UPLAND, Ind. -- The Lindsey Wilson College volleyball team is headed to uncharted territory at 5:30 p.m. CT on Saturday as it faces 18th ranked Taylor (Ind.) University in the opening round of its first appearance in the NAIA National Championship at Odle Arena on the Taylor campus in Upland, Ind.
While the Blue Raiders are experiencing NAIA postseason play for the first time, Taylor (29-7) is making its third straight appearance and its seventh overall after capturing the Mid-Central College Conference regular-season title to earn one of 11 at-large bids to the championship.
The Trojans are 10-15 all-time at the national tournament, including an Elite-Eight finish in 1997.
Lindsey Wilson (31-2) won the Mid-South Conference tournament to earn its first ever national-tournament bid.
The Blue Raiders have won 24 of their last 25 matches with both losses of the season coming against Campbellsville (Ky.) University.
Taylor has won all four previous meetings between the two schools. In the last matchup in 2004, Taylor won 3-1 (32-30, 30-28, 28-30, 30-21).
Saturday's winner advances to the 24-team national-championship field with games to be played from Nov. 29 – Dec. 3 at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa.
Winners from 11 other opening-round matches, the host school Morningside (Iowa) University, along with 11 teams that received opening-round byes will make up the 24 teams.
Those advancing programs will be placed into six pools for a round-robin pool play, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the single-elimination bracket starting Dec. 2.
Lindsey Wilson's 31 wins heading into Saturday's match are the most since the 1999 season when the team finished 33-12. Not only are the Blue Raiders playing in their first national championship, they also won a share of the MSC Regular-Season Championship and won the league's tournament for the first time in program history.
From Sept. 7 through Oct. 25 the Blue Raiders won 20 straight matches, topping the previous school record for consecutive wins of 12.
A pair of freshmen led the Blue Raider attack all season as Taylor Hayne finished with a team-high 314 kills and Kirsten King tallied 309 kills. Their classmate Sarah Anderson had 244 kills and hit .346 on the season.
Junior setter Andrea Taylor was also a driving force behind the success, dishing out 1,108 assists for a 10.9 assists per set average.
In most statistical areas the matchup between Taylor and Lindsey Wilson is a tossup.
In regards to hitting percentage, Lindsey Wilson is better at .259-.231 and averages more kills per set at 13.1-12.9. The Blue Raiders have a 12.0-11.8 assists per set average and have hit 196 service aces compared to 149 for Taylor, playing three less matches.
Lindsey Wilson holds a slight advantage in digs per set at 16.6-16.5 and is even with Taylor in blocks per set at 2.0 each and block errors with 70 each.
Taylor has played the tougher schedule when looking at matches against ranked teams. In those matches the Trojans are 2-5. One common opponent between the two teams is Georgetown (Ky.) College.
Taylor beat the Tigers 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-19) on Oct. 28 in Georgetown's Boneyard Brawl, while the Blue Raiders are 3-0 against the Tigers this season.
The Trojans get the majority of their offense from Kelsey Pritchard who has sent down a team-high and NAIA 11th best 513 kills with a 4.0 kills-per set average which ranks 14th nationally.
Taylor's setter Betsy Brown ranks 20th in the NAIA in assists per set at 10.5 and Ashlyn DeHoogh ranks 22nd in blocks nationally with 136.
Taylor is providing a live video opportunity to fans for $4.95, while an audio only feed of the match is free, as well as free live stats. Links for each are available below.