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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | December 12, 2019

The latest predictions for the 2019 DI women's volleyball championship's final 16

What you might've missed in the NCAA DI volleyball tournament and what's yet to come

The first and second rounds of the 2019 NCAA DI women's volleyball tournament are over and 16 teams begin regionals this week. We already predicted the the entire bracket before the tournament began. Of course, some things were right, some were not. It's a prediction! 

My final four teams from those predictions are all still around: Baylor, Wisconsin, Stanford and Texas. 

But now that we are narrowing things down, here is a prediction for the rest of the tournament, down to the national championship. 

Let's start with the Waco, Texas regional

These are the matchups:

In my previous prediction, Washington and Kentucky didn't make it this far, so this is a new choice. And, a really tough one. These two teams have been phenomenal in the tournament, and swept their way through the first and second round. 

In this case, I am going to favor the Wildcats duel-threat offense with Leah Edmond and Alli Stumler. Kara Bajema is an unbelievable pin hitter for the Huskies, but she is really vital for Washington's success, whereas the Wildcats have a few options. In all of Washington's losses in the regular season, Bajema had a lower hitting percentage than usual for her. That is not to say that she won't perform her best in the regionals or that Kentucky will be able to slow her down. But, if they are able to slow her down, I favor the Wildcats. 

Washington is a really good team when they are playing their best, but at times. they've been inconsistent. Plus, Kentucky's front line was really strong in its latest win in the second round over Michigan and outblocked the Wolverines at the net. So the Wildcats move on in this predicted bracket.

Next up, is Baylor vs Purdue. This one would be good too. Purdue pulled took down Marquette 3-1 in the second round. They were stellar defensively, holding the Golden Eagles to a .146 hitting percentage, and outblocking them 14-5. They will need that against the strong Yossiana Pressley-led Baylor offense. Caitlyn Newton led with 23 kills for Purdue in the second round, and I must say, this was a really good performance, and statement win for the Boilermakers.  

I wouldn't be surprised if Purdue gives Baylor all it can handle in this matchup. They could surprise us all. 

But, I am still going to predict that Baylor pulls it out, not easily, but a win nonetheless. The Bears have shown the ability to fight their way out of a deficit, as they did against USC. And, not a lot of teams have been able to slow down Pressley this year. 

That gives us a quarterfinal matchup of Baylor vs Kentucky on Saturday. This could be a really crazy matchup too, but, I stick with Baylor, who will have the home-court advantage and whole lot of will to win. The Bears have had a historical season, and want to make a huge statement this season. 

Next, the Stanford, California regional

In my first predictions, the results from Stanford's hosting site were correct. Utah did indeed pull off the upset over BYU, and now will face Stanford in the regional. What I didn't predict was the Cincinnati upset over Pittsburgh. Here are the matchups: 

Utah vs. (3) Stanford - Friday, Dec. 13 | 11 p.m. ET | ESPNU
Cincinnati vs. (11) Penn State - Friday, Dec. 13 | 8 p.m. ET | ESPN3

I remain solid on the prediction that Stanford will advance to the quarterfinals to face Penn State. I had a feeling Utah was capable of a lot this tournament, and they really were. They have played some awesome volleyball and pulled off a crazy upset. But, I don't think they'll make it past Stanford. Stanford has such a strong core that I see going a long way. 

Now we have a new matchup of Cincinnati and Penn State, since Cincinnati took down Pittsburgh in a thrilling five-set match. (Watch the final points in Cincinnati's win here) I think the Bearcats and Jordan Thompson have accomplished something really awesome here, and are a great team, but I don't predict them getting past Penn State. I didn't originally think Pittsburgh would get past Penn State either. 

That leaves us with a Stanford vs Penn State quarterfinal. In this one, I think Penn State will put up a really good fight, but that the Cardinal senior class of Kathryn Plummer, Audriana Fitzmorris, Morgan Hentz and Jenna Gray will pull off one last win in front of their home crowd. 


Moving on to the Austin, Texas regional

Here are the matchups in this regional: 

Louisville vs. (2) Texas - Friday, Dec. 13 | 4 p.m. ET | ESPNU
(10) Florida vs. (7) Minnesota -Friday, Dec. 13 | 6:30 p.m. ET | ESPN3

Let's start with the Florida-Minnesota matchup. Thayer Hall, Florida's leading scorer, was out of the lineup for the first and second rounds. It is unknown if she will return for the regionals. So that will determine a lot in this matchup. But going off of their performances in the first two rounds and what I have seen this season, I am going to pick Minnesota to move on to the quarterfinals. I think the Gophers could present more offensive threats to overcome the Gators in a tight matchup.

For the Louisville, Texas matchup, I predict Texas to move on. Being in Texas on their home court is a huge advantage for the Longhorns. Gregory Gymnasium is one of the loudest stadiums and Texas fans have already put on display how much they will get behind their team in this tournament to push the momentum. Texas coming from behind against UCSB is a prime example of that. So in this case, especially if the Longhorns start striking early on, I think they will win it. 

That makes the quarterfinals matchup Minnesota vs Texas, the same as my original bracket prediction, and I still remain in choosing Texas to move on to the semifinals. Again, home-court advantage, and an unstoppable offense when they get rolling. 

Lastly, the Madison, Wisconsin regional

The fourth seed Wisconsin will host these matchups: 

(13) Texas A&M vs. (4) Wisconsin - Friday, Dec. 13 | 2 p.m. ET | ESPNU
Hawai'i vs. (5) Nebraska - Friday, Dec. 13 | 4:30 p.m. ET | ESPN3

Hawai'i and Nebraska is going to be a really great matchup. I can see this one going to five sets and maybe even down to the last point. These are both teams who thrive at home, but they will be playing at a neutral site, although Hawai'i is a lot farther from home than Nebraska is. This one was hard to choose, and I am not totally sold on either choice. But, I am going to go with Nebraska, due to their experience in the postseason, and strong leadership in Lauren Stivrins. 

For the Texas A&M-Wisconsin matchup, I don't see the Aggies being able to pull off an upset over Wisconsin. Not with the season that the Badgers are having and on their home court. This Wisconsin team is just clicking so well, as they have been since the start of conference play this season. 

That leaves a third rematch between Nebraska and Wisconsin in the quarterfinal match: The same as my first prediction, and I am sticking with the result. Wisconsin moves on. As long as the Badgers are playing their best, I think they are much more well-rounded team, with threats coming from everywhere. 


The semi-finals

Baylor, Wisconsin, Stanford and Texas remain, and wow would these be unbelievable matches.

Texas vs Stanford would be so cool to watch. Who wouldn't want to see the combo of Kathryn Plummer and Audriana Fitzmorris vs. the combo of Micaya White and Logan Eggleston? Add some more star-studded freshman in there too. Stanford's Kendall Kipp and Texas' Skylar Fields. This would be awesome. In my first bracket prediction, I went with Texas for the win. But this time, I am changing my selection and going with Stanford. I changed this pick due to the fact that UCSB's Lindsey Ruddins put up 23 kills against Texas and gave them a really tough battle. UCSB took the lead on Texas, but then allowed an epic comeback. If that happened against Stanford, I don't think they'd allow the comeback. So, I am going with the Cardinal. 

Then there is Baylor vs Wisconsin. Another fun one where you would see Dana Rettke, one of the nation's best middle blockers, at the net against Yossiana Pressley, one of the nation's best outside hitters. Again, I think Wisconsin takes it. The Badgers just have much more depth than the Bears do, with a triple threat in Rettke, Molly Haggerty and Grace Loberg. 

The national championship

That leaves us with a championship matchup between Stanford and Wisconsin. I don't think it matters which team you're a fan of, this would be a good match with two star-studded offenses going head to head. 

I am going to stick with my original prediction all along, because why change it now right? Wisconsin wins it. The Badgers are the 2019 national champions. 

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