The conference season is underway in Division I women’s volleyball and there are plenty of top matchups in the early going that will provide a litmus test for the contenders and the pretenders for each conference championship.
We compiled a list of three games in each conference that you could look back on at the end of the season as matchups that were critical in determining the conference champion from the American Athletic Conference through the West Coast Conference.
Wichita State at Cincinnati - Nov. 2
The Shockers were a perfect 20-0 in the American in 2017, but Cincinnati could upend the reigning champs in 2018 with star outside hitter Jordan Thompson.
Cincinnati at UCF - Nov. 9
UCF knocked off Southern Cal in nonconference play, proving it will be a tough team to beat for any opponent, especially on its home court.
Wichita State at Temple - Nov. 16
The Owls were picked to finish third in the preseason. They’ll have a late-season home game against the reigning champs that could be crucial in determining the championship.
"I really believe she can handle anything because she's not just a great leader, but she's one of the best people that I know." – former @GoShockersVB standout Emily Hiebert#NCAAVBhttps://t.co/Ky8QNMqlfJ— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) September 12, 2018
New Hampshire at Stony Brook - Oct. 26
Stony Brook was picked third in the preseason, one spot behind New Hampshire. The Seawolves beat the Wildcats in the conference title game last year.
Stony Brook at Albany - Nov. 4
Albany won the America East regular season in 2017, then lost to Stony Brook in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
New Hampshire at Albany - Nov. 9
New Hampshire finished third in the conference last year but was picked to finish just behind Albany in the preseason.
Kennesaw State at Florida Gulf Coast - Oct. 5
FGCU lost to Kennesaw State in last year’s conference title game but was picked to win the conference in the preseason ahead of the Owls.
Florida Gulf Coast at Kennesaw State - Nov. 4
A rematch between these programs comes with just two games remaining in the regular season.
Lipscomb at Kennesaw State - Nov. 6
Lipscomb lost to the Owls in the conference semifinals last year and took them to five sets in both 2017 regular-season matchups.
Dayton at VCU - Oct. 26
VCU went 14-0 in A-10 play last year and is picked to repeat. Dayton was 13-1 with its only loss in five sets to the Rams in the regular season, as well as a five-set loss to VCU in the conference championship match.
Dayton at St. Louis - Nov. 2
Dayton has a late road matchup with the Billikens, which were picked third in the preseason poll.
Davidson at VCU - Nov. 10
If VCU is in line to clinch a second straight conference title, they’ll have Davidson at home in the season finale.
Louisville at Pittsburgh - Oct. 21
Pittsburgh placed a 12-0 record in the nonconference and is well on its way to an NCAA tournament berth. The Louisville Cardinals might be the ACC’s best bet for a second tourney team.
Pittsburgh at Florida State - Nov. 16
Nearing the end of the regular season, the Seminoles could use this win to bolster their resume.
Louisville at Notre Dame - Nov. 16
Louisville and Pittsburgh were 18-2 in conference play and the Irish were one of five NCAA tournament teams from the ACC last year. This should be a critical game for postseason play.
Texas at Iowa State - Oct. 24
Iowa State earned a national seed last year. Any time Texas comes to town in the Big 12 should be a hostile atmosphere.
Baylor at Texas Tech - Nov. 12
After the Red Raiders won on the Bears' home floor to open conference play, this rematch at the end of the season could have major implications if Baylor hangs around in the conference title picture.
Texas at Baylor - Nov. 16
The two preseason favorites in the conference meet on Sept. 26 in Austin as well.
Creighton at Marquette - Oct. 26
The Blue Jays and Golden Eagles will once again be the teams to beat in the conference. The two teams meet in Omaha on Sept. 23.
Marquette at Butler - Nov. 9
The Bulldogs were one of three conference losses for Marquette in 2017 and this road match could make or break the Golden Eagles as a potential Big East champion.
Villanova at Creighton - Nov. 11
The Blue Jays are nearly unbeatable in D.J. Sokol Arena, and they’ll get four straight home matches to end the year, including one with Villanova, which beat them in Philadelphia in 2017.
Idaho at Sacramento State - Nov. 3
Idaho tied for the Big Sky title and lost in three sets at home to Sacramento State last season.
Sacramento State at Portland State - Nov. 13
The Hornets will play a third straight road game when the take on the Vikings in the penultimate game of the regular season.
Idaho at Northern Arizona - Nov. 15
Northern Arizona was picked second in the preseason behind Idaho and will host the Vandals in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Radford at Campbell - Oct. 26
This is the second meeting between two programs that each had one first-place vote in the preseason conference poll.
Radford at High Point - Nov. 2
High Point defeated Radford twice in the regular season last year but the Highlanders upset the Panthers in the conference championship. High Point had eight of 10 first-place votes in the preseason poll.
High Point at Winthrop - Nov. 9
To end the season, High Point has three straight road matchups with Winthrop coming right in the middle of it.
Minnesota at Penn State - Nov. 23
The Nittany Lions were picked fifth in the preseason, but they have four straight home games to end the season and always end the year playing well. This will likely be a must-win for either team in contention for the conference title.
Penn State at Nebraska - Nov. 2
It’s always must-watch television when these two programs meet. The Cornhuskers will travel to Penn State on Oct. 13.
Nebraska at Wisconsin - Oct. 19
The Badgers and Cornhuskers meet just once this year, which makes this an important game for each team that has conference title aspirations.
Cal Poly at Hawaii - Oct. 26
Cal Poly looks like a potential national seed through four weeks of play. Hawaii might be the last true test for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly at UC Irvine - Nov. 10
UC Irvine was picked third in the preseason and will get its shot at the Mustangs in the second-to-last week of the season.
UC Irvine at Hawaii - Nov. 15
Cal Poly was picked to repeat in the preseason and has played well early on, but the Anteaters and Rainbow Wahine might be battling for an at-large bid to the tournament.
James Madison at College of Charleston - Oct. 25
The Dukes are picked to win the CAA for a third straight season, but College of Charleston likely stands the best chance of changing that narrative.
College of Charleston at Hofstra - Nov. 1
Hofstra hopes to improve on last season’s five-set loss in the conference semis to Charleston.
James Madison at Towson - Nov. 7
The penultimate game of the season for these two teams marks their second meeting the season since last year’s conference championship game, which the Dukes won in straight sets.
Rice at Western Kentucky - Sept. 30
Rice and Western Kentucky were picked to finish second and first, respectively. Although early in the season, this is the only meeting between the two teams, making it a crucial game.
North Texas at Western Kentucky - Oct. 19
The Mean Green handed the Hilltoppers their only conference loss last year, before losing to them in the conference tournament title game in four sets. This is the two teams only meeting in 2018.
Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky - Nov. 4
The Hilltoppers are the favorite to win Conference USA for a fifth straight season. The Owls might be their toughest challenge.
Oakland at Cleveland State - Oct. 21
Cleveland State is vying for a second straight Horizon League championship in 2018. The Oakland Grizzlies were picked to finish just behind the Vikings in the preseason.
Green Bay at Cleveland State - Oct. 27
Green Bay will be looking for revenge against the Vikings after last season’s loss in the conference title game.
UIC at Green Bay - Nov. 10
Each of these teams received a first-place vote in the league’s preseason poll.
Princeton at Yale - Oct. 26
This will be the second meeting between the Tigers and Bulldogs. The two teams had a one-game playoff to go to the NCAA tournament last year.
Yale at Harvard - Nov. 2
Two teams picked in the preseason to challenge Princeton at the top of the league will have a crucial match late in conference play.
Harvard at Princeton - Nov. 9
Princeton has its final two games of the season at home, which starts with the Crimson.
Fairfield at Iona - Oct. 12
Fairfield beat Iona for the conference title last season for its third straight MAAC championship. The Gaels might be the top challenger again.
Marist at Fairfield - Nov. 4
Marist was picked to finish third in the preseason and was one of four MAAC teams last year to win a set against Fairfield, which was a perfect 18-0 in conference play.
Marist at Iona - Nov. 10
Marist has the projected top two teams in the conference in the middle of a four-game road swing to end the season.
Miami at Western Michigan - Nov. 3
The second installment of last year’s MAC title game comes down the stretch when a improved Western Michigan team might be near the top of the West Division.
Bowling Green at Ohio - Nov. 9
Featuring the two teams who were picked to finish atop the East Division, this game could have every bit of postseason implications you want in a late-season game.
Miami at Ohio - Nov. 10
If the Bobcats live up to the preseason hype, they have two straight home games to clinch the division.
Bethune-Cookman at Florida A&M - Nov. 2
The Wildcats and Rattlers are expected to compete once again for the top spot in the Southern Division.
Maryland Eastern Shore at Howard - Nov. 4
Eastern Shore won the North Division last year, but it was Howard that won the conference championship and went to the NCAA tournament.
Morgan State at Maryland Eastern Shore - Nov. 11
Eastern Shore will hope to lock up another North Division title with two straight home games against Coppin State and Morgan State.
Northern Iowa at Missouri State - Oct. 13
With Wichita State’s move to the American last year, this matchup provides key positioning within the conference halfway through the conference slate.
Northern Iowa at Illinois State - Nov. 3
The Redbirds are no pushover and are likely the top team to spoil Northern Iowa’s and Missouri State’s tournament hopes.
Missouri State at Northern Iowa - Nov. 9
The final meeting between the Bears and Panthers could very well be for first place in the conference with a week to play.
Colorado State at Wyoming - Oct. 2
Colorado State ran away with the conference last year at 17-1, but last year’s second-place team in Wyoming gets an early shot against the Rams on its home floor.
Wyoming at Colorado State - Oct. 30
The second meeting between these two teams should offer a clear picture on what the Mountain West will look like entering November.
Colorado State at Boise State - Nov. 10
The Broncos lasted five sets against Colorado State last year at home. Can they pull it off this season?
LIU Brooklyn at Bryant - Nov. 9
The Blackbirds are vying for a third-straight conference title this season. Bryant was picked to finish second.
LIU Brooklyn at Central Connecticut State - Nov. 10
LIU’s last two games are on the road against arguably its toughest challengers.
Central Connecticut State at Bryant - Oct. 27
CCSU was picked third in the preseason. The Blue Devils beat Bryant twice last season and will need to replicate those results to have a shot at the conference championship.
Murray State at Austin Peay - Sept. 25
The Racers were picked to win the conference in the preseason despite losing to Austin Peay in the conference title match last season. This will be an excellent test at the beginning of the conference slate.
Austin Peay at Murray State - Oct. 30
The rematch of these two teams should be as equally important for conference positioning as the first game.
Murray State at SIUE - Nov. 10
SIUE, picked third in the preseason poll, ends the regular season with home games against Austin Peay then Murray State.
Stanford at Oregon - Oct. 21
The Oregon Ducks have a front row that’s as good as any and can match up against the Cardinal.
Stanford at Southern Cal - Oct. 26
Stanford will be the favorite to win the division all season, but a road matchup against the Trojans is likely the Cardinal’s toughest test.
Stanford at Washington - Nov. 18
The Huskies have played exceedingly well in the nonconference, which makes this late-November contest all the more enticing to watch.
Lehigh at American - Nov. 6
American was tabbed to win the conference for the second straight season. Lehigh lost to American in the conference semis last year and was picked second in the preseason.
Army at Lehigh - Oct. 27
Lehigh finished the nonconference slate at 11-1. The Mountain Hawks lost both matchups against Army last year.
American at Navy - Oct. 26
Navy was the only team to beat American in the regular season last year, but lost to the Eagles in the conference final.
Florida at Kentucky - Oct. 31
Kentucky and Florida were 17-1 in SEC play last year, each with a win over the other.
Kentucky at Missouri - Nov. 18
With three games remaining on its schedule, the Wildcats have a tough road game at Missouri, which was picked to finish third in the conference.
Florida at Tennessee - Nov. 21
So far, the Volunteers have played better than expected and a late-season matchup with the Gators could be a matchup that will determine if Tennessee will play in the NCAA tournament.
East Tennessee State at Furman - Nov. 2
ETSU won the conference tournament championship last season while Furman won the regular-season title. Both are expected to contend again.
East Tennessee State at Wofford - Nov. 3
The second rematch of the 2017 conference championship match comes at the end of the penultimate week of the season.
Wofford at Furman - Nov. 7
Wofford sent the Paladins home in the conference semis last year and received two first-place votes in the preseason.
Texas Southern vs. Alabama A&M - Oct. 19
Alabama A&M lost in the quarterfinals after finishing second in the conference last year. This will be a nice middle-of-the-season test.
Texas Southern vs. Alabama State - Oct. 21
This is the last meeting between the two teams that met in last year’s conference championship and were picked first and second in the preseason poll.
Alabama State at Alabama A&M - Nov. 1
The penultimate game of the conference season will bring these two rivals together, possibly with the regular-season conference title on the line.
Texas State at Coastal Carolina - Oct. 13
Texas State handed Coastal Carolina its only conference loss last year, but the Chanticleers got revenge in the conference championship.
Texas State at Arkansas State - Nov. 2
The Bobcats have three straight road games to close out the 2018 season, starting with the team picked to finish just behind them in the West Division.
Coastal Carolina at South Alabama - Nov. 9
In the final weekend of the season, the preseason favorite will visit the Jaguars, which were tabbed to finish second in the East Division.
Denver at North Dakota - Oct. 7
North Dakota changed conferences this offseason after winning the Big Sky in 2017. Denver also made the NCAA tournament out of the Summit.
North Dakota at Denver - Oct. 21
These two teams were all nine first-place votes in the preseason with Denver earning seven.
North Dakota at South Dakota - Nov. 9
A road matchup against a rival as the last game of the regular season could be a tough hurdle to clear if North Dakota enters the game in contention for a league title.
WACCSU-Bakersfield at UT-Rio Grande Valley - Oct. 18
Mid-October in the WAC is loaded with games that have conference championship implications, which starts with this matchup between the teams picked third and second in the preseason.
CSU-Bakersfield at New Mexico State - Oct. 20
CSU-Bakersfield upset the Aggies, which won the regular-season championship, in last year's conference tournament and ended up going to the NCAA tournament.
UT-Rio Grande Valley at New Mexico State - Oct. 27
New Mexico State was picked to win the conference in the preseason, but UTRGV has shown it can pull upsets with a win against then-No. 15 Baylor in the nonconference season.
San Diego at Loyola Marymount - Sept. 25
Picked second and third in the preseason poll, this will be an early conference matchup featuring two fairly evenly matched teams.
BYU at San Diego - Oct. 5
This is the most obvious top game in the conference with both teams possibly being ranked, and it comes just six games into the conference slate.
BYU at Loyola Marymount - Nov. 20
It’s possible the Cougars will have won the WCC by the final game, but they’ll get a strong Loyola Marymount team with NCAA tournament aspirations nonetheless.