Continuing with my analysis of the 2018 schedules for some of the top West Region teams.
Colorado College has published their 2018 schedule, which I’ve always enjoyed because it always provides me a chuckle when I get to see the schools that have agreed to play at Reid Arena…because the Tigers just don’t lose there.
True to form, the Tigers will hunker down at home as long as possible which this upcoming season means 11 straight home matches to start the year. Not blaming the Tigers as they probably have the worst travel schedule in all of DIII volleyball. The upcoming addition to DIII of Johnson & Wales (Denver) will help (as will the new SCAC conference schedule) but with all of that the Tigers still make 5 out-of-state trips this season!
Week one of volleyball find the Tigers playing at home in the Colorado College Classic where they will beat play North Central College, ETBU and St. Thomas. North Central College did fine last year but lost a number of contributing seniors so they could struggle in 2018. ETBU has been a .500 team for the last two years but could be on the upswing this year. Despite that belief, I don’t see either of these teams taking a set from the Tigers. The third team that CC will play is St. Thomas, which should present a tougher challenge. The Tommies were upset in the MIAC finals last year and then lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Wartburg. It looks like they are going to get hit hard in graduation losses in blocking and attacking where Colorado College lost only two seniors.
The second week has the Tigers staying home hosting the Spike It Up Classic and will play George Fox, Pacific, Minnesota-Morris and Pacific Lutheran. It’s good that we get some cross pollination going with the Northwest Conference as it helps the West RAC when ranking time comes. Both Pacific and Pacific Lutheran (known lovingly throughout the universe as Pac Lu) will field very strong teams. I really think Pacific flew under the radar last year and I’m really interested in seeing their full schedule in 2018. They could be a sleeper for an NCAA Tournament bid this year. Pac Lu should be a Top 25 team this year and is the odds on favorite in the NWC. They need to replace their stellar setter but the rest of the team is pretty much intact. Oh, and Pac Lu’s incentive for this one? Well, Colorado College was the team that eliminated the Lutes in the 2017 NCAA tournament…barely…and yes I’m looking at you Jordan Mullen (25 kills hitting .442 and single-handily carried the Tigers in set 4). Minnesota-Morris was a bubble team last year that was left on the outside looking in and I think they can repeat their success in 2018. George Fox will probably be around a .500 team this year. Bottom line, Pac Lu probably has the only chance against the Tigers this weekend.
Week three and we stay in the Reid Arena for the Pikes Peak Challenge. The Tigers will play Covenant College, Christopher Newport and Johnson and Wales (Denver) in a non conference match. Covenant is an underrated team out of the South Region but will suffer mightily from graduation loss this year. Christopher Newport looks to be a good test as they always field a strong squad and look to be in pretty good shape going into the year. This will be the first year JWU (Denver) is in the SCAC as they transition to the DIII level and with losing most of their team, this match may take less time than the drive down from Denver.
With Colorado College playing in the SCAC, they will have two matches against perennial powers Trinity and Southwestern (one match at home, two away and one on a neutral court). They also make a trip out to Washington-St. Louis for their Invitational in early October and will play Wis.-Platteville, Augustana College, Wis.-Oshkosh and host team WUSTL. Oshkosh and WUSTL will be the tougher tests as I think they will both contend for Top 25 honors and WUSTL will be good enough to contend for the championship.
Overall, a nice home schedule to begin the year and being a mile high definitely doesn’t hurt while they host the first three tournaments. They play in one of the toughest conferences in DIII and have augmented that with matches against traditional national powers. The one drawback to the schedule is the absence of matches against the SCIAC but there is only so much you can do. Like the UT-Dallas schedule, this is another good one for a squad that should be at or near the top of the West RAC rankings come November.