The South Atlantic Conference just moved one step closer to having enough men’s volleyball programs to qualify for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Limestone athletics department announced during the weekend that its varsity programs will leave the ConfCarolinas and join the SAC beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
While the SAC currently does not sponsor men’s volleyball, the addition of Limestone brings the NCAA Division II conference to five schools with a men’s volleyball program.
Lincoln Memorial, Coker, Queens are all current members of the SAC and their men’s volleyball programs compete as independents. In addition, Tusculum will be the fourth SAC school to sponsor men’s volleyball starting in 2020.
Conferences with at least six teams are eligible for an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament following a two-year waiting period, according to NCAA regulations.
The SAC has not announced if it plans to sponsor men’s volleyball in the future. Only two multi-sport conferences in the nation sponsor NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball — the ConfCarolinas and the Big West.
The SAC is comprised of 11 teams from South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. In addition, Virginia-Wise will become the first Virginian school and public college to join the conference starting next school year.
Mike Cerino, Limestone vice president for intercollegiate athletics, stated at a weekend news conference that one of the biggest reasons for switching conferences was because several SAC schools were located closer to Limestone. He also said joining the SAC will help the athletics department compete for national championships.
“The SAC is well-known as a very competitive league and there will be good competition for all of our teams,” Cerino said. “We believe that joining the SAC is the best opportunity for our student-athletes and coaches to compete for NCAA Division II Championships. The combination of the SAC geographic footprint and the institutional focus of the member schools offers each institution the opportunity to enhance the student-athlete experience.”
The Saints have finished in the top-four of the ConfCarolinas men’s volleyball standings three times since the conference started receiving an automatic bid to the Division I-II NCAA Tournament in 2014.
Limestone finished this regular season in fifth place and will play Mount Olive in the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday. The team, which had a five-win improvement from 2018, also is leading the nation with a 10.34 digs per game average.