UW earned home-court advantage for its first two matches in the 64-team tournament.
The Washington volleyball team will open its 11th straight NCAA tournament under coach Jim McLaughlin on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena against Central Arkansas.
The Huskies (23-6, tied for fourth with UCLA at 14-6 in the Pac-12) are seeded 13th the 64-team field, which was announced Sunday. All 16 seeded teams host opening-weekend matches.
A win against the Sugar Bears (30-4), the Southland Conference champions, would send Washington to a second-round match Saturday against the winner of Friday’s early game between Hawaii (25-2) and Santa Clara (20-11).
UW’s route to the Final Four looks challenging. Hawaii, a perennial power, was ranked No. 8 in the most recent coaches poll (UW was fifth).
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Two wins at home would send the Huskies to the Omaha regional, hosted by fourth-seeded Nebraska, a longtime Washington nemesis. Fifth-seeded Oregon is also in the Omaha bracket.
“I don’t know about any path,” McLaughlin said Sunday. “I just know we have to get a little bit better this week. I’m excited to go and just get hot in this tournament.”
Playing at home and opening on Friday (five of 16 sites begin play on Thursday) is advantageous, McLaughlin said.
“It allows us an opportunity to get hot,” he said of staying home, “and the most important thing is that extra day of practice. We get more work done here.”
Kills leader Krista Vansant, who missed UW’s last three matches due to a sprained ankle, will resume practice Monday.
“She’s a day ahead of our plan,” he said. “She’ll start doing some stuff tomorrow, which is a big deal and really encouraging. We just can’t overdo it. Then she should have rested legs.”
Despite a home loss Wednesday to Arizona State (one of seven Pac-12 teams in the tournament), McLaughlin said his squad is tournament-ready.
Five Pac-12 teams are seeded: Stanford (2), Oregon (5), USC (6), defending NCAA champion UCLA (7) and UW (13).