As I wrote another post about statistics lost due to graduating seniors, I came to the teams in the Northwest Conference. I started writing about my problems with the Northwest Conference instead of the purpose of the post so I thought it best to transfer my thoughts to this post.
“I dislike the Northwest Conference.”
OK, that was too strong and in no way accurate.
Maybe I need to back up a bit. In 2014 (yeah, I really backed up there, didn’t I?) the Northwest Conference sent two teams to the NCAA tournament and I’ve never forgiven them for it. You see the teams from the Northwest have a small problem in that they are from the northwest. I mean, it’s beautiful there, don’t get me wrong, but they are isolated from the rest of the DIII volleyball landscape. Anyway, because of this isolation problem, the Northwest Conference teams typically play one weekend prior to conference in their area and then travel to another state a second weekend. And then that’s it. They go directly to conference play and finish the year. They don’t even play a conference tournament.
So, now back to 2014. Pac Lu was a good team that got off to a great start beating Bethel, CMS and Trinity. They then spit the bit during conference play and found themselves tied with Whitworth. Now Whitworth really hadn’t beaten anyone other than teams from the Northwest Conference (splitting with Pac Lu). Well, Pac Lu had a good regional ranking due to their CMS and Trinity wins but lost the tiebreaker to Whitworth for the conference’s automatic NCAA bid. Pac Lu gets a Pool C bid and we have two Northwest teams in the tournament.
So, what’s my problem with all of that? I just wish the Northwest Conference teams could play a third weekend against quality teams and follow their conference play with a tournament. Heck, if I’m greedy, I’d love to see these teams travel again later in the season for additional quality matches. I can’t shake the feeling that one good weekend of volleyball at the start of the year when teams haven’t figured much out can automatically reserve an NCAA Pool C bid as was the case for the 2014 Pac Lu team.
Anyway, that’s my problem with the Northwest Conference. Since 2014, other west region teams have adjusted to this by traveling there in September (Trinity and UTD in 2015 and Southwestern in 2016 but no one in 2017!), which gives us more in-region head-to-head games to compare. In fairness to Whitworth, Pac Lu and PS, I do think they are trying to play better competition earlier in the year. In the end, however, once the third weekend in September comes, you’ll find the Northwest Conference teams in the northwest and we won’t see them again the rest of the year. This simply means after only two weekends of play I can reasonably tell you if a Northwest Conference team has a shot at a Pool C NCAA bid.
My final thought on this is that I am on the path to recovery as I really do like the programs in the Northwest Conference. I just need these 2014 PTSD nightmares to end.