DECATUR — The Millikin volleyball team earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament and will play Greenville College in the first round at 3 p.m. on Thursday at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington.
The Big Blue (28-7), ranked eighth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) NCAA Division III Top 25 Poll, went undefeated in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) regular season to win the title for the third straight year.
Millikin, which is playing in the tournament for the third time in four years and seventh time overall, missed out on its chance for an automatic bid with a five-set loss to Carthage College in the championship game of the CCIW Tournament on Saturday, but had a strong enough resume to earn the automatic bid. Millikin's Sweet 16 appearance last year was its furthest advancement ever.
"Millikin is a great place and we're thrilled to represent Millikin on the national stage," said Millikin coach Debbie Kiick, who won her 400th career match earlier this season. "We're super excited to make it back. We've played a super competitive schedule and we're going to do our best to make it even further this year than we did last year."
The Big Blue is led by CCIW Player of the year Alora Goodey, a senior right side hitter from Lincoln who had 488 kills and 81 blocks this season. Goodey was one of four Millikin players to make the CCIW All-Conference first or second teams, with Emily Mihalkanin and Erin Syversen joining Goodey on the first team and Emily Seegmiller, an Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond graduate, making second team. Freshman middle blocker Maddie Holland of Shelbyville was named CCIW Freshman of the Year.
Greenville (26-7) earned its berth into the tournament after winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Tournament. This is Greenville's third straight tournament appearance and fourth in eight years. The Panthers are led by SLIAC Player of the Year Allyson Mitchell.
"They beat Elmhurst in five sets and we beat Elmhurst in four, so they're formidable — we're going to have to work hard to beat them," Kiick said.
The winner of the Millikin-Greenville match will face the winner of Washington University-St. Louis and Calvin College on Friday at 4:30 p.m.. The Big Blue faced each of those teams this season, with Millikin defeating the Bears 3-1 and losing to Calvin 3-2.
Millikin's season was ended last year by Calvin, which went on to win the national title.
The NCAA put all three teams making the tournament from the CCIW in the same region. On the bottom half of the bracket Carthage faces Concordia-Wisconsin while Illinois Wesleyan plays the University of Chicago.