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MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee volleyball team will face the University of Dayton in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The Panthers (16-14) and Flyers (29-3) will meet Thursday in Champaign, Ill., at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Milwaukee earned an automatic berth in the tournament by winning the Horizon League Championship in Cleveland a week ago. UWM is making its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance, but the Panthers have never won a postseason contest.
The University of Illinois (24-5), which is the fifth seed nationally, will face Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (20-11) in the other first round contest in Champaign. The winners will play a second-round match Friday.
The Panthers have won 11 straight matches as part of an amazing turnaround this season. Milwaukee was picked to win its seventh straight Horizon League regular season title but stumbled out of the gates, losing 14 of its first 19 matches overall and six of its first eight in the League. But, UWM won its final eight matches of the regular season to move into third place in the League standings.
Then, the Panthers rode that momentum through the League tournament, beating the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Valparaiso University and host Cleveland State University on successive days to claim a sixth League tournament crown.
"This team is still on a mission," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "We've been on a mission for the last 11 matches, and it's pretty cool because the focus is still there. The focus is there that we have something to prove still. When you are shaken up that much within your season, and you have to snap out of it, you either snap out of it or you don't. We did, and they still don't want to turn back. They're really focused on getting better every day and every match, so let's hope we can continue to get better this week."
Individually, Lauren Felsing was named the Horizon League Tournament Most Valuable Player and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Maddie Sueppel and Natalie Schmitting. Over the course of the tournament weekend, Felsing became UWM's all-time leader in digs.
After the regular season, Felsing was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and joined Jena Berg on the All-League Team.
The Flyers earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament at home last weekend. Junior middle blocker Lindsay Fletemier was named A-10 Co-Player of the Year, while junior outside hitter Amanda Cowdrey earned Most Outstanding Player of the A-10 Tournament.
Release courtesy of Milwaukee Associate AD Kevin O'Connor