UCA Sugar Bears headed to USC for NCAA tourney

The Central Arkansas Sugar Bears will make their third NCAA Tournament appearance on Friday night, heading to Los Angeles, to take on the 10th-seeded Southern California Trojans. The Sugar Bears and Trojans will face off at 9 p.m. CST.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said UCA head coach Jeni Jones Chatman, who is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, but will be making her first appearance as a head coach. “To do it as a player and as an assistant coach is a very special event, but to do it as a head coach and to have players that are as bought in as I feel ours are is a very special feeling. It’s really not one you can put into words. It’s definitely something that will stay with me for a long time.”

The Sugar Bears (27-4) went a perfect 3-0 in the Southland Conference Tournament, defeating McNeese 3-1, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 3-2, and Abilene Christian 3-0 to earn the program’s third SLC Tournament Title. UCA will be looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory on Friday night, having fallen to Washington 3-0 in 2012 and Purdue 2-0 in 2013. 

“The girls are very excited,” said Chatman of her team. “We had practice yesterday and then again today, and our starting side looked phenomenal, and you can tell that we’re so excited to play. It’s a ‘get to’ that we get to play on Friday, and if we can keep this mentality and this drive, I think only great things are going to happen for us.”

USC (22-9) earned the 10th-seed in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season tied for second in the Pac-12. The Trojans, who will be making their 34th NCAA Tournament appearance, have won three NCAA titles and have advanced to the Final Four seven times. 

“USC is a volleyball powerhouse, they’re a very good team year after year,” said Chatman. “Mick Haley, the coach there, is a volleyball icon, so obviously they’re going to be well-coached and they’ll have an incredible staff. But they haven’t seen us yet, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to play. I think we’ve definitely earned it, I’m so proud of our program for doing what we’ve done this season, and I’m looking forward to keeping it going.”

The winner of Friday’s match will advance to the second round to face off with the winner of the site’s other first round match between LSU (20-9) and San Diego (24-4). The second round match is set for Saturday at 9:00 PM CST.