CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina University volleyball team will serve as hosts of the 2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship this weekend Nov. 17-19. This will be WCU's second time hosting in the past three seasons with five Catamount seniors looking at their second chance to capture a championship on their home floor. The Catamounts are in search of their fourth SoCon Tournament title and first since 1986.
This season WCU earned the No. 7 seed and will face the No. 2 seed ETSU in the quarterfinals on Friday at 5 pm. The winner of the WCU versus ETSU match will advance to face the winner of No. 3 UNCG versus No. 6 Chattanooga at 4:30 pm Saturday.
The Catamounts split with the Buccaneers during the regular season. ETSU won 3-1 in Johnson City including edging the Catamounts 26-24 in the opening set. When the match was played in Cullowhee it was the Catamounts with the upper hand as WCU won in five sets including a thrilling 17-15 fifth set. The two programs have met seven times in the SoCon Championships over the years including a pair of matches where the title was on the line. WCU holds a 5-2 mark in those contests. The first meeting came in 1983 in the finals as WCU won their first SoCon Tournament Championship with a 3-1 victory. WCU would go on to defeat ETSU in the semifinals in 1984 (3-0) and 1988 (3-1). ETSU picked up its first victory in the postseason series in 1989 with the SoCon title on the line. The Buccaneers slipped by withy a 3-2 victory. ETSU also defeated the Catamounts 3-2 in the 1992 semifinals. WCU ended the slide with a 3-1 victory in the 1997 semifinals. The most recent meeting took place in 2014 in the quarterfinals. WCU defeated ETSU 3-0 to advance to the semifinals.
WCU will look to its seniors to provide leadership to a relativily young team. Four of WCU's top five hitters are either freshmen or sophomores but the Catamounts boast a five-person senior class who has seen action in three previous SoCon Championships. All-Southern Conference Second Team member Katie O'Connor is playing the best volleyball of her career over the last few matches and will be looked upon as a go-to player on the court.
The Catamounts have tallied wins over the No. 2 seed ETSU, No. 4 seed Wofford, No. 6 seed Chattanooga, No. 8 seed Mercer and No. 9 seed The Citadel throughout the 2017 campaign. A win in the quarterfinals would represent WCU's second trip to the semifinals in the last four seasons.
Action gets underway Friday morning at 9:30 am. There will be five matches on Friday at 9:30 am, noon, 2:30 pm, 5 pm and 7:30 pm. The semifinals will take place on Saturday at 2 pm and 4:30 pm with the finals being played on Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets are available at the door or online at CatamountSports.com. An All-Tournament Pass is $20 for an adult and $15 for youth. A single day pass is $10 for an adult and $5 for youth. All Southern Conference member institution students get in free with their valid student ID.