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OU Volleyball Advances To Fifth Straight NCAA Tournament

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Oklahoma volleyball team continues to explore new frontiers under coach Santiago Restrepo. Sunday night, the Sooners learned they will be heading to their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament, extending the program-record streak.

Oklahoma will travel to Palo Alto, Calif. to take on Alabama on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CT in the first round of the Lexington, Kentucky regional. The Sooners are joined in their pod by Hampton and No. 7 seed Stanford.

"It came out very well," Restrepo said about the Sooners' draw. "It's very going to be very hard to compete against Alabama. They are very well-coached and familiar with us; we have played them in the past. They have a lot of similarities that we have. That will be a very strong opponent. If we happen to move forward, then we'll obviously have to face Stanford at their place and they're a very difficult team. We have our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to going to the west."

This will be the fourth time in the last five years Oklahoma has traveled west for the first and second rounds. The Sooners were in Los Angeles in 2009 and 2011 and traveled to Provo, Utah a year ago. Oklahoma hosted the first and second rounds in 2010, their last trip to the Sweet 16.

Restrepo said the location has been a bit disappointing, but added it's a sign the Sooners still have plenty of room to grow as a program.

"We have gone west (nearly) every time we have gone into the tournament but it's a matter of us getting to a better seed and playing better throughout the year so the selection committee doesn't make us travel west," Restrepo said.

The Sooners were surprised to be facing Alabama in the first round because a former Sooner will be across the net with the Crimson Tide. Andrea McQuaid was a freshman at Oklahoma in 2010, but transferred to Alabama after the season.

"She's a great kid and it will be a great thing to play against her," Restrepo said. "She's improved a lot and has done a great job for them. It's going to be very tough, but we're ready for the challenge."

McQuaid is a senior this year and current senior Sallie McLaurin said it will be exciting to see her former teammate, but didn't think there would be too much added emotion.

"I don't think so," McLaurin said about Thursday being more emotional than other first round games. "A win is a win in the NCAA tournament. I'm excited to see her, but I always want to bring my best game out there and I don't really bring any personal relationships into matches."

The Sooners are coming into the tournament on a five-match winning streak, including Saturday's 3-1 win over No. 21 Kansas. Prior to the winning streak, the Sooners lost three straight Big 12 matches, so the winning streak has been a big response to adversity for Oklahoma.

"I couldn't have asked for a better response," McLaurin said. "We saw where we needed to improve and came through in every single match and really took our best out there. I couldn't be more pleased with the girls."

The Sooners are peaking at the right time and the momentum generated from the current win streak will be very important going on the road for the first two rounds.

"Volleyball is all about momentum and as much as you can get going into the tournament is always best," McLaurin said. "Just having the girls improving and me improving the entire time. You want your peak to be at the NCAA tournament and I feel like we're doing that right now. I couldn't be more pleased."

It won't be an easy task for Oklahoma to reach the program's third Sweet 16, but it's certainly a possibility. The Sooners are playing well at the right time and the program has never been in a better position.

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