PROVIDENCE, RI – Last year the Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball program took a major step forward when they won their first regional championship. The second-ranked Wildcats' quest to go a step farther begins Friday when JWU opens the 2018 NCAA women's volleyball tournament.
For the second year in a row, Johnson & Wales earned the right to host the regional. The top seed in the Providence Regional, JWU takes on Eastern Connecticut State on Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Wildcat Center. The winner of that match will take on the winner of the Franklin & Marshall vs. SUNY New Paltz contest in Saturday's semifinals.
The regional opens Friday at 12:30 p.m. with the second seed Wesleyan University going up against Kean University. The other opening round match features Springfield College versus the Maine Maritime Academy.
It's been two years since Johnson & Wales has squared off against ECSU. The Wildcats won the last meeting, 3-0, on October 18, 2016. Overall, the Warriors hold a 7-12 advantage in the series. JWU's 2016 win snapped a streak of three-straight ECSU victories. While this will be the 20th meeting overall, it's the first during the postseason.
Johnson & Wales has a 3-3 NCAA Tournament record under 2018 AVCA New England Coach of the Year Nancy Somera. After first-round exits in 2015 & 2016, the 2017 edition reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament after a thrilling five-set victory over MIT in the regional finals. Johnson & Wales had its season ended by Calvin.
Over the last three seasons. Johnson & Wales has only suffered three losses with two of them coming in the NCAA Tournament. JWU started the 2018 season with a 3-1 loss to Cal Lutheran at the Pacific Coast Classic. The Wildcats responded by defeating defending national champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 3-2, to start their streak of 31-consecutive victories.
The current group of juniors – led by GNAC Player of the Year Brylee Frank and fellow All-Americans Maria Coniglio & Kate Walker – have a 99-3 record, including 90-1 during the regular season. The Wildcats have the longest active winning streak in the nation and come into the tournament with a 58-match home court winning streak. JWU is one win back of Central and Eastern for the third-longest streak in NCAA history.
Award season has been very good to the Wildcats. Head coach Nancy Somera was named GNAC, NEWVA and AVCA New England Region Coach of the Year. It's the second year in a row she's swept all three awards.
Frank was named GNAC & NEWVA Player of the Year after averaging 11.09 assists per set – ranking her eighth in the NCAA. She runs the top-ranked hitting team in the country and JWU is third at 14.16 kills per set.
Joining Frank on the First-Team All-NEWVA was Walker while Coniglio and libero Elyssa Nicolas were second-team selections. Those four were AVCA First-Team All-New England while senior outside hitter Katie Leidhold was an honorable mention recipient.