For the first time in school history, the Daemen women's volleyball team will be competing in the DII NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats earned an at-large bid into the 64-team field and hosts the regional action beginning Thursday at Lumsden Gymnasium.
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"It's unbelievable," Amber Dryzmala. "It's throughout the whole school, too which is very cool. We've never hosted the (East Coast Conference) Championships before and now this, I think everyone is still in shock now that it's happening."
It was during the ECC tournament, Dryzmala said the team suffered a loss that put their future in perspective, falling in four sets to NYIT in the title match.
"I think that was a humbling moment for us because we haven't been in this territory before," she said. "I think if we had come into this having won the that, we wouldn't be as prepared (for the NCAA Tournament). That was something that needed to happen, so we have the go get it mindset."
"If we were going to lose any match, that was the match to lose," Head Coach Stephanie Albano added. "Our takeaway was like, 'hey, we have to play better, we have to compete.' The teams we're playing are going to be up a level and we talked about too, we can go back to being the underdog. We've never been in the NCAA Tournament."
The Wildcats, who are the second seed in the East Region, open tournament action against No. 7 Post University, who is making its third straight postseason appearance.
"They're a good team, they're scrappy," Albano said. "We've been talking about taking care of the first ball on passing, taking care of the defense, but to be cliche, defense wins championships so that's what we've been stressing the past week and a half."
Offensively for the Wildcats, freshman Bailey Dolegowski will continue to feed an attack that boasts two of the top hitters in the region with Dryzmala and her sister Ashley.
This season, the former St. Mary's of Lancaster setter has dished out 1,067 assists.
"As a freshman I just have to take deep breaths after every point, make sure we're point by point," the East Aurora native said.
"The nice thing about Bailey is she did play at St. Mary's and they're used to winning championships," Albano said. "So, she has that playoff experience. Yes, it is from high school, but it still matters. She's won championships in the past. She knows what it takes."
With a win or go-home mentality, hosting a major tournament for the second time in a two weeks isn't lost on the squad.
"I really can't describe it because it's something that we couldn't have imagined," Dryzmala said. "Being able to have something like this go on is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I think it's really going to be important to remember this is the game we are here to play. I think it's going to be just remembering it's a team sports and we're here playing for the girls next to us."
The Wildcats and Post University are set to open NCAA Tournament action Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
NEWS: Schedule For Volleyball East Region Championship Tournament Announced https://t.co/ALyqkJ0IqU
— Daemen Wildcats (@DaemenAthletics) November 22, 2016