Here is the 2019 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 November 3.
The ASC changed things up this year and I have to say that I approve. (I’m sure they are excited to get my approval.) The last two spots in the tournament now go to Wild Card teams as opposed to taking the top 3 from each division. In addition, they have gone to a single-elimination format. The problem I had with this tournament in the past was that it would actually hurt the second place team with respect to their at-large chances. First, they may have to play a team with a poor record because the conference often wasn’t taking their 6 best teams, which would hurt their SOS. Second, to be the runner-up it meant they would pick up two additional losses. The changes are now consistent with the SCAC although that conference just takes the top 6 teams because they don’t have two divisions. This tournament starts on Thursday, November 7 with the wild card matches. Each wild card team will face the second place team from a division. The winners will play on Friday against the two division champions with the final being on Saturday. The tournament is hosted by UT-Dallas who earned this right by winning the East Division. The ASC rotates the hosting site every year between division winners.
Concordia and McMurry start things off at 5 p.m. on Thursday followed by LeTourneau and Hardin-Simmons (HSU) at 7:30 p.m. Concordia has beaten McMurry twice this season with both being 3 set sweeps. LeTourneau and HSU have played once with LeTourneau coming away with the sweep at home. Host school UT-Dallas will play the winner of the Concordia/McMurry match. UT-Dallas has beaten both teams this season – a sweep of Concordia and a 4-set victory over McMurry. Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) went undefeated this season and in the process swept LeTourneau and beat HSU twice (in 3-sets and 4-sets). UMHB has beaten UT-Dallas in their only meeting this year in a wonderful match that went 5-sets where UMHB had to come back after being down 2-0.
East #1 University of Texas at Dallas Comets (22-4 and 13-1 ASC)
UT-Dallas leads the conference and is third in the nation in Assists/Set and is second in conference in Hitting Percentage. They also lead the conference in Kills/Set and are third in Opponent Hitting Percentage.
UTD runs a 6-2 offense behind setters Caroline Shecterle (5-Time POW) and Sydney Fitt. Jillian Via (4-Time POW) is the hitter to watch as she leads the team in points and is second in the conference in Points/Set. She is also the conference leader in Aces/Set and ranks 22nd nationally. Alyssa Porter (1-Time POW) is second in the conference in Hitting Percentage but is only the 5th option on the team. Catherine Croft (1-Time POW) is second on the team in points although she’s trailed off a bit of late. She was an all-everything player earlier in the year and someone the Comets could really use at peak performance as we move out of the regular season. Allison Owen (2-Time POW) is another hitter to watch for as she’s 6th in the conference in Hitting Percentage and third on the team in points. Lauren Schilling (1-Time POW) is has been over 300 points the last two season but finds herself under 200 in this one. She’s still one of the better blockers in the conference but just isn’t getting the number of swings she’s had in the past.
UTD played a unique schedule for them as the first two weeks were really tough but then they mainly slid into conference play after that. They had some big ups beating teams like Stevens Point and Trinity but then were tripped up by teams they probably should have beaten. A 5-set loss to UMHB later in the season was really the only other test and it’s a little weird not really knowing what the Comets have at this point in the season. They have a bye in the first round of the ASC Tournament and will play the winner of Concordia and McMurry. They beat both teams during the season.
Unsung Player: Lauren Schilling is probably the most decorated unsung players ever. I just can’t get over her lack of attacks this season and the fact she’s only had one double-digit kill match. She’s a difference maker and someone that can actually carry the team. This is her senior year and I know she wants to go out playing in the NCAA Tournament.
UTD had won three straight ASC tournaments before last season and have five in its history. This is their 16th straight appearance in the tournament.
Signature Wins: Concordia (WI), UW-Stevens Point and Trinity.
Awards: Jillian Via (All-ASC 1st Team) (ASC East Division MVP), Caroline Shecterle (All-ASC 1st Team) (ASC East Division Setter of the Year), Lauren Schilling (All-ASC 1st Team), Catherine Croft (ASC East Division 1st Team) (ASC East Division Freshman of the Year), Madeleine McCall (ASC East Division Sportsmanship of the Year)
East #2 LeTourneau University Yellowjackets (17-13 and 8-6 ASC)
This was a record breaking season for the Yellowjackets. They did it with a mix of offense and defense as they were second in the conference in Total Kills and third in Digs/Set. They also were first in conference in Attacks/Set.
LETU will run a 5-1 offense behind setter Natalie Davenport (1-Time POW) who leads the conference in Assists/Set and Total Assists. In a lot of ways this team is a three-headed monster where you have Cam Taylor (2-Time POW) digging the ball, Davenport setting and Kianna Crow putting down the kill. The fact that Crow hasn’t been named a player of the week is frankly shocking as she’s followed up her 399 point freshman season with a season that will end with her most likely over 500 points! Taylor leads the conference in Digs/Set and Crow is first in Attacks/Set, Kills/Set, Points/Set, Total Attacks and Total Kills. Maybe she doesn’t brush her teeth properly because otherwise I don’t understand the snub. Of course, saying this team only has three players would be overlooking two 300 point players in Mikayla Thomas and Taylor Smith.
LETU had their best finish in conference history and will be looking for their first victory in the conference tournament. They draw Hardin-Simmons who they swept earlier in the season so they won’t lack for confidence.
Unsung Player: Sophomore Natalie Connelly missed some time this year or maybe the ASC would have snubbed her as well. (Cody, you know I love you…just having fun.) Connelly had 10 kills last year in the tournament so you know she’s not going to back down this year.
This is LeTourneau’s third appearance in the tournament and second straight. They have yet to win a title.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Kianna Crow (All-ASC 1st Team) (ASC East Division MVP), Cam Taylor (ASC East Division Libero of the Year), Natalie Davenport (ASC East Division Freshman of the Year)
West #1 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (23-7 and 15-0 ASC)
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor leads the conference in a number of categories including Blocks/Set, Total Blocks, Digs/Set, Hitting Percentage and Total Kills. They are 14th in the nation in Total Blocks as their defense really starts at the net.
UMHB runs a 5-1 behind setter Cory Jo Martin (1-Time POW) but they are not afraid to go with Miranda Klein (1-Time POW) or some mixture of the two. Martin is actually third in the conference in Assists/Set. Speaking of Klein, she’s a force on the right side as she adds another 300+ point season to her career. Having said that, however, this team is really all about their outsides in Jenna Gillean (3-Time POW) and Corinne Novak. Gillean is third in conference in Total Kills and is second in Total Digs. Gillean and Novak are 2nd and 3rd in Total Attacks so you can see how the attack is mainly coming from the pins when you play the Cru. You also have to talk about the blocking game as both Sarah Paolini and Kayla Janikula are in the top 4 in conference in Blocks/Set. They are also in the top 3 in Hitting Percentage so when the middles do get the ball they put it down. Libero Adrien Valdez is the libero and is third in the conference in Total Digs and is first in Service Aces.
UMHB went undefeated in conference for the second straight year and will get a bye in the ASC Tournament. They will play the winner of the LeTourneau/HSU match who they have beaten this season.
Unsung Player: I really liked Hope Hoelscher last season but she hasn’t received much of a chance this year. Still, she’s someone that can come into the match and provide instant offense if the Cru stumble.
This is UMHB’s 9th straight appearance in the ASC Tournament. They are the defending champion and have won it three times in their history.
Signature Wins: Endicott, Christopher Newport and UT-Dallas.
Awards: Jenna Gillean (All-ASC 1st Team) (ASC West Division MVP), Sarah Paolini (All-ASC 1st Team), Corinne Novak (All-ASC 1st Team), Kayla Janikula (All-ASC 1st Team), Cory Jo Martin (ASC West Division Setter of the Year)
West #2 Concordia University Tornados (22-6 and 12-3 ASC)
Concordia University brings a tough serving game to the court as they lead the conference in Aces/Set. They are also first in Opponent Hitting Percentage and are at the top of most every other important statistical category.
Concordia has been running a 6-2 system behind setters Georgia Quiroz and Lianne VanDyke. Their big hitter is Tristyn Massey (2-Time POW) who is approaching a 400 point season. She is third in the conference in Points/Set and fifth in Kills/Set. She also brings the serve as she’s third in the conference in Service Aces. If you can slow down Massey then you have to deal with Marjani Myles (3-Time POW), Sarah Ghormley (1-Time POW) and Sam Mendez as they all have over 200 points this season. Ghormley also leads the team in Digs/Set this season. Kyndall Ellis (1-Time POW) has been the libero of late and has really taken to the position.
Concordia will get McMurry in the first round of the ASC Tournament and this is a team they beat twice on the year. The winner gets to play host UT-Dallas.
Unsung Player: Freshman Taryn Alexander hasn’t received consistent time but has shined at times when allowed to play. She has 100 points and puts up a good block. I’d like to see her hitting efficiency improve just a little and if she can do that then it’s another option for the Tornados.
This is Concordia’s third straight appearance in the tournament and this is their 8th appearance overall. They have won the ASC once (in 1999).
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Tristyn Massey (All-ASC 1st Team), Lianne VanDyke (ASC West Division Sportsmanship of the Year), Sarah Ghormley (ASC West Division 1st Team)
Wild Card #1 Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls (12-12 and 9-6 ASC)
Hardin-Simmons University is really a surprise team in this group as they had a lot of turnover going into this season. They were second in Aces/Set in the conference but other than that they are pretty much in the middle of every other statistical category.
HSU runs a 5-1 system behind senior setter Ashley Pierce who is quite fun to watch quarterback a match. She is second in the conference in Assists/Set and third in Total Assists. The offense primarily comes from freshman Triniti Anderson who was third in the conference in Kills/Set and sixth in Points/Set. The Cowgirls don’t have another player over 200 points but Kaytlynn Lewis is next up with 172.5 points followed by Sarah Bennett with 163.5 points. Bennett is also sixth in the conference in Blocks/Set. Mary Johnson leads the defense as she’s second in conference in Digs/Set.
The Cowgirls took the first Wild Card and will play LeTourneau who they lost to earlier in the season. It was away so it will be interesting to see what the result is on a neutral court. The winner gets UMHB.
Unsung Player: Sophomore Kailey Currington has shown she can put the ball down but she’ll need to improve on reducing her errors. If she can do that then it gives the team a much needed option in their attack.
HSU is making their 14th appearance after missing out last season. They have won the tournament 5 times.
Signature Win: Aurora.
Awards: Mary Johnson (ASC West Division Libero of the Year), Triniti Anderson (ASC West Division Freshman of the Year)
Wild Card #2 McMurry University War Hawks (18-9 and 8-7 ASC)
McMurry was able to beat out ETBU for the final Wild Card spot and they definitely owe their fortune to the new rule change this year that created the Wild Cards. With that said, they do deserve their spot in the tournament. The War Hawks were second in the conference in Blocks/Set and third in Hitting Percentage. A lot of that was due to a weaker schedule than most but they obviously have the talent to make a run.
McMurry runs a 6-2 system behind setters Lauryn Davis and Brynn Warnack. Their leading hitter is Jordyn Burnell with 296 points followed closely by Justice McGowan (3-Time POW). Burnell is second in the conference in Attacks/Set and sixth in Kills/Set. McGowan is fourth in the conference in Hitting Percentage. Middle Megan Martinez is another 200+ point hitter who brings an outstanding serve to the party. She’s 4th in Aces/Set in the conference and third in Blocks/Set. Freshman Adile Leal serves as the libero and leads the team in digs.
As mentioned earlier, the War Hawks get the benefit of the rule change and that second Wild Card. They will match-up with Concordia in the first round but have yet to beat them this year in two tries. The winner gets UT-Dallas.
Unsung Player: The War Hawks really need a little more offense and they hope that will come from Tyler Richardson. She’s playing more of late and often has a good hitting percentage. If she can continue that into the tournament then it might be enough to push pass Concordia.
This is McMurry’s second straight tournament appearance after not being eligible for awhile. Overall, this is their 14th appearance. They have never won the title.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Justice McGowan (All-ASC 1st Team), Jordyn Burnell (All-ASC 1st Team), Megan Martinez (Newcomer of the Year)
I believe both division winners are a step above the rest here but Concordia does have a puncher’s chance. I’d like that chance a bit more on a neutral court as they will get the hosts if they win their first round match. In the end, I do think it will be UT-Dallas against UMHB and I think playing at home is the edge the Comets need to win. Give me UT-Dallas to win this tournament.
The SCAC tournament begins Friday and concludes on Sunday with 6 teams qualifying. The tournament is being hosted by Texas Lutheran (TLU). This is a single elimination tournament with the top 2 seeds (Colorado College and Trinity University) earning byes. There was a three-way tie for the 4th spot this year and through tiebreaker the ordering was determined to be Dallas, Austin College and then host TLU. This is kind of a tough break for Southwestern who earned the 3 seed and has to play a team that has beaten them on this court this season.
Dallas and Austin College will start things off at 3:30 p.m. followed by host TLU and Southwestern at 6:00 p.m. Dallas has beaten Austin College twice this year in 5 and then 4-sets. Southwestern and TLU split their matches this year each winning at home in 4-sets. Trinity will get the winner of Dallas/Austin College and has beaten both teams twice this season with only Austin College getting a set off of the Tigers. Colorado College will play the winner of Southwestern/TLU. They have beaten both teams twice this year. Both matches with Southwestern went to 4-sets while they swept TLU once and won in 4-sets in the other. Colorado College and Trinity have split their matches this year with each team earning a sweep.
#1 Seed Trinity Tigers (31-4 and 17-1 SCAC)
Trinity University can hit and block as they are second in the conference in Hitting Percentage (9th nationally) and first in conference in Blocks/Set (12th nationally). They are also 2nd in Kills/Set, which puts them 11th nationally. Trinity is also first nationally in Total Kills and Total Blocks. That’s a great combination!
Trinity runs a 6-2 system with setters Lexie Acevedo and Katrina Lieberman (1-Time POW). Lots of attack on this team as they have two 400+ point players in Avery Tuggle (3-Time POW) and Annie Rose Leggett (2-Time POW). If that’s not enough, the Tigers also have an AVCA Player of the Week in Emily Ellis (2-Time POW). Tuggle is second in the conferene Kills/Set and Points/Set and is 13th in Total Digs. Leggett is one of the better servers in conference as she’s fourth in that category. Ellis is the leading blocker in conference and she’s first in Blocks/Set and also leads in Hitting Percentage. We can’t forget about Emma Funk who has 260.5 points and Sarah Williammee with 247 points. Funk is second in the conference in Hitting Percentage and third in Blocks/Set. Williammee is 7th in Hitting Percentage, which means the team has 3 of the top 7 in conference in that category.
Trinity earns the #1 seed based on a tiebreaker with Colorado College. The same thing happened last year but then they received the second seed. They will get the winner the Dallas/Austin College match and have beaten both twice this year already.
Unsung Player: There really is no unsung player on the Tigers but I’m going with libero Sami Lin. On a team with so much offensive firepower it’s easy to forget that you also need defense. Staying in system when receiving serve and getting that extra attack from a great dig are going to be important against Colorado College. In the loss to Colorado College, Lin had only 8 digs while in the win, she had 15. Defense will matter.
Trinity has won the SCAC Tournament 3 of the last 6 years. They have won the SCAC a record 18 times overall.
Signature Wins: UMHB (twice), Saint Benedict, Aurora, Juniata, Ohio Northern and Colorado College.
Awards: Avery Tuggle (SCAC Player of the Year)(All-SCAC 1st Team), Emily Ellis (All-SCAC 1st Team), Annie Rose Leggett (All-SCAC 1st Team)
#2 Seed Colorado College Tigers (29-3 and 17-1 SCAC)
Colorado College led the conference in a number of categories including Aces/Set, Hitting Percentage, Kills/Set and Opponent Hitting Percentage. They were actually first in the nation in Assists/Set and Kill/Set. They are fourth in Hitting Percentage nationally and, as we know, that’s an important one for teams with national championship aspirations.
Colorado College can either go with a 5-1 behind setter Lizzy Counts (1-Time POW) or switch to a 6-2 and bring in Isabelle Aragon-Menzel. Counts is actually the leader in the conference in Assists/Set so that shows you the Tigers mainly go with her as the sole setter. The attack has a number of players that can hurt you but this year it’s mainly been Allie Freeburg and Georgia Mullins (1-Time POW). Freeburg has been rested a bit this year, which can happen with such a deep team. Still, she’s third in the conference in Kills/Set and Points/Set. Mullins has had to fill in as MB1 for All-American Margo Spaethling when she went down in the last practice before the season and has done a great job. She is second in the conference in Blocks/Set and third in Points/Set. She is also fourth in Points/Set this season. Two other pin hitters have also been great this season in Jordan Mullens and Haley Harris. Harris filled in some at libero when needed and has the best serve in conference (Aces/Set). Both players are over 250 points on the season and will want to take this team as far as it can go in their senior season. Anna Gurolnick is the libero and is often overlooked despite 359 digs on the season.
The Tigers dropped to the #2 seed through a tiebreaker with Trinity. This means they will have to play the TLU/Southwestern winner, which should provide a tougher match than what Trinity may see.
Unsung Player: Margo Spaethling is back from injury and it remains to be seen how the team will handle three really good middles. Emma Hewlin (1-Time POW) is the other middle and she has had a really good 200+ point season. Still, you would have to think if the Tigers are thinking about the NCAA Tournament that they will want Spaethling in the mix.
Colorado College is the 2-time defending SCAC champion and has won 5 tournament titles overall.
Signature Wins: MIT, Birmingham-Southern, Whitworth, Trinity and Randolph-Macon.
Awards: Jordan Mullens (All-SCAC 1st Team), Lizzy Counts (All-SCAC 1st Team), Haley Harris (All-SCAC 1st Team), Georgia Mullins (All-SCAC 1st Team), Emma Hewlin (All-SCAC 2nd Team), Meaghan Hohman (SCAC Freshman of the Year)
#3 Seed Southwestern University Pirates (21-13 and 12-6 SCAC)
Southwestern University was top three in conference in a number of statistics this season. Their high placement was second in both Aces/Set and Digs/Set as well as Hitting Percentage. Where they struggle is with the block and that’s something they will need in this tournament.
Southwestern likes to run a 5-1 system and for the first month it was with setter Katie Whitehead. She was on pace for a 1000 assists and probably the best Assist/Set numbers in conference before illness and injury. She has a chance on being back for the tournament but little chance she’ll be 100%. With her out, the Pirates have gone with a 5-1 behind Lauren Crabtree (1-Time POW) and a 6-2 when they bring in Jess Mayer. The attack has 4 players with 300 or more points starting with the two freshmen outsides in Elle McGown and Emma White. McGown is second in conference in Service Aces and ninth in Total Kills. White is 5th in the conference in Total Kills. When Crabtree isn’t setting, she can be found pounding on the right side to the tune of 324 points. Crabtree is third in conference in Service Aces and first in Triple-Doubles (11th nationally). The fourth 300 point player is freshman Riley Brantley who has also had her share of injury issues this season. The libero is Ali Grona who is second in the conference in Digs/Set. There are a number of young teams in the region this season but I’ve just named 7 key contributors to this team and all are underclassmen with only two being sophomores.
Southwestern had some uncharacteristic losses this season but still secured the #3 seed. They will play TLU in the first round and this is a team that beat them earlier in the year.
Unsung Player: Darby Stowers has really started to shine in the second half of the season and adds another attacking threat to the team. They will need both Stowers and Brantly to increase their blocking totals to have a chance against TLU or the top 2 teams in the conference. (It will also be interesting to see if Landri Brown can get healthy and contribute as one of only two upperclassmen on this team.)
Southwestern last won the SCAC Tournament in 2015 and have 5 wins overall. They have been in the SCAC finals 4 of the last 5 years.
Signature Win: Geneseo.
Awards: Lauren Crabtree (All-SCAC 1st Team), Riley Brantley (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
#4 Seed University of Dallas Crusaders (17-18 and 9-9 SCAC)
The University of Dallas has played a lot of matches and that has led to some lofty statistics. They are first in the nation in Team Assists and second in the nation in Total Kills and Team Digs. When it comes to the per set statistics they are middle of the conference for most of them although they, like Southwestern, struggle with the block.
Dallas runs a 5-1 system behind freshman Larissa Ramirez who is third in the conference in Assist per Set. The team is led by the hitting of Dayjah Whyte and Abigail Porras who both have well over 400 points on the season. They are three and four in Total Kills for the conference while Porras is also the conference leader in Service Aces. The Crusaders also have Isabel Garcia who has over 300 points in addition to two players that have over 200 points. I mentioned the youth of Southwestern but this team is pretty much their equal as most of the contributors are all sophomores. They do have senior leadership from the libero position as Krystyn Pua 6th in the conference in Digs/Set.
Dallas improved their scheduling from last year so although they had a dip in record they are definitely a better team this year. They have a core group that has pretty much started as freshmen and will look to see what can of run they can have over the next two years. As for the rest of this season, they draw Austin College in the first round and that’s a team they’ve already beaten twice.
Unsung Player: I highlighted Ellise Anable in this spot last year so let’s keep her here and add Anna Stevenson. Both are the 200 point players mentioned above. With Anable it’s all about efficiency and reducing attacking errors. With Stevenson it’s all about getting hands on the opponent’s attacks to help out the back row.
This is the second consecutive appearance for Dallas who have never won the SCAC Tournament.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Abigail Porras (All-SCAC 2nd Team), Dayjah Whyte (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
#5 Seed Austin College Kangaroos (16-21 and 9-9 SCAC)
Austin College is another team that likes to play a lot of matches. They are actually first in the nation in Total Attacks and third in the nation in Team Digs. They also lead the conference in Attacks/Set so they get their swings but do have some issues efficiently putting the ball down.
Austin College runs a 6-2 behind Brooklyn Talley and Allison Pierce. This is another young team that is led in the attack by sophomore Christine Royalty who has over 400 points on the season. Royalty is also one of the better blockers in the conference and is fourth in Blocks/Set. Shelbi Cook has over 300 points while the ‘Roos also have a pair of 200+ point players in Karson Dykes and Kynleigh Browne. Mari Prazak (1-Time POW) is the libero and is third in Digs/Set and second in Total Digs.
Austin College has fallen short of 20 wins for the second straight year but they often save their best performances for conference opponents. They draw Dallas in the first round and will have a difficult time as they’ve lost both meetings this year to them.
Unsung Player: Caitlin Mahoney had her best match of the season against Dallas last time out and they will need that kind of effort again if they want to move on and play Trinity.
Austin College has not won the SCAC tournament although I don’t remember a time where they missed out on the tournament.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Mari Prazak (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
#6 Seed Texas Lutheran Bulldogs (20-16 and 9-9 SCAC)
Texas Lutheran University missed out on the tournament last year but maybe playing as good as anyone going into the tournament this week. Statistically they are pretty much middle of the pack in conference although they are a good blocking team and finished second in conference in that category. They use that block to help limit the Opponent Hitting Percentage as they finished third in that category.
TLU primarily plays a 6-2 system with Jaci Chambers (1-Time POW) and either Adrienne Galaviz or Kelly Jurden. Chambers is interesting because she’s been their libero for the last three years often putting up video game type numbers. This year, she’s setting and doing a great job but also getting the digs and lately getting double-digit kills at times. She has 2 Triple-Doubles on the year and is fifth in Total Assists and sixth in Total Digs. The attack is led by Bryten Mitchan and Peyton Sulak as both are over 300 points on the season. Sulak is also fifth in the conference in Hitting Percentage while both players are two of the better blockers in the conference. The libero is Lexi Morris (2-Time POW) who is 4th in the conference in Digs/Set and third in Total Digs. The team suffered a major loss when Madison Weisinger went down in early October but as I said they’ve played some of the best volleyball in the second half of the season.
TLU tied for 4th in conference but lost the tiebreaker and was placed 6th. They draw Southwestern who they split with and beat on their own court where the tournament will be played.
Unsung Player: Making up for the loss of Weisinger were Kelsi Menn (1-Time POW) and Kacie Hall. Both players have had outstanding matches during the course of the season and if either or both do it again this weekend then TLU will be tough to beat…by anyone.
Texas Lutheran has not won the SCAC tournament but is returning after missing out last season.
Signature Win: Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Awards: Jaci Chambers (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
Did you know that there have been 28 champions in the SCAC and Trinity, Colorado College and Southwestern have accounted for all but one of them? The very first champion of the SCAC was actually Rhodes who is no longer in the conference. I thought that was a cool fact. Anyway…
I think Trinity will have a much bigger supporting crew close to home and with their play of late I see them winning this tournament. Colorado College is still trying to work in Margo Spaethling and if she’s 100% then all bets are off. They also have the issue of whether their coach can attend after having emergency eye surgery. Last season we saw Southwestern sneak into the finals and lose in 5-sets to Colorado College. They have been without their #1 setter for awhile now and she may be back but at what level of play? At times, the Pirates have played at the level needed to win this tournament but I think there are just too many unknowns around them and, for that matter, Colorado College. TLU would be the other team to watch out for as they get these matches at home. If they can beat Southwestern in the opener and get a crowd behind them then they could be difficult to get rid of in this one. Give me Trinity over Colorado College for the SCAC title.
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.
CMS will host La Verne at 9 p.m. central and they did beat the Leopards in both matches this season although one went to 5-sets. Cal Lutheran will travel down the road to Chapman and play at the same time. These teams split their two conference matches but Chapman did have to go to 5-sets at home for their win.
#1 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas (24-3 and 15-1 SCIAC)
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps leads the conference in a number of categories including Blocks/Set, Hitting Percentage, Kills/Set and Opponent Hitting Percentage. They are “only” 14th in the nation in Hitting Percentage so that’s a red flag for their NCAA championship hopes as we all know you have to be in the Top 11 in that category.
CMS has run a 6-2 this season behind Phoebe Madsen (1-Time POW) and Spencer Hagenbuch. Madsen was the best player in the West Region last season and is probably the odds on favorite to repeat this season. She does pretty much everything well and is third in conference in Aces/Set, 7th in Assists/Set, 4th in Hitting Percentage and second in Triple-Doubles (5th in nation). The go to player for CMS is Amanda Walker (2-Time POW) who is 7th in the conference in Blocks/Set, 3rd in Hitting Percentage, 3rd in Kills/Set and 3rd in Points/Set. CMS does have two of the better middles in the West in Melanie Moore (1-Time POW) and often overlooked Regan Dinovitz. They are one and two in the conference in Blocks/Set and 2 and 5 in Hitting Percentage. It’s actually kind of funny as long as you are not Regan or related to her but she’s pretty much the same player as Moore. With the All-SCIAC honors coming out they had Moore as first team and Dinovitz wasn’t named at all. Okay…not funny, just dumb. Off my soapbox but I’ll go out on a limb and say despite all of the great players just mentioned that maybe the most important on this team is outside hitter Lucila Grinspan. She has over 200 points and is often the outlet when the team gets out-of-system. The libero is Sarah Tritschler who finished fourth in the conference in Digs/Set and is just a fun player to watch play defense.
CMS hosts La Verne and they did struggle with them this year. I expect the Athenas to be focused and take care of them easier this time around.
Unsung Player: I believe CMS goes as far as their outsides will take them. The OH2 position has been a bit of a problem this year but it’s been filled the best with Jackie Jones. The issue is her health as she went down with an injury and missed a month. She also missed two matches this past week but that may have been precautionary. CMS needs Jones healthy. Maybe not for this tournament but definitely for the NCAA Tournament.
CMS is the defending SCIAC champion. They have three tournament wins in their history.
Signature Wins: St. Olaf, Emory, Washington-St. Louis and Cal Lutheran (twice).
Awards: Phoebe Madsen (SCIAC Player of the Year)(All-SCIAC 1st Team), Amanda Walker (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Melanie Moore (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Sarah Tritschler (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
#2 Chapman University Panthers (22-4 and 14-2 SCIAC)
Chapman University doesn’t lead a single statistical category within conference but they have a number of seconds. They include Assists/Set, Hitting Percentage, Kills/Set and Opponent Hitting Percentage.
Chapman is running a 6-2 with setters Sophie Srivastava (2-Time POW) and AVCA Player of the Week) and Jenna Richardson. Srivastava is really more than just a setter as she’s a force on the right side (290 points) and the Triple-Double queen with 11 that leads the nation. She’s also 6th in the conference in Assists/Set and 8th in Blocks/Set. When she’s not putting the ball down that honor typically goes to Jessi Lumsden (1-Time POW) who is already over 400 points on the season. Lumsden is 6th in the conference in Hitting Percentage , which for an outside is really remarkable. She’s first in the conference in Kills/Set and Points/Set. Mavis Lui (1-Time POW) is the other big attacking threat, this time from the right side, as she has 247 points. The libero is freshman Cat Helgeson (2-Time POW) who is second in the conference in Digs/Set. This is a team that when comfortable can put the ball down with the best teams in the nation.
Chapman hung with CMS all season until the end and had a great conference run. They will host Cal Lutheran who they split with on the year.
Unsung Player: I wrote this last year in this spot and I’m sticking with it, “Nayelli Munoz is a pretty darn good player who only gets held back by her lack of sets. This is someone that may need to step up if the opposing team can stop one of the main attackers.”
This is Chapman’s fifth appearance in the tournament. They have never won the SCIAC tournament.
Signature Wins: CMS and Cal Lutheran.
Awards: Sophie Srivastava (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Jessi Lumsden (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Cat Helgerson (All-SCAC 2nd Team)
#3 California Lutheran University Regals (17-10 and 11-5 SCIAC)
I’ve described California Lutheran University all year as up and down. They can really bring a top notch game but then can throw out a real stinker at times, too. As far as the statistics, they are second in Blocks/Set and third in Hitting Percentage. One area of concern is the back row defense as they are last in the conference in Digs/Set.
Cal Lutheran runs a 6-2 behind setters Jennifer Kent and Jenna Jones. Their main attacker is Maci Haddad who has nearly 300 points this season out of the middle. She’s 5th in the conference in Blocks/Set and first in Hitting Percentage. The trick for the Regals is to stay in-system so they can get her the ball more. Cal Lu has a slew of other hitters that all have about the same statistics and it’s a matter of who will step up in a given match. Most of the time it’s been Sarah Hein and Morgan Given who both have over 200 points on the season. The libero is Carly Rose Howard who is 8th in the conference in Digs/Set. If you do get a chance to watch a Regals match make sure you watch their huddle during time-outs. It is very common for a dance-off to occur. I have no idea if this helps the team or not but it is fun to watch.
Cal Lutheran earned the #3 seed going 6-2 in the second half of conference play. They will go to Chapman for the first match and have split with them on the season.
Unsung Player: Samantha Landrum (1–Time POW) just had an amazing week of matches, which needs to carry into the tournament. The Regals need a little more offense and Landrum can make that happen as we just saw.
Cal Lutheran has dominated the SCIAC tournament since it was started winning 5 times and finishing second 4 times. Their last win was in 2016.
Signature Wins: Augsburg and Chapman.
Awards: Maci Haddad (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Morgan Given (All-SCIAC 2nd Team), Carly Rose Howard (All-SCIAC 2nd Team)
#4 University of La Verne Leopards (15-12 and 9-7 SCIAC)
The University of La Verne really did it with defense this season finishing first in conference in Digs/Set and then did enough with their hitting to make the tournament (5th in Hitting Percentage and 3rd in Kills/Set). They were the surprise team for me this year in the SCIAC with all of their turnover going into the year.
La Verne runs a 5-1 system behind Madison Maynes (1-Time POW) who leads the conference again in Assist per Set and Total Assists. The Leopards get their points from three really good hitters in Pi’ikea Clemens, Ayana Mier and Haley Celaya. Celaya is the go-to player although she’s been hurt at times this year. She was second in conference in Kills/Set and Points/Set. La Verne can be a little undersized in matches and don’t block particularly well. The back row defense is led by libero Emma Estigoy who was 3rd in conference in Digs/Set. Maynes is also really good defensively along with Clemens and Emily Heldenbrand. The team is also pretty good applying pressure with their serve and that will need to be ramped up more against CMS.
La Verne finished in fourth a match up on Whittier despite a bad second half of the conference season (3-5). I didn’t have the Leopards making the tournament in my preseason predictions but there is a reason good teams are often good and maybe at some point I’ll figure that out. The Leopards will get CMS and although they have played them tough this should be a hard one to win.
Unsung Player: Darrah Jones flies under the radar on this team but she’s had some of her best matches against quality opponents. She can be a bit more efficient at times and that will be vital against someone like CMS.
This is La Verne’s 9th appearance (second most) but they have never won it. They have finished second twice.
Signature Win: Cal Lutheran
Awards: Haley Celaya (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Madison Maynes (All-SCIAC 1st Team)
This is the third straight year with these same four-teams. I really didn’t think La Verne would be here as they had a heavy turnover to start the year but this should be the end of their run as they get CMS in the opener. The Chapman/Cal Lutheran match is intriguing. If Cal Lutheran can play at their highest level then I think they win their match. This is really a tough call but give me the Regals. Regardless of who makes it out, I think CMS wins this tournament.