No, Berry College has not moved to the West Region. Yes, I can talk about other regions if I want. It’s not like my blog title says something like “West Region – Blog”. Shut-up, no it doesn’t!
I’ve mentioned this in the past but I do have favorite teams outside of the West Region. My personal list goes something like – Southwestern, every other West Region team except for Trinity, Trinity and then my out-of-region favorites. My out-of-region favorites include schools like:
- Vassar – My daughter almost went there but then took pity on my bank account.
- Franklin & Marshall – Another school my daughter liked and I really liked their coach.
- New Rochelle – They just have a cool name.
- Mary Washington – Got to play them a couple of years back and I liked their parents.
Another out-of-region favorite is Berry College. Berry became a favorite of mine due to their epic NCAA snub in 2016 where they were bypassed for 20 rounds of at-large bid discussion. I did a case study last year that showed they definitely deserved a bid and it was this experience that bonded me to their program. If you are reader to this blog, you know that I sort of focus on NCAA selection and I always have this in the back of my mind (it’s a sickness, really). A lot of this comes from Southwestern’s NCAA snub in 2014 and the pain I felt for the program and selfishly the pain I personally felt (and still do). So, when I come across another school that experiences the same thing, my heart bleeds for the program. So, I love Berry College volleyball. I mean I was rowing last year (don’t worry if you didn’t understand that…it’s a Berry thing) as they recovered from the 2016 snub to win their conference and made a nice run in the tournament. With all of that said, they asked me to look at their schedule so here you go!
Week one and Berry heads to Transylvania (pretty funny if you do that it in your own personal Dracula voice). They start the season off with a match against Hope College that really had a down year for their program despite a 19-11 record. Normally this would be a great team to test your program against but Hope is losing 60% of their attacking players and their setter and a huge chunk of their defense. Hope is definitely one of those programs that can reload (instead of rebuild) each year but my crystal ball says they will struggle. Berry then draws Washington-St. Louis, who I think will be one of the very top teams in the nation in 2018. They finish the weekend off by playing the host school Transylvania. The Vampires Pioneers (come on…we can’t do better than the Pioneers!) are coming off a 20 win season and return pretty much their entire team. They will be handful and this really makes this opening week a tough one for Berry.
The second weekend has Berry going to Emory for a tournament which is never a smart decision if you want to chalk up wins. They draw West Region team Whitworth, which is obviously going to be a humiliating loss for the Berry Vikings. A tear has already formed and has started to drop down my cheek as I wonder if Berry can even score a single point in this match. Not to fear as things get easier as Berry draws Emory in the next match. (Remember, you asked me to look at your schedule!) Emory is going to be a beast again this year and, to be serious for a second, 5 matches into 2018 and Berry will have played two teams that I think could be playing for the national championship in November. (Uh, no, I don’t mean Whitworth.) To close out the weekend, Berry will draw Tufts University, which is another team that will be returning most everyone. Two weekends in and Berry may have one of the toughest schedules to begin the year in the nation.
The third week starts SAA conference play and I’ll let you in on a little secret; only Hendrix loses more than 40% of their attacking statistics to graduation. The rest of the conference should be better than 2017. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Berry also comes back strong in 2018. The Vikings have to replace a setter and some defense but offensively they look to be as strong if not stronger than last season. In between conference play, Berry will see Emory return their visit for a second match and then will go on the road to Covenant for another match. Covenant was a very underrated team last year that won their conference and gave Berry everything they could handle in the NCAA Tournament. They do suffer a lot of statistic loss this season so in theory Berry should have an easier time this year.
To finish the year, Berry heads up to Newport News to play Averett, host Christopher Newport and Virginia Wesleyan. Averett was a good team in 2017 but lose a bunch of offense to graduation. Christopher Newport is a perennial NCAA Tournament team and they return enough this year that this trend should continue. Virginia Wesleyan is another solid team from last year that could be a little worse in 2018 with their graduation losses. One thing that makes me chuckle here is that Chris Newport has Berry playing a back-to-back with Chris Newport being the fresh second opponent. This will also be on a Friday night in front of a pretty loud crowd. You are being setup Vikings…you have been warned.
In summary, Berry is probably not going to ask me to look at their schedule if their schedule isn’t pretty dang good. Berry does a nice job of playing the teams they need to play in the South while going out of region to play teams that should be in the NCAA Tournament this year. Their 2017 schedule resulted in a 0.601 Strength of Schedule (SOS) and with the SAA most likely getting stronger this should only improve. The South and West Regions share a logistics issue when it comes to NCAA selection time, which shouldn’t impact selection but every year these regions seem to get slighted at the expense of our Northeastern sisters. Schedules like this are the only way to combat this (dare I say) bias…well schedules and then performing on the court. Best of luck Vikings in 2018 (except against Whitworth)! #WeAllRow