BALTIMORE -- Volleyball teams from two local universities are headed toward an NCAA tournament.
UMBC and Coppin State University will both get the opportunity to battle the best in the nation.
The ladies of Coppin State are going where no Eagles team has gone before. It's Coppin State's first time ever earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Coppin State will meet the number one seed, University of Pittsburgh, in a first-round match on Friday.
Coppin's roster is wide-ranging in its origins. Players hail from Maryland to Hawaii and from four different countries: Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.
These players put together the best season in school history: 27-and-4 and MEAC Conference champions.
They're underdogs as they enter the national championship chase, and are ready to give it their best shot.
"I think just to see, like, all the hard work and for it to come into fruition, it's just so great; and I think we can use that energy going into the first round of the tournament," Lakenda Stafford of Coppin State said.
Ashley Roman, a member of the Coppin State volleyball team, said that she and her teammates need to focus on believing that they belong there and playing the game.
"I am very excited," Coppin State teammate Andrea Tsvetanova said.
Over at UMBC, trips to the national tournament are more common. The Retrievers have earned an NCAA bid for the fourth year in a row.
The team will be playing in Pittsburgh, too. Teammates will face number two seed Southern California. Loke Coppin, UMBC has a wide-ranging roster with players from six foreign countries, including Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Poland.
It's a team with NCAA experience looking for their first victory in an NCAA match.
"Each time you do it, you start to understand more about what it takes," UMBC head coach Kasey Crider said. "Obviously, we don't know all of what it takes because we haven't done it, but we do know more and more as we keep getting closer, and it's going to be really tough to beat S.C."
Crider said his team keeps "chipping away" in the hopes that they can play well and win.
There was a rousing send-off for the Retrievers on campus on Wednesday. The team boarded a bus for its trip to Pittsburgh. The team's match with Southern California is slated for 4 p.m. on Friday.
Both university teams have a history of NCAA upsets, albeit in basketball. There is none bigger than UMBC's epic win over top-seed Virginia in hoops five years ago.
It's a different sport, but the players were after the same goal.
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