January 5, 2008

Poll Results - 2008 NCAA Women's Volleyball Second Best Team

First of all, I would like to thank those readers who took time to vote - it was interesting to see the results. My poll question was based on the belief that Penn State will debut as the 2008 pre-season #1 team, but I was curious who might come out as the pre-season #2 team - Stanford, Texas, Nebraska or USC?

The Results:

- Stanford was the choice for the second best team with 21 votes.
- Texas garnered a respectable 8 votes.
- USC, in a bit of a suprise, registered only 1 vote.
- Nebraska brought up the rear, getting goose-egged with zero votes.

When I posted the question, I was not sure who I thought would be the #2 pre-season team. My belief was that it would be either Stanford, Texas, Nebraska or USC. I was a bit surprised that USC and Nebraska did not tally well, because Nebraska was the 2006 National Champion and USC was one serve away from the finals!

To come up with my opinion on who is #2, I am going to take a different approach - If I was building my season schedule, how would I rank each team? The ability to schedule appropriately is key to running a successful college volleyball program - some coaches schedule ridiculously easy and it looks poor, while others schedule way beyond their team's ability and it can cost them a job.

A well known west coast coach once told me that to effectively schedule name brand teams (i.e. when to schedule State U, as opposed to just scheduling State College), you need to look at what impact Seniors they graduated and what impact players are returning, especially Seniors to be. This scheduling guideline is what I will use to look at Stanford, Texas, Nebraska and USC.

Beyond Stanford losing in the National Championship match in 5 games, how will they be in 2008? Seniors lost - Kehoe (setter) and Girard (middle), both starters. Seniors to be - Barboza, Fishburn, Waller and Akinradewo. By returning five starters, including the National Player of the Year and the PAC 10 Freshman of the Year, along with each of the outside attack positions and passing, Stanford will be very good. The loss of a four year starting setter will be felt early, but with rally score being dominated by outside hitters, this loss will not be as great as in year's past.

Texas put together a very good 2007 season, but what about 2008? Seniors lost - Moriarty (setter), Magee (middle), Jennings (Libero), Christian (outside). Seniors to be - Paolini and Hall.
The Longhorns will lose some talented players, but also return plenty of impact players. With the starting setter, libero and middle moving on, one would think Texas may drop off a bit, but they return all the outside attack options including the National Freshman of the Year. My concern with 2008 team would be a shortage of impact Seniors - there is just something about having a few talented Seniors on the court to keep everybody in line and working hard.

USC was just one point away from knocking out Stanford in the NCAA Final Four and what will 2008 hold for the Women of Troy? Seniors lost - Bishop (middle/outside), Kaczor (outside), Johanson (middle), Siemiatkowska (middle), Copenhagen (outside). Seniors to be - Gysin and Tennant. USC losses quite a bit for 2008, almost 9 kills per game, and Gysin will be the only impact Senior.

For the Nebraska fans, the 2007 NCAA tournament was not fun - the defending National Champion and long time #1 ranked team did not reach the Final Four - will the Cornhusker faithful be happy in 2008? Seniors lost - Pavin (outside), Stalls (middle), Houghtelling (outside) and Griffin (setter). Seniors to be - Schwartz, Larson and Gates. Nebraska had a lot of talent graduate in this year - both outsides and a middle, accounting for over 10 kills per game! The returners are solid but, with the exception of Larson, are not impact players.

If I was to put together a schedule in which I wanted my team to have a shot at beating a name brand opponent, I would look to play Nebraska, then USC, not Texas and stay as far away from Stanford as possible. Please keep in mind that USC and Nebraska will have very good seasons and because their coaches are talented and know how to recruit, they could have a great seasons. Texas should be the best in the Big 12 next year and might easily jump into the top slot nationally during next season - they have a bunch of fire power!

But, the poll has my seal of approval - Stanford just has so much returning talent that they should start as the #2 team in the country for the 2008 season! If they develop a setter and Barboza has a Final match worthy of her reputation, then the Cardinal could win the 2008 title over Penn State.