Palm Beach Atlantic, Wheeling Jesuit buck tournament's upset trend
The Division II women’s volleyball championship has been dominated by the favorites in recent years. Either powerhouse Concordia-St. Paul or a team that had just one loss in the regular season has claimed every title since 2004.
But this year’s tournament appeared to be headed in a different direction.
Concordia-St. Paul? Swept in the third round by a Wayne State team that ultimately took out a No. 2 seed, a No. 3 seed, a No. 1 seed (Concordia) and a No. 4 seed en route to the semifinal.
Defending champion Tampa? Ousted in the second round.
Among the eight No. 1 seeds, just two made it to the quarterfinals.
Year of the underdog, right?
Well, not exactly.
Those two No. 1 seeds, Palm Beach Atlantic and Wheeling Jesuit, have handled their lower-seeded foes and will now compete Saturday in the championship game.
Sorry, underdogs. Maybe next year.
Still, while highly ranked and great teams, this is new territory for both Palm Beach Atlantic and Wheeling Jesuit. This is the first championship game appearance for both programs.
“I have always dreamt about being here in the national championship, but having that come to fruition is just a little overwhelming right now,” Wheeling Jesuit coach Diane Flick said.
“[Reaching the finals] means everything,” Palm Beach Atlantic coach Bob White said. “We thought 2015 could be a really good year for us, but it’s been a long road.”
Wheeling Jesuit (38-4) will enter the championship round red hot. The Cardinals have dropped just one set throughout the tournament and only two sets overall in their previous 11 matches.
The Sailfish are starting to peak at the right time, too. While they narrowly avoided an upset in the second round at the hands of Saint Leo, Palm Beach Atlantic has lost only set since and pulled off sweeps in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
The two top seeds will square off at 5 p.m. on Saturday with everything on the line. There won’t be an upset regardless of who wins, but there will be a team hoisting the championship trophy for the first time in school history.