Wow, the volleyball season always seems to fly by. As a college coach, there are seasons you never want to end and there are seasons in which Thanksgiving cannot come quick enough. After a while, the yearly NCAA tournament results tend to blend into each other because it is always Stanford (Pac 10 team) versus some team not from the West Coast - I understand that this is a rather sweeping observation, but true. In one sense, this is a credit to Stanford and the ability of that school/program to continuously win in the toughest conference in the country and then matriculate into the last match of the year.
This college volleyball standard operating procedure will not change until somebody puts pressure on the NCAA to completely seed the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship. (Hey, I just had a great idea; what if the AVCA was to bring this type of pressure to bear? Oh yes, I forgot, the future of NCAA Women's Volleyball is actually College Beach Volleyball.) Currently, only spots 1 through 16 are seeded.
Looking at the 2008 NCAA Women's Volleyball bracket (click here) there are some teams that have achieved great seasons, only to be rewarded with a match up that is almost like punishment. Wichita State had a RPI of 19 (NCAA pre-tournament RPI is here), yet by getting Texas in the second round, their NCAA seed was 30. Long Beach State garnered a RPI of 24, yet by playing Stanford in the second round was a #31 seed. Folks may say, "what a great opportunity to play a high ranked team...", that is talk of yester-year and pie in the sky. I can promise you that if the initials were WBB, instead of VB, Wichita State and LBSU fans/administrators/player and parents would be going off on the NCAA. But not well mannered Women's Volleyball.
We get what we settle for and since our coaches association is proven powerless to advocate for anything substantial in professional development (and readers, I am not talking about going off to some clinic where we can learn about stack blocking, or a light speed offense, or some new passing system that the Kiwi's are employing; I mean getting more in salary, marketing and budget support) or positively advocate our right to even choose the rules of which we play our sport by, and our leading coaches don't speak up about inequities or are not being heard if they do (if a tree falls in the forest and a newspaper, or FOX Sports, or the USA Today, or ESPN is not around to record it, does it make a sound?); we have settled for this poor situation.
A side note, the last time I heard about a top flight coach speaking up, was when John Cook (supposedly) called the Pac 10 coaches to the carpet for not using their national status and success to advocate for better support of volleyball - If I remember correctly, everyone (supposedly) was all mad at Cook for daring to call out one of the family. The one, and maybe the only, thing I admire about women's college basketball is that they had the courage to demand better treatment and there were a few coaches that said we can do better. To this end, I compliment, once more, Lindy Vivas for having the courage to step up at Fresno State and say that what was being done was not acceptable. Lindy, if you are reading this, I nominate you for director of the yet to be formed College Volleyball Coaches Union.
OK - I feel better after getting that out of my system. This is one of those times I wish I was wildly rich, like just hit the Powerball rich, because I would be the person the college volleyball coaches loved and the Administration/NCAA hated. I would have no fear of being fired because I was, yes, wildly rich. I might even keep a lawyer on retainer just to be able to fire off lawsuits when something really got me mad! How great would it be to sit in any Athletic Department meeting, or volleyball conference meeting, or NCAA Volleyball meeting and hit the GONG button when something was not right, but not have to worry about burning bridges. I think I need to invest in some lottery tickets!
To finish out the Reader Poll that was listed on the right side bar, "Which program will go deepest in the Championship?", the readers selected Florida with 48% percent of the vote, Oregon garnered 34%, Utah 13% and Tulane squeezed out 3%. Everyone but the Green Wave made the Sweet 16, but not one of our group made the Elite 8! Oregon had the best chance with #6 Minnesota going down early, but could not overcome the momentum of the Cyclone to advance.
As for my Sweet 16 picks, they were rather like my last Chinese meal; sweet and sour. Penn State and Stanford coming through were not too difficult to determine. My upset special was no upset, but it was worth a try. I do congratulate Iowa State on making a great run through the tourney (and this from a team that had 12 loses!!!) and taking a game from Texas on the Longhorn campus. The NCAA Volleyball Championship site was most relieved by Nebraska's fantastic comeback - the tickets are gone, gone, gone! I did not have the cable system to watch the Washington vs Nebraska match, but by the box score and all accounts, it was an outstanding volleyball match.
The Final Four Picks -
Penn State vs Nebraska (or Ms. Perfect versus the Red Sea) - Penn State is the better team and should this game be played anywhere else but in the State of Nebraska, I don't think too many people would give the 'Huskers a chance. But, that sea of red and let's not forget the blow-up Husker hopping around the arena (he looks nice enough, but those winters can turn a mascot's soul into evil), will be worth a couple of points for Nebraska. I would be genuinely surprised if Penn State won in three, but I would expect them to win. They have the best player in college volleyball and in my opinion, the best coach in college volleyball. If they pass, they win.
Texas vs Stanford - Stanford has not dropped a game in the tourney and probably was expecting more out of Hawaii, but they have not played a post season team with the Longhorn's height and athleticism - Those are some big kids down in the Lone Star state. I would like to think that Texas will come ready to play, but Stanford just has too much on its side of the net. As long as the Cardinal outsides don't vanish, along with the passing, Stanford punches the ticket to play on Saturday.
Penn State vs Stanford - Didn't we just do this last year? Penn State in 4. Barboza has yet to have a good NCAA tournament Final that approaches her hype. Klineman will be better than in 07 just because she is no longer a freshman, but they have a new setter. Penn State's setter got yanked in last year's Final, but will be more composed in 08. The rest of State College will be ready to repeat.
But maybe I am completely wrong - Vote in the newest Reader Poll located on the right side bar!