The 2019 NCAA women's volleyball season starts Friday, Aug. 30, as the country's top teams and players get ready for what should be a year full of long rallies, giant blocks and impressive digs.
Before the first serve of the season, we take a look at what you need to know.
2019 Women's College Volleyball: Season preview
Stanford brings back three 2018 First Team All-Americans (two-time National Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer, setter Jenna Gray, libero Morgan Hentz), is the defending champion and received 62 of 64 first-place votes in the preseason AVCA Poll.
But that doesn't mean there won't be surprises or thrillers during the season: Stanford will play six top-10 teams before opening Pac-12 play. And just look at other teams near the top.
Sure, Nebraska, Texas and Penn State should compete for another title. But Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, BYU and Florida are all programs ranked in the top 10 and looking for their first national title. So it could be a season of firsts for some of the big-name teams. And there are other surging teams, as Pitt and Marquette went a combined 58-9 last season and might be ready to set new program heights — again. Both are ranked in the top 16.
SEASON PREVIEW: Teams with the best chances to go undefeated
But there's more excitement than just the teams (and players) in the Top 25.
Cincinnati's Jordan Thompson, a Third Team All-American, is back after leading the nation in kills, points, kills per set and points per set. Her 827 kills were 240 more than No. 2 finisher Lindsey Ruddins of UCSB (587 kills).
UNLV's Mariena Hayden is now a junior after her 114 aces led the nation, helping the Rebels win 22 matches and reach the NIVC semifinal. She had a UNLV-record nine aces in a match against Youngstown State.
Also out west, Dani Drews of Utah is poised for another big season after earning Second Team All-American recognition as a sophomore. She set a program record for kills twice in a week in 2018, breaking the three-set record with 22 against Southern California and then breaking the four-set mark with 30 against Colorado.
2019 NCAA women's volleyball: Rankings
Here's how the first AVCA Top 25 poll looks, including the teams' matches for the season-opening weekend. Top 25 matches are in bold:
|Rank||Team||Points||2018 Record||2019 opening Weekend|
|1,598||34-1||at College of Charleston (Fri.)
vs. Duke (Sat.) (Charleston, SC)
|1,451||29-7||vs. No. 18 Creighton (Fri.)
vs. UCLA (Sat.)
|1,414||27-4||at North Carolina (Fri.)
vs. Florida St. (Sat.) (Chapel Hill, NC)
|1,385||23-5||vs. Northern Iowa (Fri.)
vs. No. 14 Southern California (Sun.)
|1,329||25-7||vs. Florida St. (Fri.) (Chapel Hill, NC)
at North Carolina (Sat.)
|1,258||32-4||at No. 19 Tennessee (Fri.)
vs. No. 19 Tennessee (Sun.)
|1,204||26-5||vs. No. 23 Cal Poly (Salt Lake City) (Fri.)
at Utah (Fri)
vs. Saint Mary's (Salt Lake City) (Sat.)
Penn State (1)
|1,182||26-8||vs. Hofstra (Fri.)
vs. Holy Cross (Sat.)
vs. Wichita State (Sun.)
|1,111||31-2||vs. Boise State (Fri.)
vs. Utah Valley (Fri.)
vs. No. 16 Marquette (Sat.)
|1,028||26-7||at No. 25 Louisville (Fri.)
vs. Dayton (Louisville) (Sat.)
|934||23-11||vs. UC Irvine (Fri.)
vs. Boston College (Sat.)
|827||30-2||vs. Cleveland State (Fri.)
vs. Cincinnati (Fri.)
vs. South Carolina (Sat.)
|797||20-13||vs. St. John's (Honolulu) (Fri.)
vs. No. 21 San Diego (Honolulu) (Sat.)
at Hawai'i (Sun.)
|664||22-11||at Texas State (Fri.)
at No. 4 Texas (Sun.)
|645||24-10||vs. Oakland (Fri.)
vs. Northern Arizona (Fri.)
vs. Tennessee Tech (Sat.)
vs. Utah Valley (Provo, Utah) (Fri.)
|571||24-9||vs. Ohio (Sun.)|
|457||29-5||at No. 2 Nebraska (Fri.)
vs. No. 20 Baylor (Lincoln, NE) (Sat.)
|438||26-6||vs. No. 6 Illinois (Fri.)
at No. 6 Illinois (Sun.)
|407||20-9||vs. UCLA (Lincoln, NE) (Fri.)
vs. No. 18 Creighton (Lincoln, NE) (Sat.)
|313||18-13||at Hawai'i (Fri.)
vs. No. 13 Washington (Honolulu) (Sat.)
vs. St. John's (Honolulu) (Sat.)
|289||23-10||at James Madison (Fri.)
vs. Iowa (Harrisonburg, VA) (Sat.)
vs. Stony Brook (Harrisonburg, VA) (Sat.)
|213||25-3||vs. No. 7 Kentucky (Salt Lake City) (Fri.)
vs. Saint Mary's (Salt Lake City) (Fri.)
at Utah (Sat.)
|157||22-11||vs. Appalachian State (Fri.)
vs. Loyola Marymount (Fri.)
vs. Samford (Sat.)
|120||22-9||vs. 10 Florida (Fri.)
vs. Texas A&M (Sat.)
vs. Dayton (Sun.)
Others receiving votes and listed on two or more ballots: Missouri 100; Utah 56; Colorado State 51; UCF 45; Pepperdine 36; Florida State 33; Hawai'i 13; Northern Iowa 13; TCU 10; UCLA 7; Cincinnati 6; Rice 6; South Carolina 6; Texas State 6; Loyola Marymount 4; Colorado 3; Kansas 2.
PRESEASON POLL: Breaking down the Top 25 rankings
2019 NCAA women's volleyball: Top opening-weekend matches
There are nine matches between ranked teams to open the weekend, including a double dip of No. 6 Illinois vs. No. 19 Tennessee. The teams battle in Knoxville before heading to Champaign.
On Friday, Wisconsin and National Player of the Year candidate Dana Rettke meet Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Badgers are the preseason Big Ten favorite and have to travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face the Seminoles. FSU is led by senior Payton Caffrey and junior Taryn Knuth.
But it's possible no match will bring the noise like the Nebraska-Creighton showdown on at 8 p.m. ET Friday.
Just look at the crowd from the Nebraska scrimmage.
Practice.— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) August 24, 2019
We talkin’ about practice. pic.twitter.com/LFMrDZs0Ok
Here's a viewer's guide to keep you busy all weekend long:
Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 (all times EST) | Scoreboard
- No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 23 Cal Poly | 12 p.m. | Salt Lake City, Utah
- No. 5 Wisconsin vs. Florida State | 3:30 p.m. | Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- No. 20 Baylor vs. UCLA | 5:30 p.m. | Lincoln, Nebraska
- No. 10 Florida at No. 25 Louisville | 7 p.m. | Louisville, Kentucky
- No. 1 Stanford at College of Charleston | 7 p.m. | Charleston, South Carolina
- No. 12 Pitt vs. Cincinnati | 7 p.m. | Pittsburgh
- No. 18 Creighton at No. 2 Nebraska | 8 p.m. | Lincoln, Nebraska
- No. 6 Illinois at No. 19 Tennessee | 8 p.m. | Knoxville, Tennessee
- Northern Iowa at No. 4 Texas | 8 p.m. | Austin, Texas
- St. John's at No. 13 Washington | 10:45 p.m. | Honolulu
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
- No. 22 Washington State vs. Iowa | 10 a.m. | Harrisonburg, Virginia
- No. 1 Stanford vs. Duke | 4:30 p.m. | Charleston, South Carolina
- No. 10 Florida vs. Dayton | 4:30 p.m. | Louisville, Kentucky
- No. 5 Wisconsin at North Carolina | 5:30 p.m. | Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- No. 18 Creighton vs. No. 20 Baylor | 5:30 p.m. | Lincoln, Nebraska
- No. 12 Pitt vs. South Carolina | 7 p.m. | Pittsburgh
- UCLA at No. 2 Nebraska | 8 p.m. | Lincoln, Nebraska
- No. 9 BYU vs. No. 16 Marquette | 9 p.m. | Provo, Utah
- No. 13 Washington vs. No. 21 San Diego | 10:45 p.m. | Honolulu
Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019
- No. 14 Southern California at No. 4 Texas | 2 p.m. | Austin, Texas
- No. 6 Illinois vs. No. 19 Tennessee | 2 p.m. | Champaign, Illinois
- No. 13 Washington at Hawaii | 11 p.m. | Honolulu
Returning AVCA All-Americans
Here are all the returning players with their position designation from last year along with their current year.
|Kendall White||Penn State||L||Sr.|
|Brooke Botkin||Southern California||OH||Jr.|
|Jonni Parker||Penn State||RS||So.|
2018 NCAA women's volleyball season recap:
The preseason poll had Stanford and Nebraska Nos. 1 and 2, and though that was the order in the final poll, there was a lot of movement during the season.
BYU upset the top-ranked Cardinal on Friday, Aug. 31, giving Stanford what would be its only defeat all season. The Cougars' win allowed Minnesota to rise to No. 1, though the Gophers lasted at the top for only one week.
After that, BYU took over No. 1 — and remained there until it lost to Loyola Marymount on Nov. 20. Stanford then jumped to No. 1 going into the NCAA tournament. Thanks to its exciting 3-2 win against then-No. 6 Nebraska in the final, the Cardinal stayed in the top spot, while the Huskers moved up four spots to second.
Here's how the Top 25 looked (and moved) each week during the season:
2019 NCAA volleyball tournament: Schedule, bracket information
The selection show is set for Sunday, Dec. 1. Here's the full breakdown, including rounds.
- Selection Show: Sunday, Dec. 1
- First and Second Rounds: December 5-7 at campus sites
- Regionals: December 13-14 at campus sites
- Semifinals and National Championship: December 19 and 21 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.