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San Diego’s most successful college sports program – and most overlooked in the local media – has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament. I bet most San Diego sports fans were unaware of that feat over the weekend.

The University of San Diego, ranked No. 17 in the nation, beat Jacksonville State Friday and No. 25 Duke Saturday in the first two rounds of a regional play at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

This is the second trip to the Sweet 16 in the last three years for a program competing in the NCAA tournament for the 11th time in the last 12 years. USD, the West Coast Conference champion, faces No. 1-ranked Nebraska in the regional semifinal Friday at Gainesville, Fla.

“Winning in the NCAA Tournament makes a statement on where your program is going,” said USD interim coach Brent Hilliard. “This is our second trip to the Sweet 16 in the last three years, so that speaks to the consistency of our program. The key truly is consistency and chemistry. We’ve been able to win our conference and get back to the NCAA Tournament each year. That fact is important in order to keep our program consistent n a national level.”

USD’s national stature includes an All-American candidate in Kristen Carlson, a 6-foot-2 senior who has recovered from reconstructive knee surgery that forced her to miss last year’s NCAA trip. She had 27 kills and 17 digs against Duke.

“We played Nebraska back at the beginning of the season, so our goal has long been to play them again this year on somewhere other than their home court,” Carlson said. “I’m just really proud of my team and how well we played today.”


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