Update: Saturday at 8 pm
Illinois defeats #7 Kentucky! The tough Illini serve kept Kentucky from getting into rhythm; Illinois just looked too big and too strong for the Wildcats. No back-to-back champion this year.
Kansas stuns #14 Creighton! The Jayhawks advance to the Sweet 16 on Creighton’s home court.
2021 Tournament Overview
The 2021 NCAA tournament has started and we’ve got a full slate of matches today. First off, we’re watching for first round upsets. The results from the first day of the tournament went as expected. But there are many more matches today, and with the parity in women’s volleyball this season, anything can happen. All first and second round matches are broadcast on ESPN+. Here are the matches we are watching in the first two rounds.
Who’s Made the Regionals?
So far #1 Louisville, #2 Texas, #4 Wisconsin, #5 Baylor, #6 Purdue, #8 Georgia Tech, #9 Ohio State, #16 Florida, Kansas (who knocked off #14 Creighton) and Illinois (who toppled reigning champion Kentucky) have advanced to the Regional round.
Notable Second Round Matches
Just about every second round match-up is going to be close and exciting. Here’s a few to watch for upsets or to keep an eye on:
Illinois vs Kentucky
Illinois is a tough team to beat, so if Kentucky doesn’t come out on the top of their game they could get caught off-guard.
Pitt vs Penn State
An epic rematch of perennial powerhouse Penn State and #3 Pittsburgh. This one could go either way whenever these two teams play, but I think Pitt has the advantage this year, especially if Super Senior Kayla Lund is healthy after missing the last few matches of the season.
Georgia Tech vs Western Kentucky
You want offense? This is the match for you. The top hitting teams in the nation face off in what is positioned to be a slugfest. Serving will probably make the difference in this one, getting your opponent out of system will keep the bug arms at bay.
Minnesota vs Stanford
Stanford is loaded with talent, but so is Minnesota. I could see this match going either way, with the winner facing off against Baylor. Minnesota lost to Baylor back in August.
BYU vs Utah
The Cougars got the best of the Utes during the regular season, but can Super Senior Dani Drews pull an upset for Utah in the second round?
UCLA vs UCF
UCLA looked a little rough against Fairfield in the first round and UCF looked strong. We haven’t seen UCLA freshman phenom Charitie Luper in the tournament yet; last night Mac May carried the load in the Bruins win. This one might be an upset special.
Notable First Round Matches
Michigan vs Ball St
While not an upset according to the RPI rankings, many people expected to see more from Michigan. They just didn’t seem to find their flow against the Cardinals. Credit Ball State’s Marie Plitt. Michigan just didn’t have an answer for her match-high 20 kills.
Illinois vs West Virginia
West Virginia took the first set from the Illini, but Illinois took the next three for the win. Super Senior Megan Cooney continues her run with an Illinois team that has the power to surprise people. Their likely second round opponent is reigning champion Kentucky.
Florida Gulf Coast vs Texas Tech
A sneaky small school getting a win against a bigger name opponent. The Red Raiders had a balanced attack, but couldn’t stop Erin Shomaker. The 6’2″ junior outside hitter had 20 kills for the Eagles on 45 attempts. Junior middle blocker Aja Jones locked down the Raiders with 10 block assists.
Most folks are familiar with a sweep, in volleyball when you win 3 sets to zero. A reverse sweep happens when the match winning team loses the first two sets. After the first two sets, the set score will be 0-2. At the end of the match the winning team will have swept three sets in a row to win 3-2.
In the 2021 season, it seems like it happens a lot. Purdue completed the first reverse sweep of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament in their second round win against Dayton.
There are two rankings in NCAA Division I volleyball: the AVCA Coaches Poll and the NCAA Women’s Volleyball RPI. The RPI, which stands for rating percentage index, ranks a team’s wins and losses based on strength of schedule.