I continue with my preview/prediction posts for the week. There was an update to TLU in the SCAC preview from yesterday. Today we look at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
Here is my predicted order of finish:
- La Verne
- Cal Lutheran
Conference Tournament Champion: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
I’m sticking with CMS this year. Whittier is tempting and I was surprised that La Verne was bringing more back than I originally thought, but my reports on the Athenas are too good to move them out of the top spot. My biggest surprise during my research happened last night (after everything was already written). Chapman released their roster and moved from 5th up to 3rd in my predicted order of finish. I’m I overreacting? Read their blurb and let me know. We still have Cal Lutheran in this conference and I’m worried that I haven’t seen their full list of recruits, yet. Could they have some monster players coming in that changes the ordering? It wouldn’t surprise me but for now this is what I’ve got. To top that off, this is the conference that gave us the “Whittier factor” last year. Could that be Pomona-Pitzer this season? It appears the SCIAC is going to be really deep again this year, which pushed Oxy down my list a bit due to their big graduation losses. Redlands has a really young team and is probably another year away from making a run. Caltech pulled a nice player out of my area but this is a tough conference.
I’m still counting on making it out to Claremont for the first weekend of matches. I’ll be rooting for the team playing JWU (RI)!
I’ve got some bonus coverage at the bottom of this post with team blurbs on Mills College and UC Santa Cruz.
Team Blubs (Records and finish are from 2017)
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (31-5 overall and 15-1 conference – 1st in SCIAC)
DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION, BABY!!!!!!!!
So, the 2017 season was alright, I guess. No complaints from the Athenas, I suppose. For 2018, however, CMS is facing a lot of losses due to senior graduation. Over half of the points generated, a setter and a lot of the defense are gone. So how does CMS respond? How about, “Amanda Walker”. You see Walker is a 6’1” right side that rarely played last year but when she did, she shined. She’s paid her dues and now she gets her chance. CMS has other Amanda Walkers on the team plus maybe the best recruit I’ve seen video on this year. CMS is reloading and reports are their spring scrimmages were outstanding. I don’t think CMS will be able to repeat their national championship, but they should repeat in the SCIAC.
Key Out of Conference Matches – JWU (RI), Carthage, Southwestern, UT-Dallas, Trinity, UT-Tyler, Emory, UT-Dallas (again) and Washington-St. Louis
Whittier (18-10 overall and 10-6 conference – 5th in SCIAC)
By all rights, Whittier should be my top pick in the SCIAC. They lose only 13% of their points to senior graduation and frankly they are deep enough right now to shrug that off. They are led by a fantastic duo on the outside in Thieme and Whittall and overall they are still a young team with a taste of NCAA Tournament play under their belt. If they can get to a high level of play (which they have shown) and remain consistent the entire year then they have a good chance at challenging CMS for the SCIAC title. There will be no surprising people this year, but this team is good enough to be playing in the SCIAC final and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Emory, Illinois Wesleyan, St. Benedict, Clarkson, UMHB and Whitman
Chapman (16-11 overall and 10-6 conference – 4th in SCIAC)
Chapman was 1-4 without Kylie Cooke last year and they lose her to graduation (along with three other contributors from last year). I was all set to move them lower than this spot when I saw their roster for the upcoming season. Not one but two DI transfers are coming in and a number of freshmen that look really good. Can they piece everything together quickly enough for conference play and make a run for the title? I guess I’m betting they can based on this placement.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Salisbury, Carthage, Southwestern and Whitman
La Verne (18-9 overall and 11-5 conference – 2nd in SCIAC)
The NCAA gods like to cast out La Verne whenever they get a chance and when I looked at the West Region rankings after the 2017 season, it appeared this happened again. Going into 2018, it appears we could be heading for another opportunity for those NCAA gods…let’s hope the Leopards don’t let that happen. La Verne loses two really good hitters to graduation and, as of yet, I don’t have a good feel to as to whom they are bringing in. The Leopards do have a deep bench that consists of 9 raising seniors so they should be able to compensate. For this reason, I’m keeping La Verne in the mix and do expect them to finish in the Top 4 in the conference.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Southwestern, Salisbury, JWU (RI), Franklin & Marshall, Trinity, UT-Dallas, DeSales and UMass-Boston
California Lutheran (16-12 overall and 10-6 conference – 3rd in SCIAC)
The Regals look to be losing about half of their stats across the board to senior graduation in 2018. They also took a big hit prior to the 2017 season, which was reflected in their slow start (4-8). After that point, they finished the season 12-4 with 3 of the losses coming at the hands of CMS. So, we know the Regals can recover from these losses; it’s just a matter of how long it will take into the season. I do like the incoming recruits that I’ve been able to find and Cal Lu does carry a large team so I’m worried I’ve got them too low. We could be looking at a repeat of 2017 where there were 5 really good teams playing for 4 SCIAC playoff spots. Of course, it was the 5th place team that got the NCAA at-large bid.
Key Out of Conference Matches – JWU (RI), Carthage, Salisbury, UMHB, Clarkson, Washington-St. Louis, UT-Dallas and Juniata
Pomona-Pitzer (8-20 overall and 5-11 conference – 7th in SCIAC)
Pomona-Pitzer returns in pretty good shape for the 2018 season losing some defense and their primary setter. Despite those losses, where I think the Sagehens need to step up is on the offensive side. I believe they have the players to do it as they had 6 student-athletes over 100 points on the season. If you get improvement from each of them then watch out. They also have a nice recruiting class that could make an immediate impact. It will be interesting to see if they can pass Cal Lutheran and make a run at Chapman/La Verne for a SCIAC playoff spot. I think they have a chance but for now I’ve got them on the outside looking in.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Franklin & Marshall, Salisbury and UMass-Boston
Occidental (13-12 overall and 8-8 conference – 6th in SCIAC)
Occidental flew under the radar last year as they were a sneaky good team buried in the depth that is the SCIAC. Unfortunately in 2018, they lose over half of their points to senior graduation and I don’t currently have a good feel on their recruits. They will be led by Wagner and Gorretta and I can see that they do have a couple of players ready for their chance, but with that kind of loss and that many seniors going out the door, I think a backslide is a real possibility with this team.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Southwestern, JWU (RI) and Franklin & Marshall
Redlands (6-19 overall and 2-14 conference – 8th in SCIAC)
Redlands played last year with 19 on the roster and only one senior. There will only be one senior this year, too. So, yeah…a young team. I haven’t seen the recruits for the Bulldogs, yet, but I assume any improvement will come from experience. The problem I see right now is that there is a bit of a gap between Redlands and the teams above it in the conference. I see the record improving but not the positioning as I believe they will repeat their 8th place finish.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Southwestern, JWU (RI) and Franklin & Marshall
Caltech (4-22 overall and 1-15 conference – 9th in SCIAC)
October 28, 2017; a day that will live in infamy. After 17 seasons in the SCIAC, the Beavers won their first conference match EVER. It’s easy to put Caltech in the last spot. This is a really good conference that is really deep and Caltech is a school with above average entrance requirements. Okay, that was a joke. Nothing “average” about Caltech student-athletes. From a volleyball standpoint, the Beavers actually return most of their team and I was impressed with the setter that was recruited from my neck of the woods. They are going to struggle again this year but they are going to be better in 2018. I’m not sure they will win a conference match this year but they should be more competitive in all their matches.
Key Out of Conference Matches – UW-Platteville
ACAA Teams and Independents
Mills College (1-20 overall)
There are over 400 schools playing DIII volleyball and Mills College is in the 400 range when it comes to rankings. Things won’t get easier in 2018, either, as the Cyclones lost around 40% of their points to senior graduation. Right now, I have no insight into their recruits and their schedule is very limited. It’s an interesting dilemma for the bottom rung of DIII volleyball as teams now realize that strength of schedule is a primary consideration for NCAA selection and playing teams like Mills College can only hurt your chances for a bid. It’s manageable for teams in a “real” conference as you at least have your conference matches, but for Mills and UC Santa Cruz (in the West), scheduling is a real nightmare. With all of that said, Mills will not be a factor in the West Region this season, but I truly hope they can get things turned around.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Pacific
UC Santa Cruz (6-21 overall)
I assume Santa Cruz is just too far away from the SCIAC to join that conference but being an independent in the middle of California is a tough task. Thankfully, the school seems to have a decent travel budget, which translates to a pretty good schedule this season. The announcement last Thursday of their coaching hire gives me nothing but hope for the future of this program. They also got some nice height in their new recruits and aren’t losing too much from last year’s squad. Could this all be enough to make a run at the two available Pool B bids (for independents)? Stay tuned.
Key Out of Conference Matches – Whitman (twice), Pacific, Chapman (2), Whittier, La Verne, Luther, Buena Vista and Gustavus Adolphus