Only 10 teams have won a Division I women’s volleyball championship since the NCAA first crowned a champion in 1981. The last champion not to come from the Big Ten, Pac 12 or Big 12 was Long Beach State in 1998, and there hasn’t been a first-time national champion since Washington in 2005.
There have been plenty of teams on the cusp of glory, but they just haven’t been able to get over the national championship hump.
Here are seven teams that have made consistent appearances in the NCAA tournament, most of which have been national seeds, and could be the next team to win its first-ever national championship, in alphabetical order.
POLL: AVCA coaches top 25 poll
The BYU Cougars might have their best roster in program history this season, currently sitting undefeated and at No. 1 in the country as I write this. Roni Jones-Perry is a national player of the year candidate and headlines a group of hitters that might be the most talented in the country. With no other ranked teams on the schedule, it’s very possible the Cougars enter the postseason without a loss.
BYU made the its first title match in 2014, losing to Penn State, and has made it to regionals the past six seasons.
The Florida Gators nearly gave the SEC its first-ever NCAA champion in volleyball last season. As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, the Gators eventually fell to Nebraska in four sets in the title match. This season, the Gators will have an extra edge to get back to the title match.
Florida has made every NCAA tournament since 1991, including eight national semifinal appearances. Last year was its first semifinal and national title appearance since 2003. Freshman Thayer Hall, Rachael Kramer, Holly Carlton and Taelor Kellum make up one of the best hitting quartets in the country.
#NCAAVB Plays of the Week 🏐— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) October 9, 2018
2️⃣ | Allie Gregory had the point-saving dig in the back row, leading to a Thayer Hall kill to give @GatorsVB the 22-20 lead in a must-win fourth set over Georgia. pic.twitter.com/KbNWkZGAQ6
The Fighting Illini were one of the last remaining undefeated teams this year and have arguably its best roster since losing in the 2011 national championship match.
Seniors Jordyn Poulter and Ali Bastianelli lead the Illini, who are looking for a return to the regional final for the first time since that championship game run. Recently it’s been difficult for Illinois to reach the regional final, losing in the regional semifinals in the last four appearances.
Since missing 11 straight NCAA tournaments from 1994 to 2004, the Kentucky Wildcats haven't missed a single tournament and entered the 2018 season off its first NCAA regional finals appearance since 1987.
The Wildcats struggled to an 0-3 start to begin the year, but there's no question they have the firepower up front to compete with Florida again for the SEC title. Kentucky was the No. 4 national seed last year and will be in contention for a top-16 seed again. Junior Leah Edmond was a first-team All-American as a sophomore last year and remains one of the most feared hitters in the country.
With the victory over Tennessee, UK has now recorded 9️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ wins in program history! pic.twitter.com/LEgm6dI9Io— Kentucky Volleyball (@KentuckyVB) October 11, 2018
Since Hugh McCutcheon took over the Golden Gophers program starting with the 2012 season, Minnesota has missed just one NCAA tournament and made the national semifinals in 2015 and 2016, the latter being the No. 2 overall seed.
The Gophers look poised for another run to the national semifinals, this time in their home city of Minneapolis. This would mark the fourth straight NCAA tournament the Gophers are a top-10 national seed. Sophomore sensation Stephanie Samedy and senior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson are two of the top players in the nation at their positions.
Road tested. pic.twitter.com/JJSjRGDd5q— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) October 8, 2018
The Oregon Ducks have made just one national semifinal and national championship match, but they seem like the next Pac-12 team most likely to win its first national title.
The Ducks have made 11 of the past 12 NCAA tournaments, reaching the regional round four times and receiving a national seed the same number of times. Lindsey Vander Weide, Ronika Stone and Willow Johnson make up one of the best trios in the stacked Pac 12.
When Wisconsin had current Team USA setter Lauren Carlini, the Badgers made the national championship match her freshman year in 2013, but then couldn’t get back to the national semifinals. They lost on their home floor in the regional final her senior year in 2016 to eventual champion Stanford as the No. 3 overall seed.
This year, the Badgers are contenders again for a top-10 national seed with reigning national freshman of the year Dana Rettke and Madison Duello at the net.