By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Before the brackets came out, Morgan Reynolds pretty much knew Oklahoma had made it. In her mind, the Sooners had posted a good enough season to not have to worry about if they were going to make the NCAA tournament or not.
However, when Reynolds and the rest of her team met at coach Santiago Restrepo’s house Sunday for the watch party, she did get a little nervous until she saw the OU logo appear in the final bracket.
“Obviously, it’s a relief,” Reynolds said. “I knew that we weren’t a bubble team. We were a little farther because of our record. But, obviously, since we were in the bottom half of the very last bracket, it was a little nerve wracking. But it was just good to see our name up on there regardless of where we are going.”
The Sooners (21-10, 10-6 Big 12) will face Arizona State (20-13, 9-11 PAC 12) in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship on Friday in Provo, Utah at the Smith Fieldhouse. It’s the fourth straight year the program has received a bid to the big dance and sixth time in the last seven years.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the University of Oklahoma and the volleyball program here,” Restrepo said. “To make it into the NCAA Tournament the last four years means that we have had great players go and continue to come through the program. It means that we have had very good coaches and support staff helping them along in every way.”
Reynolds joins María Fernanda as the only players in OU history to go to the NCAA tournament every year of their career.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Fernanda said. “To be able to stay consistent for four years and to be able to take this team to the NCAA tournament is a great accomplishment. I’m excited for us and for the girls to be able to make it again.”
The Sooners surpassed the 20-win mark for the 16th time in program history, and fifth since Restrepo took over the program in 2004, totaling 20-or-more wins in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and now in 2012.
The 20 total wins in 2012 marks the second time in Oklahoma history and first time in 27 years that the volleyball team has secured 20-plus wins in three consecutive seasons. Restrepo now follows in the footsteps of long-time Sooner coach Miles Pabst who accomplished the feat between 1983-1985, with records of 25-12, 22-10 and 27-13, respectively.
“Hopefully we can continue the success that we have had,” Restrepo said. “For those players that are going to stay here, hopefully they can learn throughout this experience so they can learn what we need to do in order to continuously get better so that we can get back to the NCAA Tournament every year.”
This year has seen the program go through a transition with several freshman and newcomers playing pivotal roles. At times during the season it looked like the Sooners’ string of tournament bids would come to an end.
However, OU won five out of its final seven matches, including a 3-1 drubbing of No. 25 Kansas State on Saturday.
“I think we are playing better than I think we have,” Reynolds said. “Any team wants to peak at the end of the season. I think we are potentially doing that, which is great.”
This will be the first time Oklahoma and Arizona State have faced off. No. 12 national seed Brigham Young (BYU) is the host, and faces New Mexico in the other opening round match Friday night. Saturday’s winner will advance to the Omaha Regional.
The Sooners will not be the favorite to come out of the bracket. But the players want to make their run last as long as possible.
“I just want them to give everything they have,” Fernanda said. “We are in already. Only thing we can do is keep fighting every game, every single match.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
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