The first and second rounds are complete in the NCAA DI women's volleyball tournament. You know what means — we are headed to the regional semifinals. 64 teams to start and all the way down to 16, just like that.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE: Regional semifinals continue on Thursday
Out of the initial top 16 seeds, two have been eliminated. Kansas knocked off No. 14 Creighton and Illinois eliminated the reigning champs — No. 7 Kentucky. For the re-rank, I took each team's initial seeding and then took into consideration their first and second-round performances. I also took into consideration who they beat to get here. These are right now rankings — the regular season is long gone.
Here are the top 16 teams, re-ranked:
The Bruins came into the tournament as the No. 13 seed but they move down to No. 16 in my re-rank. They just barely escaped UCF in a five-set thriller in the second round. The Bruins trailed UCF 13-8 in the fourth set, down 2-1 in the match, when they strung together a 7-0 run as Mac May posted a few aces on a six-point service run. They ended up winning it in five sets behind 25 kills from May. In the first round, they secured a sweep over Fairfield but all three sets were won by just a matter of two swings. The Bruins haven’t looked their best yet in the tournament, but wins are wins and they are moving on.
Welcome to the top 16, Kansas. The Jayhawks pulled off not one but two huge upsets in the tournament with a first-round win over Oregon out of the Pac-12 and then a second-round win over the No. 14 Creighton Blue Jays. Caroline Bien was phenomenal again in the matchup as she led with 21 kills on .306 hitting and nine digs. The Jayhawks were 0-6 against ranked opponents in the regular season but that experience is paying off now in the tournament. The Blue Jays were playing without star hitter Jaela Zimmerman, so I don’t have Kansas too high, plus they match up with a fierce Pitt squad in the next round, but it has been an impressive tournament outing for them non matter how far they make it at this point.
Illinois enters the top 16 at No. 14 following its huge win over No. 7 Kentucky to knock the reigning national champions out of the tournament entirely. Raina Terry posted 27-kills with eight digs. Megan Cooney also posted 17 but that defense was unreal for the Illini as they combined for 71 digs as a team to keep ball after ball alive. They’ve got Nebraska next.
The Washington Huskies are the No. 15 seed in the tournament but I moved them up to No. 13 in my re-rank. Quite frankly, they could be No. 12 in my opinion. Florida and Washington were neck-and-neck for me, so I just went with who beat a stronger team, which in my opinion was Florida. But, the Huskies are looking really good as a team. They have two sweeps in the tournament over Brown and Hawai'i, which is already quite different than the comeback Huskies in the 2020-21 tournament that had four come-from-behind victories. This team though has to get past Texas in the regional semis.
Florida was a team I wasn't even so convinced should be a top 16 seed based on their regular-season resume, but I moved them up after seeing them in the tournament. The Gators took down Miami in a three-set sweep. This was a Miami team that just missed out on receiving a top 16 seed for the tournament. Victoria Sofia has been stepping up big-time offensively, she and Thayer Hall notched 13 kills apiece in the win. The Gators now will have to take on the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the next round.
I moved Purdue down to 11 following its extremely close call against Dayton in the second round. I picked this team to make it to the national semis, and I still think they have the potential to get there, but they had a really slow start against the Flyers before pulling it together. They looked totally off their game in the first two sets, down 2-0 on the match, but Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton charged the comeback from the Boilermakers with 17 and 19 kills, respectively, and Cleveland added seven blocks. Jena Otec ended the match with 27 digs to anchor the Boiler's backcourt. After the first two sets, Purdue absolutely dominated in the next three, taking down Dayton by scores of 25-15, 25-6 and 15-5.
Either way, the No. 6 seed shouldn't have been nearly that close in the second round, but here is some hope for Purdue fans. Last season, the Flyers almost took down Washington before the Huskies won it in five and eventually made it to the semis. Not saying history will repeat itself, but you never know.
The Cougars are up to No. 10 in my re-rank. The matchup against Utah was a classic. It was close the whole way, but the Cougars were able to pull it out in front of a huge home crowd, even without a high-scoring game from Kenzie Koerber. Erin Livingston and Taylen Ballard-Nixon got it done offensively and the Utes suffered from 26 errors and 8 service errors. I've got BYU ahead of Purdue — its next opponent in the tournament.
9. Ohio State
The next three spots felt really interchangeable for me with Nebraska, Minnesota and Ohio State. So, I ranked based on their wins in the second round, and the Buckeyes were the only team out of the three to drop a set. They took down a good Tennessee team though in four sets. Gabby Gonzales, Emily Londot and Rylee Rader were a triple threat in the win, all posting double-digit kills offensively. OSU will face Georgia Tech in the regional semifinals.
The Huskers have also been looking really strong in the tournament so far. Aside from Madi Kubik, Lauren Stivrins and Kayla Caffey, it is always a surprise who else might step up each game. It could be Lexi Sun, or one of the three regularly contributing offensive freshmen options. But, whoever it is, it has been working. The Huskers secured a sweep over Florida State in the second round, and it was Kubik, Stivrins, Caffey and this time... Ally Batenhorst. Next up: Illinois.
The Gophers got the slight edge at No. 7 because of their second-round win. I considered Stanford to be a slightly tougher opponent, and they were no problem at all for Minnesota. We all know about the dominance of Stephanie Samedy, but she has had some big help lately, and it is making the team so much better. Samedy, Jenna Wenaas and Airi Miyabe seem to have gotten into a groove, and consistency is really key in the tournament.
6. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech comes in at No. 6 in this re-rank. I thought their matchup with Western Kentucky would be an offensive slugfest, but no problem for the Yellow Jackets. I am SO impressed by this team. Julia Bergmann and Mariana Brambilla are a scary duo, and they’ve got Ohio State next. If they make it past the Buckeyes, it will be the first time in program history Georgia Tech makes it to the regional finals.
Baylor stays put at No. 5 as Washington State was no issue at all for the Bears. Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner combined for 33 kills, 11 digs, three blocks and one service ace in Friday's 3-0 sweep. Those two are so great together and so much fun to watch. Baylor vs. Minnesota in the next round though, you won’t want to miss that one.
Pitt and Wisconsin are interchangeable right now, but I've got Pitt at No. 4 after their four-set win over Penn State. They had one of the toughest second-round matchups out of any seeded team and they made it out alive. With Kayla Lund back, they look tough to beat. She tied season highs of 21 kills and four blocks while hitting .421 and earned her seventh double-double of the season by adding 10 digs for the Panthers. Leketor Member-Meneh notched 19 kills on .239 hitting while completing her ninth double-double, adding a team-best 14 digs. On top of those two, you also have Serena Gray and Chinaza Ndee which was just too much depth for Penn State to handle. The Panthers will face Kansas in the regional semis.
The Badgers stay at No. 3 for me after they posted two easy sweeps in the first and second round. Grace Loberg and Julia Orzol looked impressive at the pins, just what they needed on top of Dana Rettke's dominance out of the middle. As a team, Wisconsin hit a season-best .455 while holding FGCU to .184. That is a good sign for Wisconsin's offense to be clicking at the right time.
For No. 1 and 2, Texas and Louisville are one in the same to me, right now. But, I've got Louisville at No. 2. Ball State pushed them in the first set of their second-round matchup but the Cards took care of the rest in a sweep. Texas and Louisville to me are the two most balanced teams in the nation in terms of offense, defense, blocking, and serving. Either of them could win the title.
As I said, Louisville and Texas are interchangeable. But, I picked Texas to win it all so I gotta stick to something here. The Longhorns have a complete team with Logan Eggleston and Skylar Fields playing at an incredibly high level, Brionne Butler, and more. Texas has two sweeps as well and a win over a good Rice team in the second round. They hit a season-high .490 in the win. That looks like the No. 1 team in the tournament to me.