FLORENCE, S.C. — The Francis Marion University volleyball team learned its first-round opponent in the upcoming NCAA Division II National Tournament as the field of 64 teams was announced on Monday evening.
Francis Marion (21-10) will be the eighth seed in the Southeast Regional to be hosted by Anderson University on Dec. 2-4.
The Patriots will face top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne University (22-7) in the opening round. The remainder of the first-round will have second-seeded Anderson (22-7) playing seventh-seeded Mars Hill University (21-12), third-seeded Tusculum University (20-5) meeting sixth-seeded Augusta University (22-8), and fourth-seeded Wingate University (23-4) facing fifth-seeded Flagler College (21-5). Times for the matches are yet to be determined.
Francis Marion captured the Conference Carolinas’ automatic bid with its five-set win over North Greenville University on Saturday in the tournament title match. The Patriots also won the league’s East Division championship with a 15-2 mark in the school’s first year as a conference member. Overall, the team’s 21 victories equals the most wins in 13 seasons.
This will be the Patriots’ fourth-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, joining the 1998, 2005, and 2008 squads. Prior to joining NCAA affiliation, the Patriot volleyball team also advanced to the NAIA national tournament in 1990 and to the AIAW Division II Tournament in 1974, 1978, and 1981.
Lenoir-Rhyne won this past weekend’s South Atlantic Conference Tournament as the fourth seed. The all-time series with the Bears is deadlocked at 10-10. Lenoir-Rhyne won the most recent meeting in 2019, while the Patriots were victorious in 2018.
The 64-team field includes 23 automatic qualifiers and 41 at-large selections. The winners of the eight regional tournaments will advance to the Elite Eight to be held December 9-11 at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center in Tampa, Fla.
The 2020 tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, 2019 champion Cal State San Bernardino is still the defending champion.
During the preseason, FMU was picked to finish sixth in its inaugural season as a Conference Carolinas member, but fifth-year head coach Lauren Baufield-Edwards led the Patriots to the division and tournament championships, while also giving birth to her second child and earning Coach of the Year accolades.
MEN’S BASKETBALL CC honors
Jonah PierceFLORENCE — Francis Marion freshman 6-8 center Jonah Pierce has been named the Conference Carolinas Men’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 15-21.
A native of Sanford, Fla., Pierce averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in Francis Marion’s two games last week. He also connected on 61.9 percentage (13-of-21) of his field goal attempts.
In the Patriots’ 94-76 win over Pfeiffer University last Wednesday, he swatted five shot attempts and procured three steals. He recorded his first double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and just missed a triple-double as he handed out six assists. In Francis Marion’s conference opener at Emmanuel College on Saturday, Pierce finished with 12 points, five rebounds and one block.
Pierce helped the Patriots hold their two opponents to 44 percent shooting from the field, including only 29.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc.