A trio of Lee University athletic teams are heading to the Sunshine State to vie for national championships.
After enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday earlier this week, the Lee men’s and women’s soccer teams, along with the women’s volleyball team packed their bags and headed for Kissimmee, Fla., and the National Christian College Athletic Association national championships.
For many years Lee sent teams to the NCCAA nationals in several sports, but in recent years competed in only NAIA events. The Flames and Lady Flames returned to the NCCAA tourney play while moving through the provisional stages of NCAA Division II. Lee will not be eligible for Gulf South Conference and Division II postseason play until 2015-16.
With several other schools going through the same NCAA process, the competition will be challenging for all three teams next week.
The Lady Flames soccer and volleyball squads earned trips to Florida by winning the NCCAA Mid-East Region, held on the Lee campus last weekend, while the Flames soccer team received an at-large bid after finishing second in the Mid-East Regional event at Campbellsville, Ky.
With a 14-3-1 record, the soccer Lady Flames are the top seed in this week’s event and will open Lee’s play Monday at 2 p.m. with a Pool A match against ninth-seeded Palm Beach Atlantic (8-6-2).
Coach Matt Yelton's club will be back on the soccer field on Wednesday against Central Region Champion Dallas Baptist (14-6-1), the No. 6 seed.
Pool B is headlined by second-seeded Trinity Christian College (15-3-2), and also includes Azusa Pacific (12-3-1) and Houghton College (13-3-1), the fifth and eight seeds.
Playing in Pool C is third-seeded Grace College (11-6-2), No. 4 seed Judson University (12-6-2) and Point Loma Nazarene (11-7-1), the seventh seed.
Men's soccer will see pool-play action Tuesday with the sixth-seeded Flames (11-4-5) against the No. 9 seed Mid-American Christian (11-7-1), the Central Region champs out of Oklahoma City, in Pool A action.
Coach Paul Furey's men will turn right around and challenge top-seeded Fresno Pacific (Calif.), which is 15-4-1 on the season, on Wednesday.
Pool B includes second-seeded Judson University (13-4-2), No. 5 Spring Arbor (13-8-1) and eighth-seed Mississippi College (11-4-3), while Pool C includes No. 3 seed Campbellsville (17-3-1), Houghton College (15-2-1), the No. 4 seed, and seventh-seeded Southern Wesleyan (12-6-2).
In both the men’s and women’s soccer events, the three pool winners, plus a wildcard team, will advance to the semifinals Friday with the national champion to be crowned Saturday.
Volleyball will wait until Thursday for its first serve with the 10 teams divided into two pools.
The second-seeded Lady Flames (20-8) are in Pool B and will face 10th-seeded Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) Thursday at noon and then battle No. 6 seed Bethel (Ind.) that evening at 6:30.
On Friday, Coach Andrea Hudson's club will be pitted against seventh seed McMurry (Texas) University at 10 a.m., and third-seeded Azusa Pacific (Calif.) at 4 p.m.
Pool A teams include top-seed Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.), fourth-seeded Shorter (Ga.) University, No. 5 Campbellsville, Southern Wesleyan (S.C.) and Oakland City (Ind.) University, the seventh and eighth seeds.
Volleyball semifinals and championship are scheduled for Saturday.