By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
What was the first year that a Presidents’ Athletic Conference member hosted an NCAA Division III Championship in any sport? If you guessed 2018, you would have been correct. SVC made conference history that year by hosting the women’s volleyball championship at Duquesne University’s UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Alongside SportsPITTSBURGH, the sports development division of VisitPITTSBURGH, Saint Vincent provided an excellent level of hospitality. When the opportunity came to host again, it was an easy decision for everyone involved.
“I got an email from [SportsPITTSBURGH] saying ‘Hey, we’re going put in for more bids, what are you interested in, or are you interested in being a host for anything?’” explained Sue Hozak, women’s volleyball coach and assistant athletic director. “I talked to Father Myron, (our athletic director, (and) he said ‘sure’, so we put in for a couple and we ended up getting awarded volleyball.” Coach Hozak, as both a coach and a member of the Division III Women’s Volleyball Committee, provided a wide range of knowledge to the organizing process. Since the 2018 Division III championships, SportsPITTSBURGH has also hosted the 2018 Division II volleyball championship (as part of the Division II Championship festival) and the 2019 Division
I women’s volleyball Final Four; before 2018, SportsPITTSBURGH had never hosted an NCAA championship.
Brady Inners, Sports Development Event Manager for SportsPITTSBURGH, plays an important role in organizing each NCAA event hosted in Pittsburgh. “At its core, my job is to work with our clients once their event gets officially booked or awarded to Pittsburgh… A lot of that responsibility then falls under operations, logistics, marketing, signage, budgets and whatever else is needed to put on the event. Sometimes that means recruiting volunteers to build a volleyball court at midnight, or it can mean securing athletic trainers for a youth basketball tournament.” Jennifer Hawkins, executive director.
The NCAA bid process is the same for all sports, regardless of division. Schools hoping to host a national or regional championship submit a bid for a four-year cycle two years before the beginning of the cycle. “We bid on this most recent 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship back in 2020” said Inners.“The NCAA then awarded all the championships for Fall of 2022 – Spring of 2026 back in October of 2021” This gave SVC, Duquesne, and SportsPITTSBURGH roughly a year to figure out the details of the championship. “Between 2018 and 2022, the biggest difference was we knew what to expect” stated Hozak. As the championship weekend of Nov. 17-19 neared, all parties began to meet more frequently.
The NCAA women’s volleyball tournament consists of 64 teams each year, but only eight make it to the final championship weekend. This year, those teams were the Hope College Flying Dutch, the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays, the Juniata College Eagles, the MIT Engineers, the NYU Violets, the Trinity University Tigers, the Transylvania University Pioneers, and the University of Northwestern-St. Paul Eagles. Juniata and Trinity would make it to the championship game, with Juniata completing a dominant three game sweep to win the Division
III National championship. Both Hozak and Inners noted the positive feedback they received from players and coaches, who enjoyed the atmosphere and accommodations provided in Pittsburgh. SVC will not host another championship during this cycle, but both SportsPITTSBURGH and the college hope to bring many more Division III championships to the Bearcats.