For the first time in three years, the Colorado volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
After finishing as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 Conference, the Buffs received their bid to the 64-team national tournament on Sunday night, as CU (22-9) will play James Madison on Friday at 3:30 p.m. MST at Baylor University.
The winner will play either the host Bears, the No. 12 overall seed in the tournament, or Miami (Ohio) in the second round.
It will the Buffs' 19th NCAA Tournament appearance overall and their first since 2014, when CU won an opening round match against Northern Colorado before losing in five sets to the host Colorado State Rams.
It will be the third NCAA Tournament appearance for CU head coach Jesse Mahoney, who previously took the University of Denver to the tournament in 2014 and 2015 before moving to Boulder.
"Especially for our three seniors, who haven't been there since their freshman year, this season has been very fun for them," Mahoney said. "We battled to the very end in hopes of getting one of the top 16 seeds but fell a little short. Regardless of that, we feel we're playing very good volleyball and certainly better than the first half of the Pac-12 schedule."
A total of nine Pac-12 Conference teams earned tournament berths, with league champ and defending national champion Stanford leading the way as the No. 3 overall seed. Also in the field are Washington (No. 8 seed), USC (10), Utah (11), UCLA (15), Washington State, Oregon State, and Oregon.
Colorado State also advanced to the tourney for the 28th time overall and the 23rd time in a row, earning a first-round date against Michigan at Stanford. Mahoney's former squad at DU also returns to the tournament, with the Pioneers taking on Cal Poly at UCLA.
Mahoney also went to the tournament seven times as an assistant at CSU, and in his experience keeping the team's routine intact over the next few days always is a critical ingredient to postseason success.
"I think the biggest thing is consistency and following your routine," Mahoney said. "We'll have our same video session we always have on Sunday. We're not going to make a whole lot of changes. The Pac-12 is so tough, I think having the opportunity to play outside of it is exciting and I think we'll have a lot of energy going into this."