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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | November 29, 2021

We predicted every match at the 2021 NCAA volleyball tournament, through the national championship

We predicted every match in the NCAA volleyball tournament, including the national champion

The 2021 DI women's volleyball tournament bracket has been unveiled, and we are back to a 64-team field this season after a 48-team 2020-21 tournament earlier in the year. So, we have our second volleyball tournament in the same year.

This has been an unbelievable 2021 season with so many super seniors and so many strong teams. But, I have filled out my bracket and made predictions for every single match, down to the national championship. There were many possible variations of this, but I had to stick with one. So without further ado, here is my 2021 tournament bracket, filled out: 

2021 DI women's volleyball bracket

Top left:

Top Left Bracket

Starting with the top left portion of the bracket, I have Louisville, Michigan, Miami, Florida, Ohio State, Tennessee, Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech making it out of the first round. Miami and Florida is a super interesting matchup in this portion of the bracket. Florida is a surprising top 16 seed in the tournament this year with eight losses. The Gators fell to No. 20 in the AVCA rankings in the latest edition, so I wasn't expecting them to host. Miami was a team in contention for a national seed. I thought about a possible Miami upset here, but I am going with Florida’s experience. They still have Thayer Hall, T’Ara Ceasar, and Lauren Forte — the same players that made it to the tournament last season and gave Wisconsin the fight of their life. They have one of the winningest coaches as well, so despite hot and cold spells this season, I am picking them over Miami. 

I don't think they will make it much farther, though, with the No. 1 Cards in the next round. Also in this portion of the bracket I have Ohio State taking on Tennessee and Western Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech. WKU vs. Georgia Tech could be a great matchup. The Hilltoppers made a run for it last year, they drastically outperformed their opponents this year, and they have Lauren Matthews — the nation's leader in hitting percentage. However, they haven't faced a tough schedule this season, and the Yellow Jackets have. Georgia Tech has losses to Pitt, Louisville and UCLA, and beat Pitt once. They have great players with Julia Bergmann and Mariana Brambilla as well, so I think they will pull it out. 

That brings us to an Ohio State-Georgia Tech matchup, and I predict the Buckeyes pull off the slight upset. Why? Because they are Big Ten tested. It was an easy choice though for the Cards to take down Ohio State and make it to the national semifinals.

MAKE YOUR PICKS: Check out the bracket and print it out

Bottom left: 

Bottom left

Moving on to the bottom left portion of the bracket. This one was tough ... there is Baylor, Stanford, Minnesota, UCLA and Wisconsin, among others. That is a talented group of teams, and teams that I think could win or lose facing one another depending on the night. Total toss ups. 

Washington State has pulled off some great upsets this year, but I don't think the Cougars will take down Baylor. I predicted Stanford and Minnesota to face in the second round which would be an incredible matchup. Caitie Baird and Kendall Kipp lead that offense and despite 10 losses, they have had some big-time wins this season. Minnesota did already beat them once though earlier in the year, and I think they will again in a tournament rematch. That brings us to Baylor vs. Minnesota which is even tougher. Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner DID beat Texas this season, and I think they are phenomenal. This match could 100% go either way, but I am betting on Samedy and that tough Big Ten schedule on preparing them for this moment. 

UCLA vs. Wisconsin is an interesting match with Mac May leading those Bruins this season. They too have had some big wins but just ended the season on a loss to USC. I don't think they have enough depth to get past the Badgers. So that brings us to Minnesota and Wisconsin. They've played twice this season, and Wisconsin came out victorious both times. In the last matchup, Wisconsin ALMOST lost in the fourth set and then pulled it out in five. They came up big when it mattered most. And although it is hard to beat a team twice let alone three times, I think Wisconsin will do it again. This Badger volleyball team can be close to unstoppable when they put all their pieces together. They will need Dana Rettke to be completely involved offensively, and Grace Loberg and Julia Orzol doing well at the pins, and aggressive serving to get the Gophers off of the net. 

Top right: 

Top right bracket

The top right portion of the bracket was not easy. For one, Pittsburgh and Penn State are in the same region. Penn State could have easily been a top-16 seed, and since the Nittany Lions didn't make the cut, they are likely traveling to Pitt due to location and the 400 mile rule for travel. But it is a tough break that Pitt will have to face a Big Ten powerhouse in the second round as the No. 3 seed. This matchup could go either way, but I think if Kayla Lund, Chinaza Ndee and Leketor Member-Meneh are all on their game, they will pull off the win. This team just seems to have some more depth than the Nittany Lions this year, who rely heavily on Jonni Parker. I then have Pitt facing the winner of Oregon and Creighton, and I think both of these teams will be a challenge, but one that the Panthers will overcome. 

This portion of the bracket also allows for a rematch between Utah and BYU. These are rival teams, with Kenzie Koerber leading the Cougars now instead of her former Utah team. They already faced once this season and BYU came out on top. BYU was an interesting case this season because the Cougars finished with just one loss on the season and received the No. 11 seed. Some might think they should be higher because of their record, and some might think they should be even lower because of their strength of schedule. But they will get a tough Utah team super early. I picked Utah here for the upset with Dani Drews in her last tournament run (she averages 5.24 kills per set), and a tougher Pac-12 schedule for them. They hypothetically advance past BYU, but then are knocked out by Purdue. 

A Pitt-Purdue matchup would be a great one, but I think the Boilermakers are one of the hottest teams in the NCAA right now, and they are currently playing really well. So I am going for the upset here, with Purdue advancing. 

Bottom left: 

Bottom right bracket

Lastly, the bottom left portion of the bracket, where the reigning national champs and runner ups will be looking for their way back to the title game. We won't see a rematch this year though, as only one of these two teams will make it out of the region and to the national semifinals in Columbus. In this portion, I predict that we will see a Kentucky vs. Nebraska matchup, which to me was a total coin flip. I flipped it back and fourth about 10 times before finally sticking with Nebraska. Kentucky is a great team with Alli Stumler and Madi Skinner who helped the Wildcats win a national championship in April of this year. Plus, they are on a pretty long streak of sweeping their opponents which is a good sign heading into the tournament. With Nebraska, you don't always know what you are going to get. They have a lot of young talent and they switch up their lineup a lot to see what works. But, I think they CAN beat this team if they have it all working. Lexi Sun has been back in the mix and performing well, and Whitney Lauenstein has been a great addition as of late. If they serve well and stay in-system when they can to get production out of the middle, I think they can move past Kentucky. 

Mississippi State is in the tournament for the first time ever. I picked the Bulldogs to make it to the second round but then fall to Washington. We DO have yet another Texas-Rice matchup in the tournament here, which seems to be an all-too familiar matchup. But, I think Texas will cruise to face Washington and then take them down to advance to the regional finals. 

A Nebraska-Texas matchup would be great, with some seriously large fan bases on both sides. But I am sticking with Texas. They are just too strong on all fronts, and have incredible depth and experience. These players have been here before and I think they will be able to overpower Nebraska by serving well and staying consistent. Logan Eggleston and Melanie Parra are two of the best servers in the NCAA. 

National Semifinals

So that leads me to my national semifinals, with Louisville facing Wisconsin and Texas facing Purdue. I am honestly pretty happy with picking these four teams for the top four, and I especially like the idea of a Louisville vs. Wisconsin matchup. This would be one for the books. Louisville has an incredibly strong block, as does Wisconsin. I would love to see Dana Rettke on the other side of the net from Anna Stevenson and Amaya Tillman. I think this where Louisville needs to prove themselves. They have been proving themselves as a national power all season long, and beat so many ranked teams that they earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament. But taking down a Wisconsin team that has players who have made it to the top four for the past two seasons is what Louisville will have to do. 

I clearly feel strongly about Wisconsin as a team, considering I picked them to win it all for the past two seasons (Just my luck if they win it the one year I don't pick them). I think they are incredible, but they do have some holes, especially after losing Danielle Hart to injury this season. When they put it all together, they are unstoppable, but they don't always do that. Louisville has been consistent all season, so I am picking consistency here. 

Then you've got Texas vs. Purdue, another great matchup. This Purdue team could be a challenge for Texas with their big block. In fact, Purdue has the second most blocks per set as a team in the nation. But again, Texas lost in the title game this past season and will have some added motivation from that. They return the most experienced roster with five returning All-Americans, and some of the best players in the nation. I think they make it to the title game to face Louisville and win it all. This is a dominant team and a team on a mission. One that I don't want to pick against. 

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