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Eagles draw Illinois in NCAA Tournament

MOREHEAD, Ky. -- The Morehead State volleyball team will travel to Champaign, Ill., to face No. 13 national seed Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. The first-round match, which is set for Friday at 8 p.m. ET, will take place at Huff Hall.

The winner of Morehead State vs. Illinois will take on the winner of Louisville vs. Marquette on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. U of L and Marquette play on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Morehead State (27-7) earned the automatic berth from the Ohio Valley Conference and is making its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Illinois (16-14) secured an at-large bid out of the Big Ten Conference, which was awarded eight bids. The Big Ten does not sponsor a conference tournament. This will mark the Eagles' first-ever match against the Fighting Illini.

"We're really excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament," Head Coach Jaime Gordon said. "It's nice to finally know who we're playing, so we can begin preparing for Friday's match. Illinois is a terrific program, from an outstanding volleyball conference, and playing them on their home floor will certainly be a big challenge."

Morehead State swept the OVC Tournament at home last weekend and finished with a 9-3 record in road matches this season. The Eagles concluded with a 15-1 league mark and own the nation's best conference regular-season winning percentage (67-3, .957) in the last four years.

"We've had a lot of Ohio Valley Conference success in recent years," Gordon said. "Now, the challenge is to make Morehead State a brand that volleyball fans recognize regionally and nationally. We have several terrific players on this year's team, so I'm hoping we can make that happen."

Morehead State's first NCAA Tournament match was in 2011 when the Eagles fell 3-0 to No. 5 national seed and Big Ten member Purdue. Five members of the 2013 team and two on the current coaching staff participated in that match.

"We have several players and coaches with NCAA Tournament experience, which will be helpful," Gordon said. "We're grateful to be in the 64-team field, but we want to do more than just make an appearance. The goal is to be highly competitive and hopefully win this opening-round match."

Illinois was 12-8 in the Big Ten and had an 8-5 record at Huff Hall, which seats 4,050. The only common opponent between Illinois and MSU was Kentucky. The Fighting Illini knocked off the Wildcats, 3-2, while MSU fell to UK, 3-0.

Kevin Hambly is in his fifth season as the head coach at Illinois. He led the Illini to the national championship match in 2011, UI's last NCAA appearance.

Gordon is in his 11th campaign at Morehead State and was tabbed the 2012 American Volleyball Coaches Association Midwest Region Coach of the Year. He has led MSU to four straight OVC championships.

"Our young ladies deserve this opportunity," Gordon added. "They are talented volleyball players, great students and wonderful people. They represent themselves, their families, our volleyball program, our athletic department and our university very well. I'm just honored to be their head coach."

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