The first two rounds of the DI women's volleyball tournament are done. We’re down to the final 16 teams so it's time to take a quick breath before the games are back and re-rank those 16 teams left standing.
These new rankings are based on how the teams have played in the tournament so far and who has been the most impressive. These are right-now rankings. The regular season is long gone and we are talking tournament only. Let’s count down 16 to 1.
The Bears drop down to the 16th spot after narrowly escaping the upset against Pepperdine. The Waves were pretty dominant to take a 2-1 lead, and they almost won it all in the fourth. The Bears had to fight for every point and won the fourth set 27-25 to push a fifth. I was impressed with Lauren Harrison stepping up and reigning National Player of the Year Yossiana Pressley is always impressive. But it was still a close call when a lot of other teams dominated this round.
Washington is my 15th team based on its second-round game. They were pushed to five by Dayton and it was a tight match the entire time. I was definitely not expecting Washington to be in a five-setter in the second round. Freshman Madi Endlsey was a huge spark for the Huskies, and pushed them through.
The Cardinals won in four sets and escaped extreme pressure in the fourth set from San Diego to push a fifth. This is still a really good blocking team. But, these bottom three are the only seeded teams that didn't sweep their opponents in the second round.
13. Penn State
At No. 13 Penn State will keep its No. 13 seed. The Nittany Lions had a clean-sweep over North Carolina A&T — although they might have had a different match and maybe tougher competition if Rice didn’t have to rule its first-round game a no-contest due to Covid-19. So, I'm not going to move the Nittany Lions up a spot, but not going to move them down either. Kaitlin Hord and Serena Gray were extremely efficient offensively. Both hit above .700 on the match.
This is a team that flew under the radar a bit this season. But, they had a really strong outing over UCLA. The Bruins are not your average un-seeded team. They have one of the best hitters in the country in Mac May and they put up a fight. This one felt like a really tight match but BYU never wavered. They swept them, and move up for it.
11. Western Kentucky
Number 11 is Western Kentucky... on the upset train! I had a feeling the Hilltoppers could pull off the upset over Washington State. They could've been a top 16 seed, and they proved it. They advance to the first regional semifinals in program history. They were pretty dominant to start out the game, endured a Washington State comeback effort and then came out on top with again a dominating fifth set. The reason I have them above BYU is because I think they have more offensive weapons than the Cougars. They also displayed a lot of heart. Paige Briggs, Lauren Matthews and Nadia Dieudonne showed off their really impressive offense. Now they have 2-seed Kentucky.
They were unseeded, and now I think Pitt deserves the No. 10 spot. The Panthers had an absolutely dominating sweep over 14-seed Utah. There was not a split second where a Pitt fan was worried in that matchup. To me, an unseeded clean sweep like that should count for more than a high-seeded team that came out on the right side of a five-setter to an unseeded team in the second round.
The Ducks handled Notre Dame out of the ACC with ease. Morgan Lewis had a really impressive game 13 kills on .684 hitting efficiency with zero errors. I think nine is a good spot for the Ducks, playing Purdue next.
8. Ohio State
Teams six, seven and eight are pretty interchangeable for me. I have Ohio State at eight after they handled Missouri in three sets. Three players had double-digit kills in the win: Emily Londot, Rylee Rader and Gabby Gonzales. This team has a lot of talent but is still super young group which is why I have them behind Florida and Purdue.
Florida is at No. 7 after the Gators quickly ended Morehead State's run in three. Thayer Hall was showing it all out there, she has clearly been there before. She took some really big swings. Overall Florida looked really good in our first time seeing the Gators out of conference play.
Caitlin Newton was unstoppable in the three-set win over High Point. She notched 18 kills on .314 hitting efficiency. I like Purdue's chances of winning more because of the experience on the roster. All of these teams are going to be facing equally as good teams in the regional semis.
Now for No. 5 to No. 1. Same thing here, all of these teams can win. The matches were over in no time when Kentucky, Wisconsin, Texas and Minnesota all played tournament matches at the same time this week.
No. 5 is Minnesota. Julia Bergmann and the Yellowjackets were no problem at all for the Gophers. Pretty much everyone had a good match, Stephanie Samedy and Adanna Rollins notched 13 kills apiece and I thought Taylor Landfair looked extremely calm, cool and collected out there as a freshman. She is an important asset for them.
We got 11 kills apiece from the Skinner sisters, Avery and Madi, against UNLV. Alli Stumler notched 10 kills in the win and Madison Lilley had an outstanding 44 assists. They played like one of the top four teams in the country, and I like their chances of making to the national semis based on where they are in the bracket.
If this team has anything, I think it is firepower, across the board. Logan Eggleston was consistent as usual but Brionne Butler really shined in the match. She had eight kills on .889 hitting, an insane stat line, and she was a powerful force at the net. I really wish Nebraska and Texas were not on the same side of the bracket.
Nebraska swept Texas State pretty quickly as well. They hit really well in the match, Lauren Stivrins, Kayla Caffery and Madi Kubik all hit above .600. I like the leadership of Stivrins and Lexi Sun out there Kubik had a big-time outing, and they are close to home, an advantage in this tournament.
Wisconsin is still No. 1. There is no reason why the No. 1 seed should not still be the No. 1 seed. Wisconsin defeated Weber St. and I think didn't have to be at full force. Sydney HIlley spread it out across the board. Everyone on the team hammered a few down and they were good to go. No one had to over-exert themselves. Dana Rettke, Grace Loberg, Devyn Robinson, Danielle Hart and Molly Haggerty all had 7 to 9 kills a piece.