WHEELING - An historic happening will take place starting today at Wheeling Jesuit University.
For the first time, the Cardinals will play host to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Volleyball Tournament.
At stake, a second straight berth in the Elite Eight, which will take place in Pensacola, Fla. next week.
Wheeling Jesuit is the favorite, having earned the tournament's top seed. The Cardinals will play No. 8 seed Fayetteville State in the finale of today's quadrupleheader at the Alma Grace McDonough Center at 7:30 p.m.
Action begins at noon with No. 3 California (Pa.) taking on No. 6 Shippensburg. At 2:30 p.m., No. 2 Gannon will face No. 7 Mercyhurst. Then, at 5:30 p.m., No. 4 Clarion will tangle with No. 5 Lock Haven.
The four winners advance to Friday's semifinals (5 and 7:30 p.m.) and the two survivors of those matches will play at 7 p.m. Saturday for the regional crown.
Here's a look at the participants:
No. 1 Wheeling Jesuit
Led by West Virginia Conference Player of the Year Jenna Pew, the Cardinals (35-2) enter the tournament play riding an 18-match winning streak.
Coach Christy Brenner's team recently wrapped up a fifth straight WVC tournament championship after going undefeated (14-0) during conference play.
Wayne State and and possible final opponent California (Pa.) were the only teams to defeat the Cardinals this season.
No. 2 Gannon
The Golden Knights of Coach Matt Darling enter tournament play with a 28-5 record.
Gannon, the PSAC Tournament, are in the tournament for a school-best fourth consecutive season. The school last won a regional -the East - in 1993.
Gannon, located in Erie, Pa., will face crosstown and conference rival Mercyhurst. The Golden Knights defeated the Lakers in the PSAC quarterfinals.
No. 3 California (Pa.)
One of only two school to beat Wheeling Jesuit this season, the Vulcans enter tournament play with a 28-7 record. Cal is seeded third despite being No. 1 in the regional rankings the last three weeks.
The Vulcans have won five of their last six matches with the only loss coming to Lock Haven in the semifinals of the PSAC Tournament.
This is Cal's eighth straight tournament appearance.
No. 4 Clarion
This will be the fourth straight tournament appearance for the Golden Eagles (23-11).
Clarion recorded its third 20-win season in the past four years behind two-time AVCA Atlantic Region Coach of the Year Jennifer Mills.
No. 5 Lock Haven
The Bald Eagles (26-10) fell to Gannon in the PSAC championship and are making their 15th NCAA appearance.
Lock Haven features Xuan Gao, the only athlete in the history of her conference to earn Athlete of the Year honors four straight years.
The bald Eagles also boast Erin Walsh, the PSAC East Defensive Athlete of the Year. She ranks 37th nationally with 4.97 digs/set and her 597 digs this season are most in school history.
No. 6 Shippensburg
This is the second NCAA appearance for the Red Raiders (27-11) and first since 2007.
Shippensburg's 27 victories this season are the most in school history. Among those were the victory against California (Pa.) in 16 years.
The Red Raiders lead the conference and are 16th nationally with 2.36 blocks/set.
No. 7 Mercyhurst
The Lakers (25-10) are in the tournament for the first time since 2009.
Coach Ryan Patton's team lost to Gannon in the first round of the PSAC Tournament. However, the Lakers are in the midst of their winningest season since 1993 and they defeated every team in the PSAC West for the first time since joining the league in 2008.
No. 8 Fayetteville State
The lone member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in the tournament, the Broncos (28-5) have won 10 straight matches.
The team went undefeated in conference play and Coach Reeshemah Johnson was named CIAA Coach of the Year.
Bauer Off to Good Start
Most of the buzz in the Kent State athletic department these days is centered on the Golden Flashes football team. And rightly so. With a win in Friday's MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois in Detroit the team could find itself playing in a BCS bowl in early January.
But, the wrestling program has received plenty of pub itself. And Kyle Bauer is one of the reasons why.
Bauer, a Wheeling Park graduate and former OVAC and West Virginia state champion, is off to a solid season as a sophomore.
So far, Bauer has placed fifth at the Michigan State Open and Navy Classic
At the Michigan State Open, Bauer finished 5-2 with a pin. At the Navy Classic, he went 4-2 with a pin and two major decisions. Bauer also advanced to the quarterfinals of the ASICS University Nationals.
The Golden Flashes are ranked No. 22 in the nation. The program was picked to finish third in the eight-team Mid-American Conference in a preseason poll of conference coaches.
Rick Thorp can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org