By RICK PETERSON
After waiting a full two years, the fact that Monday's NCAA Division II selection show was a half hour late starting was little more than an annoyance to Washburn University's volleyball team.
And there were no surprises for the Ichabods when the pairings were announced, with 26-5 Washburn earning the No. 5 seed for the Central Region tournament, which will be played in Warrensburg, Mo. beginning on Thursday, Dec. 2.
Washburn volleyball earned a place in the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in program history and will face No. 4 seed Winona State (28-4) in the quarterfinal match. A starting time had not been determined at the time the pairings were announced.
"It's always kind of that waiting game and thank goodness this year we were the second region to be announced, so that was nice that we didn't have to wait so long,'' Washburn senior Faith Rottinghaus said. "Even though we had a feeling we were in, it's always the uncertain that can bite you in the butt.''
Washburn is in the NCAA field for the third straight season, making the tourney in 2018 and 2019 before the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
The No. 6-ranked Ichabods will take on No. 10-ranked Winona State in the opening round on Thursday.
"That's the seed I thought we'd get, that was not a surprise to me at all,'' said Herron, who has coached the Ichabods to all 16 of their NCAA appearances. "And that's the team I thought we would play.
"I think it's kind of exciting that we're playing somebody we haven't played. That's really cool for us and I know our kids will be excited about not playing somebody for the third or fourth time. Our preparation will be good and we'll be excited to see the tape (of the opponent) and we're really looking forward to this.''
Central Missouri (28-3) is the No. 1 seed in the region and the host Jennies will play No. 8 seed Arkansas Tech (22-7) in the quarterfinals.
St. Cloud State (27-4) is the No. 2 seed and will take on No. 7 seed Concordia St. Paul (22-8) while No. 3 Northwest Missouri (26-5) and No. 6 Nebraska-Kearney (25-6) will meet in the other quarterfinal.
The Ichabods are coming off a four-set loss to Northwest Missouri in the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament but Herron said his team is confident that it can compete with anybody if WU is on top of its game.
"We out-hit (Northwest), we out-block them, we out-dig them, and we lose,'' Herron said. "There's always a reason for that. You either don't serve very well or you don't receive very well and in that case we didn't receive very well, but credit to them that they served us that well. We need to clean that up just a little bit and if we can clean that up I'm positive that we're going to play really, really well.
"We can play with anybody in the country and that's the way we feel. We feel that way and all these kids feel that way.''
"The way we finished against Northwest, while it wasn't where we wanted to end up it was much better than how we started and I think that gives us a little more confidence,'' she said. "We really want to go out with a bang and we have nothing to lose at this point, so we're just there to have fun and enjoy our time.''
NCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL REGION TOURNAMENT SEEDS (NATIONAL RANK)
No. 1 – Central Missouri (#1)
No. 2 – St. Cloud State (#7)
No. 3 – Northwest Missouri (#4)
No. 4 – Winona State (#10)
No. 5 – Washburn (#6)
No. 6 – Nebraska-Kearney (#12)
No. 7 – Concordia-St. Paul (#15)
No. 8 – Arkansas Tech (RV)