The Lady Raider volleyball team travels to San Marcos to play in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The trip marks the first time ever for the team to play in the NIVC and the first appearance in postseason play since 2001. The first match is set to serve Thursday at 4 p.m. local time as the Lady Raiders play SMU at the Strahan Coliseum.
Along with Texas Tech (15-14, 4-12) and SMU (21-10, 15-5 AAC), the first round regional site will also feature Texas State (24-9, 14-2 Sun Belt) playing host to Rice (21-8, 11-3 C-USA) Thursday evening in the other first round match at 6:30 p.m. The winners will square off Friday at 6:30 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the third round.
Tech and SMU have only faced each other eight times in history dating back to 1996 with the Lady Raiders holding a series edge 6-2. The Lady Mustangs have won the last two meetings with the most recent match being in 2010.
Texas Tech is led by second year head coach Tony Graystone. The team is 25-35 under Graystone but was 15-14 this year. This years team posted the first winning record since 2001 as well as the most Big 12 wins since 2006.
The “quarterback” of the team is 2017 All-Big 12 Second Team 6’1” junior setter Missy Owens. She tallied 1025 assists during the regular season and 10 double-doubles. Junior 6’2” middle Katy Keenan is the team's most efficient hitter at .326, while 6’2” freshman middle blocker Allison White leads the team in blocks at 0.95 per set.
Along with the opportunity to face a familiar foe, the Lady Raiders program will also face familiar coaches.
The Lady Mustangs are led by head coach Lisa Seifert. Seifert is in her 22nd season and is 338-280 overall on the hilltop. Along with being in her 22nd season, coach Seifert also holds the distinction of being the only head coach for SMU volleyball as she started the volleyball program in 1996. She has coached players to 46 All-Conference honors and 10 All-America selections.
Before coach Seifert began coaching at SMU, she spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Texas Tech. The Lady Raiders compiled an overall record of 128-62 during Seifert's tenure, with NCAA tournament appearances from 1990-92 and regional semifinal berths in 1990 and 1991.
The SMU coaching staff features another familiar face for Tech in associate head coach Christine (Martin) Dixon. Dixon is in her 18th season on the hilltop and was recently promoted to associate head coach in 2011.
Dixon was named to the Texas Tech All-Millennium Team in 1999, started at Tech each of her four years (1994-97) and is still ranked in several school records, including service aces, digs and kills. She played under Seifert for two years in Lubbock while Seifert was an assistant coach.
On the floor SMU is led by 6’0” senior outside hitter Lauren Mills. Mills leads the team with 399 kills, 399 digs, and has 19 double-doubles on the year. Junor 5’10” outside hitter Brittany Adams is second on the team in kills with 344. Mills and Adams were both joined on all conference teams by setter Kendall Patterson and right-side hitter Katie Hegarty.
Overall, the NIVC San Marcos Regional is the second-toughest regional according to average NCAA RPI of the four teams. Regional-host Texas State earned an automatic bid to the NIVC after finishing as the runner-up in the Sun Belt and sports an RPI of 69. Rice finished third in the C-USA and comes in at No. 73 in the NCAA RPI.
Round three of the NIVC will take place Dec. 1-3, followed by the semifinals from Dec. 4-9. The Championship match is scheduled for Dec. 12 with a live broadcast on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Each match in the tournament is hosted by one of the remaining schools.
Coach Graystone said. "It's great to give these players a taste of what it's like to be in postseason and play for a tournament championship and use this as a springboard hopefully into the offseason. The next step is getting into the NCAA Tournament. We have accomplished a lot on our list, but we still have more to do." The process of building another champion on the Texas Tech campus continues in San Marcos.