NCAA Tournament. She also said the expectation for the Cyclones to win could benefit the Mastodons if they play strong defensively from the start of the match.

"The more we start digging them and get touches off our block it's just going to frustrate them and they are going to be more error prone," McGill said. "If we can get in early and frustrate them I think we should be in really good shape."

Iowa State enters the NCAA Tournament on a 10-match winning streak, including defeating No. 3 Texas in its regular season finale during the weekend.

Despite the Cyclones' recent success against nationally ranked teams, Hutton said she doesn't expect Iowa State to overlook unranked IPFW.

"They are well coached. They've won 10 in a row. Teams like that don't take teams lightly," Hutton said. They are going to be well prepared for us."

vlopes@news-sentinel.com


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