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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | April 14, 2021

The 2020-21 DI women's college volleyball bracket, predicted

The 2020-21 NCAA volleyball bracket, predicted

The DI women's volleyball tournament is here. So the time has come to fill out my entire bracket for the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament — all the way down the national champion.

This year was even more difficult than usual. I want to make four brackets because that's how many if not more variations of a final four I think could happen. This season was very unique due to in-conference play and COVID-19 cancellations. That left us with not a ton to go off of. But we’re going to make some predictions anyway, no matter how long I had to stare at that paper!

Here is my filled out bracket:

Let’s start with my top left side of the bracket: 

Top Left Bracket

In the first round I have Bowling Green, UCLA, Missouri and Creighton making it out of the first round alive. I think the Bruins will have an easy time getting to the second round with so much more experience and depth, and then I have them beating 16-seed BYU in the second round. This is a Bruins team that could have been seeded. But unfortunately I think Mac May and the Bruins' run will end when they face Wisconsin in the regional semifinals. 

I am picking the Buckeyes to make it past Missouri pretty easily considering they have beaten some of the top teams in the country. And in a Creighton vs. Florida 2019 tournament rematch, I think the Gators come out victorious again. Creighton has been having a bit of an off year. That brings me to a Florida-Ohio State matchup. A 9-seed vs an 8-seed, and a total toss up. Emily Londot has been turning heads all season long for the Buckeyes, but I lean experience here. I am taking Florida, the combo of Thayer Hall, T’Ara Ceasar and Holly Carlton. A good back court defense, and just more experienced players on the court than Ohio State. 

That brings us to the regional finals, Wisconsin vs. Florida. And I am going with the No. 1 team in the country. I think they will be too much to handle for the Gators, a team who hasn't had the luxury of facing a large quantity of ranked teams this season. 

Moving on to the bottom left:

Bottom left

I have Texas State, Pepperdine, Rice and Samford making it to the second round. Then I have Texas State quickly eliminated after by Nebraska and Samford taken down by 4-seed Texas. I did go for two upsets in this quadrant with Pepperdine shocking Baylor and Rice taking down Penn State. 

Pepperdine already faced the Bears this season and lost in a five-set heart-breaker. They know what they will be facing, they will be able to prepare, and they were so close already. The Bears have one of the best players in the country in Yossiana Pressley, but they have been on and off this season and unable to secure really big wins. The Bears were upset by Texas State at the end of the season and have four losses to Texas. 

I went for the Rice-Penn State upset as well. The Nittany Lions have some really talented players but have also struggled a bit this year and had cancellations for their last four matchups. That is a long down period before the start of the tournament. Rice on the other hand is a team with a lot of energy. The Owls recently pulled off a big upset over Texas and they have experience in the tournament. 

That brings us to Nebraska vs. Pepperdine in which I have the Huskers winning with ease, and a rematch of Texas-Rice. How fun is that? This time, I have Texas overpowering them. It is difficult to beat a good team like Texas twice. The Longhorns move on to face Nebraska in the Regional Finals. And man was this a hard one. 

At Texas you have Logan Eggleston, Brionne Butler, Skylar Fields and Asjia O'Neal. These are all really powerful players and they are definitely on a mission to avenge their upset in the 2019 tournament. But then at Nebraska ... we are talking Lexi Sun, Lauren Stivrins and Nicklin Hames. I wouldn't be surprised at either outcome to be honest. I am picking Nebraska for the win though, simply because they will have somewhat of a home-court advantage. 

Now onto the right side of the bracket. Full disclosure, this side caused me much more heartache filling out. 

The top right quadrant: 

Top right bracket

I have Georgia tech, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Dayton advancing. However I have them all losing in the second round to the seeded teams. In a Minnesota-Utah matchup, I predict that the Gophers' balance across the board will be too many points on the board for Dani Drews to compete with. Then, I have Washington taking down 11-seed Louisville, having faced and been successful against much tougher opponents this season.

This leaves me at Minnesota vs. Washington in the Regional Finals. Another toss up. Just had to make an educated guess. I wanted to pick Washington here. I like the combo of Samantha Drechsel, Claire Hoffman and Madi Endsley with Ella May Powell setting them up. And I absolutely think this is a national semifinal caliber team. But Minnesota and a lot of its players have made it there before. And I think if you catch Stephanie Samedy on a good day, she can put up 20-plus kills and they can beat anyone. I also think freshman hitter Taylor Landfair will step up to the occasion. Regan Pittman is a seasoned vet leading the group. I am going Gophers. 

Now for the bottom right, the hardest one of them all for me:

Bottom right bracket

UCF, Notre Dame, Western Kentucky and UNLV make it to face a seeded team. Then Purdue knocks out UCF, Oregon takes down Notre Dame, though it could be a good one, and Kentucky takes down UNLV. I do have Western Kentucky upsetting 15-seed Washington State in the second round. They have skilled players with experience and I think WKU can do it. 

Now, in the regional semis we have Purdue vs. Oregon and a home-state battle between Western Kentucky and Kentucky. I picked Kentucky to take down WKU, but this is where I got stuck. I think Oregon, Purdue or Kentucky could make it to the national semifinals. When Oregon is on its game the Ducks can beat anyone. Purdue has loads of experience in a tough conference and veteran players. And Kentucky, a No. 2 seed with one of the best setters in the country, looking to make history. 

A choice had to be made. I have Purdue advancing to face the Wildcats and the Wildcats advancing to the national semis. Excited to see who really makes it out of this region. 

National semifinals: 

National semifinals volleyball

So my semifinal picks are Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Kentucky. I am picking Wisconsin to make it back to the national championship game. The Badgers were and are the team to beat this season. They’ve been there before, and they honestly might be even better this season than last. Then I have Minnesota taking down Kentucky in another case of me leaning on experience. 

Did I want a rematch of Minnesota and Wisconsin from this season in the title game? Not necessarily, but the Gophers are one of the few seeded teams to have faced the Badgers this year. That could make it a very close, fun game. But, I picked Wisconsin to win it all. The team to beat, never beaten. A fairytale ending for Dana Rettke and team, making it back, and changing the outcome. 

Here is my full bracket filled out for the 2020-21 women's volleyball tournament: 

Full womens volleyball bracket

This is going to be a very tough year for accurate predictions, I’d say. We have a lot of good teams, and it will be super exciting to finally see what they are all made of once they get to the tournament and face teams out of conference. Fill out those brackets and get ready for the tournament, coming soon. 

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