With the 2021 NCAA women’s volleyball tournament starting on Thursday, there are a few teams that stand out in the group. From top teams to potential Cinderella, here are six teams to watch out for throughout the tournament.
The No. 1 seed and undefeated, Louisville has been unstoppable this season and is only expected to continue his dominance throughout the tournament. With sweeps against No. 6 Purdue, No. 8 Georgia Tech and No. 10 Nebraska, along with wins against No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Kentucky, the Cardinals have proven to be a team capable of making a championship in December. Louisville, a full squad, is currently fourth in blocking and hitting percentage, and eighth in opponent’s hitting percentage. With former second and third team All-Americans center blocker Anna Stevenson and point guard Tori Dilfer, this is a group every tournament team should be afraid to face. Only five teams have had undefeated seasons Since 1980. Can Louisville pull off the perfect season?
Fifth in blocks per set, eight in attacks per set and first in opponent’s hitting percentage, Creighton’s defense carries much more than offense when faced with tougher competition. He had shown it in his sweep of No. 1 Kentucky, which is now seventh in the tournament, at the start of the season. Sitting at 30-3 with a very respectable schedule, Creighton has a rough road ahead with potential games against Ole Miss, Oregon, Kansas, Townson, Penn State and Pittsburgh.
With an 85% winning percentage, Wisconsin may not be the most impressive team on paper. But a closer look will tell a completely different story. The Badgers have arguably had the toughest schedule this year, especially being in the Big Ten, where yteamsou can’t get through conference play. With a plethora of win Against the best teams at No. 14 Penn State, No. 10 Baylor, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 6 Nebraska, Wisconsin has more than proven that it can compete and win against the top competition, earning a No. 4 seed. With players on all three spring All-American teams in first teams Sydney Hilley and Dana Rettke, second team Lauren Barnes, third team Devyn Robinson, there is talent everywhere in the league. court for the Badgers. This talent has helped the team achieve a superior offense, which currently ranks third in kills per set and assists per set. Wisconsin won’t shy away from the moment and knows what it’s like to compete against top talent.
RPI No. 18 Western Kentucky was not seeded during the draft program last weekend. Currently sitting in 27-1, her only loss was against Ole Miss earlier in the season. Although Western Kentucky plays in a smaller conference than other teams on this list, it has still shown that it can compete with the best, with big wins against Notre Dame, Kansas and Rice, as well as an exhibition draw with Kentucky. With a conference sweep, Western Kentucky only lost three sets from September 11 to November 20. With a great offense, Western Kentucky currently ranks in the top 15 in assists per set and kills per set, as well as first in the nation in shooting percentage. The defense is anchored by former All-American second-team Lauren Matthews, who has helped her team build a defense that ranks in the top 10 in opponent’s hitting percentage. Western Kentucky poses a huge threat and teams shouldn’t take it lightly.
If there’s any way to describe this year’s Pitt team, it’s that they’re tough to beat. With only three defeats, the Panthers have had several quality wins, including wins against No. 23 Rice, No. 18 Washington State, No. 9 Baylor, No. 18 Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke, along with the The No. 12 BYU handed over its only loss of the season. With the dynamic front-line duo of second-team All-Americans in OH Kayla Lund and RS Chinaza Ndee, Pittsburgh has a complete squad that should cause trouble for any opponent and poses a serious threat as the third seed.
Perhaps the most underrated team, No. 11 BYU has only lost one game this season, which was against a solid Pittsburgh team. The Cougars are a fantastic attacking team with good crafty defense, both backed by All-American third team Kennedy Eschenberg. BYU is in the top five in hit percentage and kills per set, as well as second in opponent’s hit percentage. It’s hard to believe that a team with a loss is programmed on such a low seed. Fortunately, BYU finds itself in a section of the bracket where it will face a team that it has already beaten in the second round, as Utah and Utah Valley face each other. The only big threat on the Cougars’ side comes from No. 6 Purdue.
Spencer Chism is a contributor to Good sport, a media company dedicated to increasing the visibility of women and girls in sport.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.