The opening weekend of the NCAA volleyball tournament in 2022 was mainly chalk. Only one of the tournament’s top 16 seeds did not proceed to regional play. In the first two rounds of the tournament, the four No. 1 seeds — Texas, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Stanford — combined to lose only one set.
As a consequence, the regionals will be held this weekend. Regional semifinals begin Thursday morning, with regional finals on Saturday.
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With four places in the national semifinals in Omaha, Nebraska, on the line of NCAA volleyball, we asked our experts to assess the past two rounds and look forward to this weekend, identifying which teams should be on the lookout for upsets and which possible Elite Eight matchups they are most excited about.
Chalk was largely held on the first weekend. Are you shocked by the disparity?
Mr. Sam Gore: With the exception of the elite of the sport, I disagree that there is a lack of parity. The top four teams are all beatable, although they play at a significantly better level than the rest of the competition. Georgia, Northern Iowa, Auburn, LSU, and Kansas all pulled off shocks, and there were four five-set matches in the first round and two in the second. The top seeds are doing well at the NCAA volleyball, but the tournament’s depth is at an all-time high.
Shelby Coppedge: I believe there is a decent deal of parity in the competition this year. Seeing a team like San Diego, a non-Power 5 club, constantly rated in the top five in the country demonstrates this. Houston has always been strong at conferences and has the resources to be successful on a larger stage, but this year proves it to everyone. Marquette, Rice, James Madison, and even Towson demonstrate how “little” colleges can develop the talent seen at powerhouses. The transfer site deserves a lot of credit for that. Many Power 5 athletes who know what it’s like to play at the highest level, particularly during tournaments, have moved to smaller Division I institutions.
Paul Sunderland: I wasn’t shocked that the tournament went mostly according to seed. I expected USC and BYU to be much more competitive in their second-round matchups, and I’m sure they’re as disappointed as I am. Creighton, the fourth seed, is out due to an injury to Kendall Wait. Nonetheless, the Bluejays are a strong squad and program for NCAA volleyball.
M.A. Voepel: This year’s selection committee did a fantastic job overall, which contributed to chalk holding. It’s worth noting that Creighton was the biggest Cinderella in last season’s NCAA volleyball women’s basketball tournament, reaching the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed. However, the Bluejays were the greatest upset victims in this volleyball event. However, as Paul said, injuries had a role.
Early round shocks are exciting in any tournament, but they often come at the expense of the finest regional games. In this instance on NCAA volleyball, we’ll see some explosive Sweet 16 contests that will feel like final four showdowns. The Sweet 16 features teams from eight different conferences, with the Big Ten leading the way with five teams. The sport’s key power brokers are still in place for the most part, but the ACC and SEC, each of which have two teams in the regional semifinals, have made significant strides in the previous decade or so.
Which team most impressed you in the first two rounds?
Gore: I’d have to say Texas. They scored. 535 in the first round and.366 against UGA but never let up. They seem to be the number one seed.
Auburn, according to Coppedge. Coach Brent Crouch said that while planning the schedule for this year, he did not anticipate his team to make the tournament in a rebuilding year. Auburn not only made the tournament despite having five starting rookies for NCAA volleyball, but the Tigers stunned fourth-seeded Creighton.
Sunderland: Texas, Minnesota, Marquette, Wisconsin, and Louisville, in no particular order, but two other teams stood out. Kentucky performed really well, and although Ohio State hobbled into the tournament, the Buckeyes are no longer limping.
Voepel: Their streak is likely to come to an end when they meet nine-time NCAA champion and No. 1 seed Stanford next. But kudos to the Houston Cougars, who advanced to the Sweet 16 by winning two five-set sets in Omaha, Nebraska, and also made SportsCenter’s Top 10. In Houston’s first-round win against South Dakota, Kate Georgiades jumped onto and over a table for a save. As spectacular as it was, she swiftly got up and had another hit to help the Cougars earn the point. It created for an excellent viral video demonstrating the intensity of NCAA tournament action and the fearlessness of liberos.
Houston reached the Elite Eight in volleyball in 1994. However, the program had been on a lengthy dry spell before to this season, with no appearances in the NCAA volleyball tournament since 2000. This season, the Cougars have made the most of their chance.