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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | August 17, 2021

The top 7 storylines for the 2021 NCAA women's volleyball season

Top storylines ahead of the 2021 women's volleyball season

The 2021 DI women's volleyball season is right around the corner. The spring 2020-21 season that ended only a few months ago was certainly unique and made way for an interesting 2021 season. It will be one full of super seniors, transfers, more normal schedules — and a lot of unanswered questions. 

Here are my seven biggest storylines for the 2021 season: 

1. Can Texas come out on top this season after falling short just a few months ago?

The Longhorns have been successful over the past two years and with a really young team. They even made it as far as the national title match in the spring before falling to Kentucky. Head coach Jerritt Elliott told me that sometimes losing is the first step in learning how to win. Well this season, they return their entire core: Logan Eggleston, Skylar Fields, Brionne Butler, Asjia O'Neal and Jhenna Gabriel. They came in as No. 1 in the preseason AVCA poll and my preseason Power 10. So now the question is, can they win the title? 

2. Will this be the year of Dana Rettke? Could she be the 2021 National Player of the Year?

Dana Rettke returns to Wisconsin for her fifth go-round this season after leading the Badgers to the national semifinals the past two seasons. The 6-foot-8 super senior could lead this team back for the third straight season, and maybe get some awards along the way. Last year, if it weren't for Madison Lilley and her championship Kentucky team, I would say Rettke would have been in the running for National Player of the Year. She will have some big-time competitors for sure — Logan Eggleston could certainly be one of them — but I think you will be seeing a lot of Rettke's name this season. 

3. Can Stanford make a major comeback in 2021?

This is a big time question mark for this year. Last season, the Cardinal fell out of the top 25 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time ever after 39 consecutive appearances.

Before last season, the Cardinal won three of the previous four national championships, including back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. This was all with a legendary class consisting of Kathryn Plummer, Jenna Gray, Morgan Hentz and more. After losing that senior class, head coach Kevin Hambly was tasked with rebuilding his team in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, the Cardinal are typically a national volleyball powerhouse, but after a difficult 2-8 season, it will be super intriguing to see what kind of comeback they can put together. 

4. What will Baylor look like with the addition of Avery Skinner?

Avery Skinner was a huge part of Kentucky’s national title a few months ago. Baylor has Yossiana Pressley, an absolute phenom, but she desperately needs some support — AKA a Skinner-Pressley duo for this year? The addition put Baylor in my preseason Power 10 and the AVCA preseason top 10. 

5. How will Kentucky defend its national title this season?

The big question for Kentucky is how it will defend its national title after the loss of National Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player Madison Lilley, Avery Skinner and star libero Gabby Curry. Alli Stumler and Madi Skinner return along with an outstanding coach Craig Skinner (last season's National Coach of the Year), so I am excited to see what kind of season they put together following the historic title. 

6. Out-of-conference schedules are back!

This is one of my favorite storylines for this year. After a super weird 2020-21 season that saw in-conference schedules and so many cancellations, we will see the top teams in the nation facing off once again outside conference play. And let me tell ya, these teams loaded their out-of-conference schedules. How will that look this year with really great teams having more losses on the season? Last year, we didn't get see any crazy top-five matchups much at all. In fact, a team like Texas almost went undefeated within its conference. We already have so many to look forward to — we detailed them here.

7. What will come of the teams that went on big NCAA tournament runs last season?

There were a few teams that stunned us in the NCAA tournament last season. Which teams will step up this year? Pitt almost made it to the national semifinals, Western Kentucky pulled off an upset in the tourney and Ohio State had a breakout season. What will come of 2021? 

These are all huge questions marks, but soon to be played out. 

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