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Greg Johnson, NCAA.com | November 15, 2021

Enhancements implemented for 2021 DI Women's Volleyball Championship

NCAA women's volleyball bracket predictions ahead of the selection show

The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee has approved significant changes to the Division I Women's Volleyball Championship. The following three changes will go into effect for the 2021 women's postseason: 

  • Student-athletes who are volleyball squad members but not designated as one of the 15 eligible participants will be able to practice with the team and occupy the sidelines with the other substitutes during NCAA tournament matches. Previously, these student-athletes had to sit in the stands.
  • There will be a day between the regional semifinals and finals. The 2021 regionals, to be held on the campuses of four participating teams, will feature the round of 16 matches Dec. 9 and the round of eight matches Dec. 11.
  • A new Taraflex floor will be used for NCAA women's and men's semifinal and championship matches. The surface, which is also used in elite international competitions, will have NCAA branding and debut Dec. 16 and 18 for the women's championship at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It then will be used May 5 and 7 at the 2022 NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. 

"The rest days between the four regional semifinals and finals were added to the Division I Women's Volleyball Championship to provide a more equitable experience throughout the course of the tournament," said Renee Baumgartner, chair of the Division I Competition Oversight Committee and director of athletics at Santa Clara. "Improving the student-athlete championship experience is a priority for our committee members and athletics administrators throughout the Association."

American Volleyball Coaches Association leaders, who meet annually with the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Committee, have requested these changes for several years. That committee was generally supportive of the changes but needed the approval of the Division I Competition Oversight Committee and the requisite funding for the changes to be implemented.

"The voice of student-athletes was heard loud and clear," said Sharon Clark, current AVCA president and Butler women's volleyball coach. "Their mental and physical well-being is a top priority and a direct link to their success on the court. This is just the beginning of greater investment in female athletes, and funding female athletes on their merit and analyzing data in decision-making is what women's volleyball deserves. The data clearly shows the upward trajectory of this dynamic game."

Women's volleyball is sponsored by 340 Division I schools (96%), and the average squad size has increased from 13.6 in 2001-02, when the bench size was last evaluated, to 16.7 in 2019-20. This rise is completely based on walk-on participation, as the 12-scholarship head count has not gone up since the NCAA started sponsoring the Division I Women's Volleyball Championship in 1981.

"Women's volleyball is an exciting sport with a high sponsorship rate in the membership, and the Division I championship has received more coverage from our broadcast partner, ESPN, in recent years," said Joni Comstock, NCAA senior vice president of championships. "The broadcast ratings and the in-venue attendance have continued to grow. The Division I Competition Oversight Committee recognized the importance of the rest day and allocated funds starting this fall with the 2021 championship."

Selections of the 64 teams for the 2021 Division I championship will be announced on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Sunday, Nov. 28. The top 16 teams will be seeded and given the first opportunity to host the opening rounds Dec. 2-5. In 2019, the last year with a full 64-team field, over 180,000 spectators attended championship matches, generating more than $3 million in ticket revenue.

Tickets will go on sale for first- and second-round matches immediately after the Nov. 28 bracket announcement, and regional tickets will be available once those locations are determined. A limited number of tickets are available for the 2021 semifinal and championship matches in Columbus, Ohio.

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