Shea Rubright and Jillian Berg, West Valley’s back-to-back, two-time CBBN volleyball MVPs, are set to share another experience.
An NCAA championship bubble.
Rubright’s third-seeded Minnesota team and Berg’s UNLV crew are among 48 teams competing in the NCAA National Tournament, which, like men’s and women’s basketball, will be held exclusively in one city — Omaha, Neb. — starting with Wednesday’s first-round matches and running through the finals on April 24.
The Pac-12 qualified five teams with four of them receiving first-round byes as a result of being seeded in the top 16. Washington leads the way with the No. 6 seed while Washington State is No. 15 in its fifth consecutive appearance.
The top seeds are Wisconsin (1), Kentucky (2), Minnesota (3) and Texas (4).
After seeing limited time as a freshman on Minnesota’s deep and talented team in 2019, Rubright’s contributions have risen significantly on another powerful squad. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker has played in 39 sets, including 10 starts, and has recorded 30 kills with three solo blocks and 40 assist blocks.
Rubright’s recorded a career-high nine kills in a Big 10 match against Purdue, which is seeded No. 7. Minnesota, which is making the program’s 25th appearance in the tournament, is 15-2 with its only losses to top-seeded Wisconsin and No. 5 Nebraska. Five of UM’s conference matches were canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, including four in a row that created a three-week pause.
The Golden Gophers open in the second round against the Georgia Tech-Lipscomb winner. Minnesota is in the same 12-team region with Washington.
Berg is a four-year veteran at UNLV, which earned the Mountain West’s automatic berth and went 12-0 during the conference’s delayed spring season. The 5-foot-10 outside hitter has been limited in recent seasons but has amassed 272 kills and 388 digs in her career.
The Rebels, who have won 28 of their last 30 matches dating back to 2019, open Wednesday against Illinois State. The winner advances to the second round to face Kentucky. Like Minnesota, UNLV had a 15-day pause when three conference matches were canceled last month.
Washington State is paired with Kentucky in the same regional semifinal and faces the Western Kentucky-Jackson State winner in the second round.