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Omaha officially set to host NCAA volleyball Final Four in April
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VOLLEYBALL

Omaha officially set to host NCAA volleyball Final Four in April

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NCAA volleyball

Omaha hosted the NCAA volleyball Final Four when Nebraska won it all in 2015.

The NCAA volleyball Final Four, rescheduled for the spring, will remain in Omaha. The new dates are April 22 and 24.

This was always the expected plan for the championship event — no extensive debate needed.

Once NCAA officials established a new date, which corresponded with an open weekend at the CHI Health Center, they never looked back, according to T.J. Meagher, chairman of the NCAA Division I volleyball committee. It just wasn’t confirmed until Monday.

“Omaha had earned the right to be the host city for the championship, and it’s always been a great ambassador for the sport,” said Meagher, who’s also a senior associate athletic director at Houston. “There’s wonderful support from the community. It’s very special in Omaha. ... We’re happy to be going back there. And we’re happy to be in a position to award a championship in such a unique situation.”

The 2020 volleyball Final Four was originally slated to take place in December in Omaha.

But the NCAA, citing safety concerns associated with the pandemic, canceled its fall sports postseasons and moved them to the spring.

That decision temporarily put the location of the volleyball championship in limbo — although Nebraska coach John Cook said during a press conference in September that “Omaha’s good to go” as the site for the rescheduled event. The NCAA and the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority have been in regular communication for months now.

“Knowing that we’d already awarded the 2020 championship — even if it would be conducted in a different year, a different month, different season — Omaha had still earned the right (to host),” Meagher said.

Now the focus shifts to the additional planning needed to conduct the spring volleyball season. Matches are set to begin Jan. 22.

Some leagues (like the Big 12 and SEC) are playing this fall, and those squads will also be considered for NCAA tournament spots in the spring. The rest of the sport’s conferences still have to work out their schedules — some or all could go league-only.

Meagher said the D-I volleyball committee meets regularly to track the performance of teams playing this fall and to advise the NCAA on procedures for the spring. It’s gathered valuable feedback from the volleyball coaches association, Meagher said.

The committee will ultimately select postseason participants on April 4. And this season’s tournament field has been trimmed to 48 teams (instead of 64), with just 16 at-large spots available.

Additional tournament sites, to be determined before April, have yet to be announced.

There are more details to be sorted out, certainly, Meagher said. But he’s encouraged.

“I think the committee, our student-athletes, our coaches — we have to be excited about the fact that we’re getting a season,” he said. “We’re grateful that the NCAA saw a plan of action, that it could be done. Just in a different time frame.”

Nebraska’s team is undoubtedly eager for the chance to play.

The Huskers return all of their key contributors from last season’s Elite Eight squad. They’ve won the national title two times (2006 and 2015) in the three years Omaha’s been a Final Four host.

Creighton’s never made the Final Four — but it will return its top hitters from a 2019 team that won its sixth straight Big East regular-season crown and reached the NCAA tournament’s second round.

NU, CU and UNO all had their fall volleyball seasons postponed to the spring because of the pandemic.

It was also announced last month that Omaha will be the host site for the 2022 volleyball Final Four. The 2025 championship event will be played in Kansas City.

Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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