Dayton (11-1 overall) finished 8-1 in the A-10 and earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. With that came the right to host the four-team event at the Frericks Center. The Flyers will play No. 4 seed Fordham (5-4, 5-3) at 4 p.m. Friday in the first round. No. 2 seed Virginia Commonwealth (12-4, 7-2) plays No. 4 Rhode Island (7-7, 6-3) in the first semifinal at noon Friday.
The Friday winners will play for the championship at noon Saturday. The A-10 champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which starts April 9.
With A-10 teams playing in pods against geographic rivals in the regular season, Dayton didn’t play Fordham or Rhode Island. It beat VCU 3-0 on March 6 in Dayton in the only matchup between the two teams.
Dayton has won the tournament twice in a row and 13 times since 2003, but this tournament has a different feel because all the teams haven’t played each other.
“You haven’t seen the other side of the league,” Horsmon said. “All we have is video right now. We’re really digging into video right now. We have Fordham on Friday, and then on the other side, Rhode Island played really well at the end of the year to get in, and we’ve battled with VCU the last four or five years. It should be interesting. It should be a competitive weekend.”
Dayton lost its first match of the season 3-2 at Saint Louis on Feb. 13 but beat the Billikens 3-0 in the second match that day and didn’t lose again in the regular season.
“It was our first real match of the year,” Horsmon said, “and we hadn’t played for a long time. We didn’t play at all last spring. We had young kids playing that were in big roles, and I probably didn’t prepare them as well as I could have and should have. We only had probably seven or eight practices before that. So I don’t think we had a lot of opportunity to get them ready for that. We just didn’t play well that day. We turned around and played again an hour later, and you could just tell how much better we were playing the second time in that day. And I think we just kept getting better throughout the season.”
Among Dayton’s stars were junior outside hitter Jamie Peterson and sophomore middle blocker Amelia Moore. They combined to win the A-10 Player of the Week Award five times.
Freshman libero and outside hitter Lexie Almodovar, of Noblesville, Ind., stepped up in her first season and ranked second on the team with 3.21 kills per set. She comes from a volleyball family. Her dad Norman Almodovar was an All-American at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne in the 1990s and played for Puerto Rico’s national team for 10 years.
“She lives and breathes volleyball,” Horsmon said. “She’s tough as nails. She’s fearless. She hits the volleyball as hard as any player I’ve ever coached. She’s had a great year.”