Here is the 2017 Conference Tournament preview. I will update information as it becomes available or (and I’m sure this will happen) if you let me know where I messed up. Statistics/records were valid through October 30th.
The ASC plays a unique double elimination format that gives a bye to the #1 seeds from each division. The Tournament starts on Thursday and runs through Saturday and is hosted by UTD. UTD earned this right by winning the East Division as the ASC rotates the hosting site every year between the divisions. The first match will be UTT against Hardin-Simmons at noon central followed by Concordia versus ETBU at 2:30 p.m. UMHB and UTD will then play the winners later that day. UTT was 2-0 against Hardin-Simmons on the year while Concordia swept ETBU in their only meeting.
East #1 University of Texas at Dallas Comets (21-9 and 13-3 ASC)
UT-Dallas leads the conference in Assists per Set and Total Kills and are in the top half of the other major statistics. They are second in Blocks per Set, Kills per Set and Opposition Hitting Percentage. They are nationally feared on defense but that element of their game has dropped off a little this year to past standards.
UTD runs a 6-2 offense behind setters Caroline Shecterle (1-Time PotW) and Miranda Mendez. Emma Wallbrown (2-Time PotW), second in the conference in Hitting Percentage, has really stepped up this year and is a real force at the net. Other players to watch are Lauren Schilling (3-Time PotW and third in the conference in Blocks per Set), Sydney Riordan and Alana Geymer. Briana Tully (2-Time PotW) leads the team in digs.
UTD had to overcome two serious injuries this offseason to starters that would have decimated most teams. The fact that they are the East #1 seed is simply amazing and a credit to their players and coaching staff. UTD has a bye in the first round and will play the winner of Concordia and ETBU.
Unsung Player(s): Briana Tully (2-Time PotW) and Kristyn Schott (1-Time PotW) don’t seem like the players that should be listed here but both missed playing time (Schott a month) but are now back and just make this Comet team that much tougher.
UTD has won the last two ASC tournaments and four in its history. This is their 14th straight appearance in the tournament.
Signature Wins: Birmingham Southern, UW-Eau Claire and UT-Tyler.
Awards: Emma Wallbrown (East MVP and All Conference), Lauren Schilling (All Conference), Caroline Shecterle (All Conference), Sydney Riordan (2nd Team), Alana Geymer (Freshman of the Year) and Alex Nolan (Newcomer of the Year).
East #2 University of Texas at Tyler Patriots (22-6 and 12-4 ASC)
UT-Tyler, along with UMHB, is probably the best offensive team in the conference. Although they don’t lead any of the statistics they are second in Aces per Set, Assists per Set and Hitting Percentage. For me personally, this is one of the teams I most enjoy watching because you’ll see some spectacular kills in the Patriot matches.
UTT has run a 6-2 for most of the season but have transitioned to a 5-1 with setter Reighanna Guzman about two weeks ago. It appears that the other setter has been removed from the roster after playing all year so expect a 6-1 going forward. UTT is led on offense by Brianna Bellehumeur (2-Time PotW) as she is fourth in the conference in Total Attacks. UTT also has Brianna Brown (2-Time PotW) and Samantha Lee. Lee is third in conference in Hitting Percentage and is an outstanding blocker. Makenna Bartlett (1-Time PotW) leads the team in digs and is very important in the serve receive.
UTT split with UTD on the season and dropped their only match to UMHB. They took UTD down to the last day of matches before having to settle for 2nd place. They will draw Hardin-Simmons in the first match and will be in the UMHB side of the bracket. A finals appearance is probably needed to have a hope at an at-large NCAA bid.
Unsung Player: Kaitlyn Budisalovich really got a chance to play in October and has put in some outstanding matches. She just needs to keep putting the ball down like she has while trying to reduce a few of her attack errors.
This will be UTT’s 5th straight appearance in the ASC tournament but they have yet to win a title. They are one of three teams that I see that have a realistic chance at the title.
Signature Wins: Susquehanna, Birmingham-Southern and UT-Dallas.
Awards: Brieanne Brown (All Conference), Samantha Lee (2nd Team), Makenna Bartlett (2nd Team), Reighanna Guzman (2nd Team), Blair Dressendorfer (Newcomer of the Year) and Coaching Staff of the Year.
East #3 East Texas Baptist University Tigers (12-17 and 8-8 ASC)
East Texas Baptist University is probably best described as a really good defensive unit that can generate a lot of attacks but hasn’t been able to put the ball down consistently. They are second in the conference in Digs per Set and Total Digs and first in Total Attacks and Attacks Per Set.
ETBU will run a 6-2 offense behind setters Elyse Shaw and Meredith Augsburger. Paige Miller (1-Time PotW) is the hitter to fear as the setters like to go to her often. Miller is second in the conference in Total Attacks. Other hitters to watch are Allison Sevening, Bailey Byas and Abby Weaver (1-Time PotW). Miller actually leads the team in digs followed by Karina Lay (1-Time PotW). The key to the Tigers’ success will be their hitting percentage and seeing if they can go over the .200 mark in matches. If they do that combined with their defense and they could surprise a team or two.
ETBU was able to finish .500 in conference this year that was good enough for 3rd place in the East Division. Their victory over UTD earlier in the year shows they are able to match the top teams in the conference.
Unsung Player: Natalie Coburn is one of the best on the team in hitting percentage. If she can continue that and get a few more sets then it might help the team in their attack.
This is ETBU’s 6th straight appearance in the ASC Tournament. They have won the ASC 3-times but not since 2003. They do lead the conference in total appearances as this will be their 16th.
Signature Win: UT-Dallas.
Awards: Paige Miller (2nd Team) and Elyse Shaw (2nd Team).
West #1 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (25-3 and 15-1 ASC)
There is a lot of good to say about the Crusaders but that comes with a 15-1 conference record. The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor led the conference in Blocks per Set, Hitting Percentage (8th nationally), Kills per Set (13th nationally) and Opposing Team Hitting Percentage. They are next to last in Digs per Set but that is more a function of a team that is so efficient in putting the ball down that long rallies are a rarity.
UMHB runs a 5-1 system behind setter Natasha Evans (a really good hitter in her own right). Evans is one half of the “Evans Sisters” and won the Player of the Week honors 3-times this season and leads the conference in Assists per Set. On the offense, UMHB has Corinne Novak, Miranda Klein (1-Time PotW), Sarah Paolini (1-Time PotW), Madison Welch and Maddie Frerich (1-Time PotW) and they play most of the time. Welch leads the conference in Aces per Set with Frerich and Paolini leaders in Blocks per Set. Frerich is 8th in the nation in that category. Paolini and Frerich are also leaders in Hitting Percentage with Klein leading in Kills per Set and second in Points per Set. On defense, the second half of the “Evans Sisters” is Haleigh who has won the Player of the Week award 4-Times (!) and leads the team in digs.
UMHB was able to pretty much roll through conference in order to obtain the West #1 seed. The only negative with the Crusaders is their weak non-conference schedule, but they’ve won the matches in front of them and that’s all you can ask of your players.
Unsung Player: The Bench. UMHB typically plays a small rotation and often will go through entire matches with just 7 players. It’s tough to stay healthy in these double-elimination tournaments and hopefully the NCAA tournament. Will someone be asked to step in and perform? They need to be ready.
This is UMHB’s 7th straight appearance in the ASC Tournament. They last won the tournament in 2014 and have won twice overall.
Signature Wins: Susquehanna, Birmingham-Southern, UT-Dallas and UT-Tyler.
Awards: Natasha Evans (West MVP and All Conference), Miranda Klein (All Conference), Corinne Novak (All Conference), Sarah Paolini (All Conference), Maddie Frerich (2nd Team), Corinne Novak (Freshman of the Year) and Coaching Staff of the Year.
West #2 Concordia University Tornados (15-12 and 10-6 ASC)
Concordia University has been able to have some success this season without being dominate in any one statistic. With that said, they are second in the conference in Total Attacks per Set.
Concordia has been running a 5-1 system behind setter Georgia Quiroz (3rd in the conference in Assists per Set) but setter Lianne VanDyke can also make an appearance at times. The Tornados offense has Marissa Stinson (1-Time PotW), Kelly Farina, Carly Custer and Marjani Myles. Farina and Custer are second and third in conference in Attacks per Set and Stinson is the team’s best blocker. Sydney Dudney (1-Time PotW) leads the team in digs.
The West Division was a little deeper than the East and there was also pesky McMurry (not eligible) lurking around so it’s a nice accomplishment to get the #2 seed. Concordia will draw ETBU in the first round and will be in the UTD side of the bracket. The Tornados were able to sweep ETBU in their only meeting this year.
Unsung Player: Samantha Mendez is sort of a wild card of late as she has been getting more court time of late. Could be a difference maker in the tournament.
Concordia missed the tournament last season but this is their 6th appearance overall and they won the ASC in once (in 1999).
Signature Win: None.
Awards: Marissa Stinson (All Conference), Carly Custer (2nd Team) and Kelly Farina (2nd Team).
West #3 Hardin-Simmons University Cowgirls (14-15 and 9-7 ASC)
Hardin-Simmons University was my preseason choice for the West Division so I share their disappointment but they have a chance to put things together and make a run at the title. The Cowgirls are a tough serving team (lead the conference in Aces per Set) and can play defense but they need to be more efficient in putting the ball down.
Hardin-Simmons is currently running a 5-1 system behind setter Ashley Pierce. They had been running a 6-2 until earlier in October but it appears an injury (or something else) has changed this up. Pierce is a smaller setter (but impressive) so running her across the front is not ideal but since that time the team is 6-2. The Cowgirls are led on offense by Grace Schulz and Allison Kuster. Schulz is first in the conference in Blocks per Set and Total Blocks and is 6th nationally in both categories. Other hitters to watch are Morgan Prince and Meagan Bauer. Leecia DePaula leads the team in digs.
The Cowgirls ended up with the West #3 seed holding off Howard Payne at the end. They will draw a tough UTT team and will be in the UMHB side of the bracket.
Unsung Player: Morgan Prince (as a setter) and this is where I’m going to find out how my HSU readers I have (I fear none). Is there no way to run a 5-2 with Pierce and Prince? Does losing Prince’s offense hurt too much? Good teams with smart coaches are going to attack the smaller block. I’ll shut-up now.
This will be Hardin-Simmons 13th straight appearance in the ASC tournament having won it 5 times.
Signature Win: UMHB.
Awards: Grace Schulz (All Conference), Morgan Prince (2nd Team) and Allison Kuster (2nd Team).
Double-elimination tournaments are tough to predict but here goes. UMHB is the best team in the tournament and I think it’s pretty clear. I think UTD and UTT are in the next tier and then the rest of the teams in a third tier. I just don’t see UTD losing at home against any team other than UMHB so they make it to the semi-finals. For UTT to have a chance, they need to win their match against HSU and then shock UMHB and then beat UTD in the semi-final match. I’m not sure they can do that so I’m going with a UMHB / UTD final. In the end, I think the home crowd and the unhealthy Comets being a little healthier will be enough. Give me UTD to sneak past UMHB.
The SCAC tournament begins Friday and concludes on Saturday with 6 teams qualifying. The tournament is being hosted by Schreiner University in Kerrville, which unfortunately didn’t qualify. This is a single elimination tournament with the top 2 seeds (Colorado College and Trinity University) earning byes.
TLU and Austin College will face off at 10:30 a.m. central followed by Southwestern and Centenary at 1:00 p.m. TLU swept the season series against Austin College winning 3-0 and 3-1. Southwestern also beat Centenary in their two matches, both ending in 3-0 victories. Centenary is making their first appearance in a SCAC Tournament since 2013, when all of the teams qualified automatically. It’s a great sign for their program to break into the top 6 of one of the toughest conferences in DIII volleyball this year.
#1 Seed Colorado College Tigers (29-1 and 14-0 SCAC)
Colorado College led the conference in Assists per Set (12th Nationally) and Hitting Percentage (5th Nationally) and have not been beat in DIII play this year. The Tigers also lead the conference in Opposing Team’s Hitting Percentage.
Colorado College wants to get the ball to setter Lizzy Counts (3-Time Player of the Week and AVCA DIII Player of the Week) and allow her to run a quick paced hitting game. Counts, who plays all 6 rotations, is not afraid to attack the ball when on the front row and sports a hitting percentage over .300. The Tigers are very balanced in their hitting with Haley Harris, Glenna Yancey, Aria Dudley (3-Time PotW and AVCA DIII PotW) and Jordan Mullen and that’s not to mention a few others that can step in when called upon and perform equally well. Anna Gurolnick leads the team in digs from the Libero position and to top it off Colorado College can also put up a strong block. There is a reason they are undefeated in DIII play this year. Oh, and did I mention that Dudley leads the conference in Hitting Percentage? Yikes!
I doubt Colorado College fears any team they may face but they had the most trouble with Southwestern University during the season. With the #1 seed, and assuming they make it to the finals, they will not have to face both Southwestern and Trinity on their path, which is a huge advantage and should leave them fresh.
Unsung Player: Haley Harris blew my mind last year in Regionals as I love a player that can fly. Not jump high mind you; I mean literally fly. If she can hit at or over .200 then I’m not sure anyone beats the Tigers.
Colorado College last won the SCAC Tournament in 2012, which was their 3rd win in a row at the time.
Signature Wins: Trinity (Twice), Southwestern (Twice), Calvin, Berry and Whittier.
Awards: Lizzy Counts (SCAC Player of the Year and 1st Team), Aria Dudley (SCAC 1st Team), Glenna Yancey (SCAC 2nd Team), Haley Harris (SCAC 2nd Team), Jordan Mullen (SCAC 2nd Team) and Rick Swan (SCAC Coach of the Year).
#2 Seed Trinity Tigers (26-6 and 11-3 SCAC)
Trinity University is just all around really good and while they do not lead the conference in any one statistic they place high in just about all of them. They sport the second highest hitting percentage in conference (17th nationally) and have an excellent serving game.
Trinity ran a 6-2 system most of the year with setters Katrina Lieberman and Amelia Roden but have recently transitioned to a 5-1 with Lieberman as the sole setter. Trinity is led by the hitting/defense of All-American Kirby Smith (1-Time PotW) and the passing/defense of Sarah Mullens (3-Time PotW). Other hitters to watch for are Maggi Linker, Avery Tuggle (1-Time PotW) and Madeline McKay. Trinity has done a great job this season in service receive and defends very well. Watch for Mullens in the serving game as she leads the conference in Aces per Set. Smith will get a lot of sets in the Tiger offense but you can’t sleep on Linker and McKay as they are two of the more efficient hitters in the conference.
Trinity draws the #2 seed based on a tiebreaker with Southwestern and will await the winner of the Southwestern / Centenary match. Most likely Trinity will need to find a way to beat Southwestern in the semi-finals (teams split during the season) before taking on, most likely, Colorado College. Colorado College has had Trinity’s number this season sweeping them both times they’ve played.
Unsung Player: Katrina Lieberman. I’m unsure of the reasons behind the switch but if Lieberman can play at the level of Counts (Colorado College) and Grimes (Southwestern) then add yet another problem for Tiger opponents.
Trinity is the defending champion and has won the SCAC Tournament 3 of the last 4 years. They have won the SCAC a record 18 times overall.
Signature Wins: Claremont Mudd-Scripps, UW-Whitewater, UMHB, UT-Dallas and Southwestern.
Awards: Kirby Smith (SCAC 1st Team), Sarah Mullens (SCAC 1st Team), Madeline McKay (SCAC 1st Team) and Avery Tuggle (Freshman of the Year).
#3 Seed Southwestern University Pirates (27-4 and 11-3 SCAC)
Southwestern University finished second in the conference in Aces per Set, Kills per Set and Opposing Team Hitting Percentage. The Pirates have really changed philosophy to be more attacking as in the past they were a consistent leader in the nation in defensive statistics (which are still really good). Those that read my blog regularly know that the last 7 DIII champions have all been in the Top 10 in Hitting Percentage so this change does make sense.
Southwestern runs a 5-1 system with setter Megan Grimes and along with Colorado College’s Lizzy Counts, they are the two best setters in the conference. Grimes may not get the publicity but is tied with Counts in Assist per Sets and actually attacks more from the front row. Grimes is also 6th nationally in Total Assists and has a Triple-Double this season. The team is led by Kate Mitchell (1-Time PotW) along with Jamison Duck, Piper Sisemore and Brittany Hohlt. Brandi Campos (3-Time PotW) leads the team (and the conference) in digs and is very strong in the service receive. Kate Mitchell also leads the conference in Points per Set and is a focal point on offense for the Pirates. Last year Duck turned it up a notch in the NCAA regionals and she’ll try to duplicate that effort this year. Duck is second in the conference in Total Aces and Sisemore is second in conference in Hitting Percentage and is the team’s best blocker.
Southwestern lost the tiebreaker to Trinity and draws the #3 seed. They will have to play an extra match against Centenary (2-0 on the season) and, if they win, will face off against Trinity (season split).
Unsung Player: Maya Clausen. Tough spot for a freshman OH but if Grimes gets Clausen hitting well against the top teams then it opens the offense up even more.
Southwestern last won the SCAC Tournament in 2015 and have 5 wins overall. They have been in the SCAC finals 4-years in a row.
Signature Wins: Trinity, UW-Whitewater and Chris Newport.
Awards: Kate Mitchell (SCAC 1st Team), Piper Sisemore (SCAC 1st Team), Brandi Campos (SCAC 2nd Team), Megan Grimes (SCAC 2nd Team) and Brandi Campos (Backrow Player of the Year).
#4 Seed Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs (16-15 and 8-6 SCAC)
Texas Lutheran University led the conference in Team Attacks per Set and when you couple that with their strong defensive play and middle of the pack Hitting Percentage you get the picture of a scrappy team. TLU is not only scrappy but they bring the emotion and they do a great job of keeping balls alive until they are able to put them down or force their opposition into an error.
TLU runs a 6-2 and have tried a number of setters but look to have settled on Kionasina Nu’u and Kelly Jurden. Their offense is led by Makenzie Griffin (1-Time PotW) who has the ability to dominate a match if left unchecked and is second in conference in Kills per Set. Other hitters to watch for are Cailey Young, Hannah Mikelonis and Bryten Mitchan and the defense is led by Jaci Chambers (2-Time PotW). I can’t say enough good things about Griffin who leads the conference in Kills per Set and Total Kills and is the player to stop if you want to hurt the Bulldogs.
TLU only lost to the top 3 teams and safely earned the #4 seed this season. They will have a tough match against Austin College (2-0 on the season) before playing Colorado College, if they win. TLU can be a tough team to play if they get on an emotional high.
Unsung Player: Kelsi Menn may not hurt you offensively but watch out for her blocking. With a strong defense behind her, Menn just makes it that much harder to put a ball down when she’s blocking well.
TLU has not won the SCAC Tournament.
Signature Win: UT-Tyler.
Awards: Makenzie Griffin (SCAC 1st Team) and Hannah Mikelonis (Freshman of the Year).
#5 Seed Austin College Kangaroos (24-12 and 6-8 SCAC)
Austin College has always been one of the better blocking teams not only in the conference but in the nation and that hasn’t changed this year. The ‘Roos lead the conference in Blocks per Set and are 2th nationally in Total Blocks. They are a good hitting team and have improved their defense.
Austin College primarily runs a 5-1 with Katie Ingle but she can also hit from the right side, if needed. Rebekah Bowden (2-Time PotW) is certainly a player to watch with both her hitting and blocking but the ‘Roos have a number of hitters that can put the ball down. Freshman Mayson Kennon actually leads the team in points and they also have Dani DeWitt and Kristen Massey. Bowden leads the conference in Blocks per Set (9th nationally) and is third in conference in Hitting Percentage. Add in Massey (2nd in conference in Total Blocks) with her blocking and the ‘Roos know how to put up a wall at the net. Tatiana Ferrari not only has the coolest name but she leads the team in digs.
Austin College has another 20 win season but was unable to beat any of the teams above them in the SCAC conference and earned the #5 seed. They draw TLU and lost both matches to them this year. They always say it’s tough to beat a team 3 times, but I also know that it’s usually said by the team that lost the first two. Still, this should be a competitive match and I can see it go either way.
Unsung Player: Brooke Harris is just one of the many fine young hitters that the ‘Roos have on the roster. If Harris can duplicate the kind of match she recently had against Southwestern (9 kills / .296 %) consistently then their offense is as strong as anyone’s.
Austin College has not won the SCAC tournament.
Signature Wins: La Verne and Scranton.
Awards: Rebekah Bowden (SCAC 2nd Team) and Katie Ingle (SCAC 2nd Team).
#6 Seed Centenary Ladies (15-18 and 4-10 SCAC)
Centenary College making the SCAC tournament is a victory that the program can build on for next year, but their chances of advancing are long. Centenary is tough in the serving game (3rd in conference) but for the most part finish in the middle to lower portion of the conference in the other statistics.
Centenary College runs a 6-2 offense behind Allison Lazewski and Brittany Risner. Desiree Frey leads the Ladies and may be the most valuable player to any team in the conference. She is second in the conference in Attacks per Set, first in Total Attacks and first in Total Kills. She is also second on the team in digs. Hailey Lawson is another player to watch for on the attack but especially in the service game as she is second in the conference in Aces per Set. Michaela Brantley hits out of the middle and is the team’s best blocker. Marissa Sandoval leads the team in digs.
Centenary College was able to sweep both Dallas and Schreiner to earn the #6 seed and a recent 5-set match with TLU may give the Southwestern team reason for pause. In the end, the Ladies will need to play a very strong match to have a chance to advance.
Unsung Player: Shannon Orlopp has had some very nice matches this season and having her duplicate that in the tournament will increase the hitting options for the setters.
Centenary has not won the SCAC tournament.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Desiree Frey (SCAC 2nd Team).
The TLU / Austin College match is tough to call but I will go with TLU and for Southwestern to easily take care of Centenary. Colorado College will be too much for TLU but the other semi-final is a tough one. I think Southwestern has been improving as the year has gone on and if they can continue to improve their service receive then they beat Trinity. If Trinity can serve tough and keep Grimes running then it will be a Tigers victory. Give me the Pirates with not much confidence. In the finals, although I think Southwestern can win the match, I have to go with the undefeated Colorado College. You don’t bet against someone until they show you they know how to lose.
The SCIAC tournament begins Thursday and concludes on Saturday and only consists of four teams. The top two seeds host their semi-final match with the highest winning seed then hosting the final.
La Verne will host Cal Lutheran at 9 p.m. central and was able to beat the Regals in both matches played this season. Now both matches took 5-sets so this should be another close one. CMS will be hosting Chapman at the same time and it was Chapman that gave CMS their only conference loss this season.
#1 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas (23-5 and 15-1 SCIAC)
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps pretty much dominated the SCIAC this season and the statistics show it as CMS leads virtually every category. Nationally they are 12th in Hitting Percentage but they really don’t have any weaknesses.
CMS will run a sister setting system with Clara and Phoebe Madsen in a 6-2.Offensively the Athenas are led by Margaux Arnston (1-Time SCIAC PotW). Arnston is second in the conference in Hitting Percentage and third in Kills per Set. Other hitters to watch for are Crystal Anderson, Shelbi Stein (1-Time PotW) and Melanie Moore. Second team All-American Mikena Werner leads the team in digs as well as the entire conference.
CMS should feel pretty comfortable going into the tournament and I think drawing Chapman is probably a good thing despite dropping a match to them this season. There will be no overlooking the Panthers.
Unsung Player: Regan Dinovitz is a freshman middle blocker that leads the team and conference in Blocks per Set. The first postseason can be tough on freshman but CMS doesn’t need anything more from Dinovitz to be successful.
Let me say I’m not too thrilled with the SCIAC website as it was hard finding past tournament information. It appears the tournament as been going on since 2009 and since that time CMS has one Tournament win (in 2015).
Signature Wins: Juniata, Brockport, UW-Eau Claire, UT-Dallas, Whittier, Pacific Lutheran and La Verne.
Awards: Margaux Arntson (Player of the Year), Melanie Moore (SCIAC 1st Team), Clara Madsen (SCIAC 1st Team), Mikena Werner (SCIAC 1st Team) and Shelbi Stein (SCIAC 2nd Team).
#2 University of La Verne Leopards (18-8 and 11-5 SCIAC)
The University of La Verne has mostly ups this season but there have also been a few downs. The biggest down, without question, was the diagnosis of Classic Hodgkins Lymphoma for Mireya Rojo at the beginning of October. (Here is her GoFundMe page, if you would like to help.) Mireya transferred to the La Verne this season and was getting to play with her older sister. Since the diagnosis, La Verne has stumbled going 6-6 but won their last match against Whittier to force the Poets out of the tournament.
La Verne runs a 6-2 system behind setters Madison Maynes and Natalie Barragan. Offensively, Marisa Rojo (1-Time PotW) is the player to stop as she leads the team in virtually all categories. Other hitters to watch are Delaney Lynch, Katelyn Winiecki and Kelsie Sievers. Winiecki is second in the conference in Blocks per Set. Kristen Sanchez is second in the conference in Digs per Set and first in Total Digs. I also don’t want to overlook the blocking aspect of this team as in addition to Winiecki, Balestreri and Sievers are very strong in this area.
The SCIAC was really deep this year and no match was easy. La Verne earned the 2nd seed by winning matches they needed when they needed them. The 5-set Cal Lutheran victory after a disappointing week and then ending with a 4-set win over Whittier were the two big examples. They draw Cal Lutheran after beating them twice this season but make no mistake it will be a tough one.
Unsung Player: Kiana Valdivieso seems to be the replacement for Mireya Rojo with mixed results. Finding that second OH would help stabilize the Leopards as they try to advance.
La Verne has not won the SCIAC tournament.
Signature Wins: UT-Dallas, UW-Eau Claire, Brockport, Springfield, Whittier and Babson.
Awards: Marisa Rojo (SCIAC 1st Team) and Kristen Sanchez (SCIAC 1st Team).
#3 California Lutheran University Regals (15-11 and 10-6 SCIAC)
California Lutheran University has had a down year by their standards but they came back strong in the second half of the conference season to earn a tournament berth. This is a team that may not do anything great except know how to win.
Cal Lutheran runs a 6-2 system behind setters Jamie Smith and Steph Rolfson after running a 5-1 earlier in the year. Smith actually leads the conference in Assists per Set despite splitting time. Offensively, it’s the three headed monster of Amanda Roberts, Hope Stewart and Molly Holloway (1-Time PotW) that lead the way. Roberts also leads the team in digs followed by Emma Cisneros-Luebke.
Cal Lutheran earned the #3 seed by having a strong second half and beating the teams under them. Not having that gotcha match served them well as they finished 7-2 in conference in the second half. They draw an away match against La Verne and their experience may lead them to an upset here.
Unsung Player: Paris Dosch is one of the most efficient hitters on the Regals but is only 5th in total attacks. Getting the second MB going will help all the entire team. Improved blocking is also needed for a team that often comes up second in this statistic during their matches.
Cal Lutheran has dominated the SCIAC tournament since it was started winning 5 times. They are the defending champions.
Signature Win: Whittier.
Awards: Hope Stewart (SCIAC 1st Team), Molly Holloway (SCIAC 2nd Team) and Amanda Roberts (SCIAC 2nd Team).
#4 Chapman University Panthers (16-10 and 10-6 SCIAC)
Chapman University can hit the ball really well as they finished second in the conference in Hitting Percentage and Kills per Set. It’s that type of offense that plays well at the end of the season and a reason they could upset CMS if the Athenas have an off night.
Chapman runs a 6-2 system, like it seems every team in the SCIAC does. Their setters are Jessica Blum and Kaitlyn Raymundo and they are tasked with running a pretty powerful offense. The hitters to watch for are Lauren Friend, Courtney Justus, Lindsey Johnson (1-Time SCIAC PotW) and Kylie Cooke (1-Time PotW). Friend led the conference in Hitting Percentage and is the team’s best blocker. Cooke missed some time during the year but is still one of the conference’s most efficient hitters. She really turned it up against La Verne and Pomona-Pitzer in 5-set victories in matches they had to have. Cheri Reymundo and Sam Utsugi lead the team in digs.
Chapman needed to win their final 4 matches and get some help just to make the SCIAC tournament but all the pieces fell into place. Their reward is a match against the #1 CMS team. On the plus side, Chapman was the only team to beat the Athenas this season.
Unsung Player: The backrow. Chapman has the offense to make trouble in this tournament but they need to overcome CMS and that battle will be won with their defense.
Chapman has never won the SCIAC tournament.
Signature Wins: Whittier, CMS and La Verne.
Awards: Lauren Friend (SCIAC 1st Team) and Kylie Cooke (SCIAC 2nd Team).
La Verne draws Cal Lutheran and is the better team playing at home but something tells me Cal Lutheran will sneak out the win to make the finals. In the other semi-final, I just think CMS is too good and too focused right now to lose to Chapman. A CMS / Cal Lutheran final isn’t anything new in the SCIAC and this time I see CMS winning easily.
I haven’t really focused on Mills College too much this season but there were able to secure their first win of the year. With that said, they are playing in the ACAA, which does not have an NCAA Pool A bid assigned to it. Still they are having their conference championship this week, too.