By Michael Spencer

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – The UNC Bears volleyball team will play in round one of the NCAA tournament on Thursday. The Bears clinched a tournament berth by winning the Big Sky conference tournament and will play Washington State in Waco, Texas in round one.

(credit: CBS)

It will be their second tournament berth in the last three seasons. Their most recent trip to the NCAA tournament came in 2019 when they lost to Hawaii in the first round.

“Our players walked away from that match going, ‘Ahh. We could have won,’” said head coach Lyndsey Oates.

“That is what you want them feeling. That next step. Our players tasted that in 2019, and there are enough key players still on the roster that are telling our players, ‘it’s not enough to just be here, let’s win this match,’” said Oates.

Oates will not be in Waco for the tournament due to the fact that she’s in COVID protocol.

(credit: CBS)

“I have been able to be involved and have been talking to the players here and there through text,” said Oates who participated in an interview via Zoom.

“It’s hard to say what my emotions will be. I don’t know if I’ll be more nervous or less nervous,” she said of having to watch the game on Thursday.

“I haven’t warned my family yet, but I’ll want to be locked in a  room by myself so that I can be in coach mode and not spectator mode. It’s going to be hard to not be as involved as I would normally be,” she said.

The winner of the Northern Colorado/Washington State game will advance to play the winner of the Baylor/Texas A&M-Corpus Christi matchup in round two.

Michael Spencer