This is my second installment dealing with the schedules from the West Region. You can find my first installment here. A lot of schools have published their schedules since the first installment and my Latvian spies have been hard at work uncovering a few others. (In the first installment I mentioned that two of my best spies, Inga and Juris, got married. Unfortunately, things did not go well on their honeymoon and upon their return a lot of stress and drama has been brought into the cozy 10×10 office space my 23 spies use. This team is a key component of D3VbWest and I can only hope that things get smoothed out over time.) In the first installment we had 18 schedules and in this installment we have 16. That leaves just 7 schedules to discuss after this article.
Like last time, let’s start with the ASC where we have new schedules for Concordia, LeTourneau (LETU), Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB), UT-Dallas and McMurry. We are only missing Belhaven from this conference at this point. As I mentioned in the first installment, the ASC begins conference play in the third or fourth week and out of this group Concordia, UT-Dallas and McMurry are basically done with out-of-conference play once the ASC starts up. LeTourneau will be playing at the Millsaps Tournament at the end of the year where they draw Millsaps and an NAIA school. UMHB will play at the Trinity Tournament in October where they get Ohio Northern, Rowan, UC Santa Cruz and Trinity. Interestingly, UMHB will play Trinity twice this year but both times at Trinity. Ohio Northern is always a tough out-of-region opponent and they should be loaded in 2019. All of the schools do sprinkle in teams during the later part of the schedule and these all tend to be either NAIA schools or teams from the SCAC. Of note, UMHB will play Southwestern, TLU and Austin College after the first three weeks while UT-Dallas has Austin College, ETBU and Centenary on the schedule. Concordia ends up playing Southwestern twice, Austin College and TLU.
The first weekend finds both Concordia and LETU at the Austin College Tournament where they play SCAC teams Centenary, St. Thomas (Tx) and Austin College. They will also play an NAIA school. UMHB will be at the Trinity Tournament where they will play Minnesota-Morris, Trinity, Saint Benedict and Neumann. Those first three schools were all in the NCAA Tournament last year, and both Saint Benedict and Morris should return enough this season to be contenders for another bid this year. It was a little disappointing not to see the Comets at another tournament later in the year but the start of their schedule is extremely tough. The first weekend sees them at the Chicago Classic where they will play Concordia (WI), DePauw, UW-Stevens Point and Chicago. Concordia was a regionally ranked bubble team last season that just missed out. They return the bulk of their squad (minus the setter) and should be really tough again this year. DePauw was an at-large team last season and returns enough this year to be regionally ranked. Stevens Point was regionally ranked and essentially return their entire team so expect them to challenge in the WIAC this season. Chicago was the #1 team in the Midwest and also return enough to be really strong again this season. That’s a really tough opening salvo that the Comets have to fight through. McMurry will travel over to TLU where they will play Schreiner, St. Joseph’s College (Long Island), an NAIA school and TLU. Not the most challenging start for the War Hawks.
The second weekend has Concordia going to the Cal Lutheran Tournament where they draw Linfield, Occidental, CMS and Cal Lutheran. Neither Linfield or Occidental had their best season last year but, obviously, CMS and Cal Lutheran will be great opportunities. LETU will be ramping it up with a trip to Colorado College where they will play MIT, Colorado College, La Verne and Willamette. LETU is a young team that is still looking for a coach and those four matches are a lot to overcome but it’s a great challenge for the program. MIT was a bubble team this past season that didn’t make the tournament and they are losing a lot of talent from their squad. An upset is possible here. I’ve complained about UMHB’s schedule in the past but they continue with a tough group of matches this season playing at the Berry College Tournament and drawing Endicott, Berry, Transylvania and Chris Newport. Endicott was regionally ranked in the New England Region so we always like to see wins against that group. Berry was a top team last year but are losing some really good hitters but should still be tough this season. Chris Newport was an NCAA Tournament team and is always highly ranked in the Mid-Atlantic. This season they are returning most of their squad so another tough battle for the Cru. I mentioned the tough schedule for the Comets and this weekend they are hosting a tournament and will play Trinity, Aurora, Pacific Lutheran and Southwestern. Aurora was an Elite 8 team last season but have lost some quality players to graduation. The other three West Region teams are all squads that will boost the Comets up the regional rankings with wins. McMurry follows up a suspect first weekend with no tournaments the second weekend. They will play an NCCAA school and Schreiner (again) during the week.
McMurry is the only one of these schools not playing conference and going to a tournament the third weekend as they go to the one hosted by the University of Dallas. They will draw Schreiner (third time!), Dallas, Millsaps and Alfred. The War Hawks should be the class here but Dallas had a really good season last year and could trip them up. Concordia actually doesn’t start conference until later that week and will play Southwestern that third weekend.
Going through these schedules only UMHB and UT-Dallas have really put themselves in position for NCAA at-large consideration if they don’t win the conference. Concordia has nice matchups against CMS and Cal Lutheran but realistically they need to win those matches to garner some national notice as well as a high West Region ranking. LETU has a challenging schedule that will help boost their reputation if they can come away with a couple of key wins. As for McMurry, if you are scheduling a 3-win team three times to start the year there are going to be repercussions to your SOS that the ASC conference schedule will not be able to overcome. Wait, did I say three times? They actually play Schreiner a fourth time later in the year. McMurry was a dark horse team last year for me and ended up winning 24 matches so I’d love to see them improve their scheduling. Being in Abilene makes scheduling tough but HSU is also there and did a better job at it this upcoming season. Looking back at UMHB and they will have 9 out-of-region matches, which will help at at-large selection time but their West Region schedule is problematic for the RAC. They do have UT-Dallas, Trinity and Southwestern on the schedule but that is it for the traditional West power houses. Not playing any SCIAC or NWC teams will challenge the RAC to properly rank the Cru. UT-Dallas has “only” 5 out-of-region matches with West Region matches against UMHB, Trinity, Southwestern and Pacific Lutheran. Honestly, the match against Pacific Lutheran looms really large in the West Region rankings for both UT-Dallas and UMHB (common opponent) as it will drive most of the comparisons between the ASC and the NWC teams this season. Concordia doesn’t have any out-of-region matches but those SCIAC matches are important to help the RAC compare that conference with the ASC. I would have liked to have seen Concordia find a way to schedule Trinity.
Over in the NWC we have new schedules for Pacific, Puget Sound and Willamette with Whitman the only schedule still missing from this conference. From the last installment you know that the NWC will have three weeks to play out-of-conference as opposed to their normal two weeks. With the NWC teams almost never playing an end of the year tournament this made ranking the NWC teams really difficult. Now, it was pointed out that this change had more to do with the calendar and the early start this year but I prefer to believe it’s a philosophical change for the conference that will be maintained moving forward. Regardless, this change allows the NWC teams to really beef up their schedule and improve their resumes for at-large consideration (if used properly).
The first weekend usually means the Oregon Trail Classic for most teams in the NWC and that is the case for Pacific who will play St. Thomas (MN), Central College (IA), Methodist and John Carroll. St. Thomas always fields a tough squad and were in the NCAA Tournament last year but are losing a lot of talent this season. Still, this really becomes an early must-win for the Boxers based on how their schedule is constructed this season. Central struggled last season but are returning most of their squad so they should be improved. Neither Methodist or John Carroll should be that difficult for Pacific. Methodist had a nice record last year but are losing about half of their statistics to graduation. Puget Sound typically skips the Oregon Trail Classic for their own tournament and that’s the case this season where they will play Widener, Rose-Hulman and Pacific Lutheran (non-conference match). Widener will probably be a below 0.500 team this year and while Rose-Hulman won their conference last season, the Loggers should be able to handle them. The Pacific Lutheran match is always interesting to me as these rivals like to play a trial match before conference gets started. With Willamette it’s back to the Oregon Trail Classic where they get Central College (IA), Hamline, St. Thomas (MN) and John Carroll. I’ve talked about these teams except for Hamline. They were a 0.500 team last year but are returning everyone in 2019. They should be a nice challenge for Willamette.
The second weekend has Pacific going to Kailua, Hawaii for dual matches against Simpson College and Wells College. This is a really cool event that should bring a lot of exposure to these schools on the islands and help with the Hawaiian Pipeline. Unfortunately, these schools won’t help the Boxers in the regionally rankings. Puget Sound heads down to the Cal Lutheran Tournament where they will play TLU, Occidental, CMS and Cal Lutheran. These are all going to be nice ranking opportunities in the West with significant challenges against both CMS and Cal Lutheran. Willamette heads to Colorado for their tournament where they draw La Verne, MIT, Colorado College and LeTourneau. I’d really like all of these West teams to take down MIT and as I mentioned above they do have some senior losses to overcome this season. With Willamette not really playing on their third free weekend, all of these matches become so important for any hope of at-large consideration at the end of the year.
Speaking of that third weekend, I already mentioned that Willamette has decided to pass on it. Pacific will be back home and will play Mills College and Austin College. Puget Sound heads back down to California to play in the La Verne Tournament where they get UC Santa Cruz, Pomona-Pitzer, Whittier and La Verne. After this week, none of the NWC will play outside of their conference.
Overall, of these three schools only Puget Sound has put themselves in a position for at-large consideration. Matches against CMS, Cal Lutheran, Whittier and La Verne help their cause but the lack of any top teams out-of-region could hurt at selection time. Their TLU match gives them a path into the SCAC but TLU had a down season last year so this may not help much. A loss to TLU would give the other SCAC teams a big advantage over the Loggers when it comes to the West RAC rankings. I really like what Pacific is doing with their Hawaii trip and you have to figure that cost really limited their other opportunities this year. The Boxers do lose their setter and a couple of good hitters so this is the time to do something like this. In the end, with this schedule, the RAC will have a tough time ranking Pacific as they really only play the NWC and Austin College. (Again, this makes that Austin College a huge match for Pacific and the SCAC teams.) For Willamette it really comes down to that Colorado College Tournament and whether they can shock some teams. Loses to La Verne and Colorado College basically mean their only hope of an NCAA berth is through the conference championship.
In the SCAC we have new schedules for Austin College and Colorado College. We are still missing schedules for St. Thomas (Tx), Schreiner and TLU. As a reminder, with the addition of St. Thomas (Tx) to the SCAC, their scheduling sort of resorts back to when they had 8 teams in conference. In other words, their teams will start conference after the 3rd weekend. Since the conference also groups their matches into pods, it means that there is typically a free weekend for out-of-conference matches later in the year. Both of these teams use that free time towards the end of the year but in different ways. Austin College is sprinkling in some tough matches with ASC opponents UT-Dallas (twice), UMHB and Concordia. Colorado College will host a tournament in October where they will draw Illinois College, Randolph-Macon and DePauw. DePauw was an NCAA at-large team last year and should be in good shape again this year.
For that first weekend Austin College will be hosting their own tournament where they will play ETBU, Concordia, Nebraska Wesleyan and LeTourneau. Nebraska Wesleyan has been a good team in the past but they didn’t make the tournament last year and look to have lost a number of players to graduation. Colorado College typically hosts three tournaments to start the year and this season is no different. Their CC Classic will see them play Millsaps, Clarkson, Edgewood and UW-Oshkosh. None of these teams were in the NCAA Tournament last year but there is good history with Clarkson and Oshkosh. Clarkson looks to be in decent shape heading into the season while Oshkosh has lost about half of their hitting to graduation.
Second weekend has Austin College hosting their second tournament where they will play Sul Ross State twice and Howard Payne. They will also play an NAIA school. Colorado College has their Spike It Up Classic where they will play LeTourneau, La Verne, Willamette and MIT. Again, we all need to beat MIT.
The third weekend finds Austin College flying to the NWC and playing Lewis & Clark, George Fox and Pacific. They will also get a match with Mills College. Pikes Peak Challenge is the third tournament hosted by Colorado College and this time they will play Transylvania, Birmingham-Southern (BSU) and Whitworth. BSU was one of the late finishers last season and cruised into an NCAA at-large bid. They look to be returning most of their team so this will be a great matchup and test for the Tigers.
Overall, Austin College doesn’t have the top talent in the tournaments they are playing but they compensate for this by playing the elite ASC teams. They don’t get any SCIAC teams but they do play a number of NWC opponents. I don’t think this schedule will do enough to help with an at-large bid but on the flip side if they are able to take down some of the top teams in the West that they do play they will force the RAC to give them a high ranking. It’s a good schedule for a young team, which Austin College certainly will be in 2019. With Colorado College I’m always impressed by the teams they can draw to their arena. It’s a hard place for an opponent to grab a win due to how good the Tigers are from year-to-year. There is also the matter of altitude as they are a mile up. With that said, the Tigers don’t play any teams from the ASC but with the cross play of the SCAC Texas teams this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem when it comes to the regional rankings. They draw into the SCIAC with their La Verne match so this one becomes really important. They draw into the NWC with their Whitworth and Willamette matches so again these take on added significance. As long as the RAC properly ranks the Tigers (they had issues last year), they will have more than enough matches against out-of-region teams (10!) to help their at-large selection.
Finally, in the SCIAC, we have new schedules for Cal Lutheran, Caltech, CMS, La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer and Whittier. Redlands is the only schedule that we are missing for this conference. (If you’ve been counting the missing schedules, the 7th one missing from the West is ACAA member Mills College.) The SCIAC will be starting conference play on the fourth weekend. Typically, a number of SCIAC members will play a tournament during the conference schedule but that is not the case this year. All of the teams play out-of-conference the first three weeks and then bunker down for conference.
The first weekend is the time for the Pacific Coast Classic and we have Cal Lutheran, CMS, La Verne and Pomona-Pitzer staying at home and playing in this. Teams coming in and playing against SCIAC teams are Augsburg, Wentworth, UW-Platteville, St. Olaf, Carroll, Dallas, Benedictine and Kean. Augsburg probably headlines that group as they were an NCAA at-large team last season. They return most of their hitting so as long as they can find a new setter then they should be tough again in 2019. Wentworth won their conference and had a great record but they were not regionally ranked. This is one of those teams in the northeast that can greatly benefit your SOS at a minimum of risk but you simply can’t afford to lose to them. St. Olaf was regionally ranked but they will struggle to repeat that this year. The rest of the out-of-region teams should be manageable but can’t be taken lightly. Caltech starts the year against three non-DIII teams at home. Whittier actually flies out to the Southwestern Tournament where they will play Whitworth, Southwestern, Carthage and Hardin-Simmons. Carthage is the class of this group having made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large and returning most of their players in 2019. The other three teams give them matches against the other three conferences in the West Region.
The second week has the Cal Lutheran Tournament where Cal Lu, CMS and Whittier will play. They get some mix of UC Santa Cruz, TLU, Concordia, Puget Sound, Centenary and Colby-Sawyer. Concordia is the wildcard to me in this mix but otherwise the California schools are going to have an expectation that they should win these matches. Caltech will once again play a couple of non-DIII schools this week giving them 6 for the first two weeks. La Verne decides to take on Colorado College at their tournament where they will also play Willamette, LeTourneau and MIT. Anything less than 3 wins here should be a disappointment. Pomona-Pitzer will travel to the UTD Tournament where they draw Hardin-Simmons, Southwestern and Trinity. These are all really good tests for the Sagehens with Trinity being the toughest match they will face.
The third weekend has the La Verne Tournament with La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer and Whittier staying at home to play in it. They will all play Pacific Lutheran, UC Santa Cruz and Puget Sound. These should be good matches as it pits some of the better teams in the SCIAC against some of the better teams in the NWC, which makes the West Region RAC job easier when it comes to rankings. Cal Lutheran and CMS will head to WUSTL where they play in the East to West Battle. This tournament features some of the best teams in the nation and this year they will be playing a mix of Emory, Trinity, WUSTL and Juniata. That’s a tough room but it’s a great opportunity for the West Region to display some dominance prior to conference play. Both Emory and WUSTL will have to overcome some significant graduation loss this year but these programs tend to reload pretty easily from year to year. Juniata might be the early odds on favorite for the championship this year. Caltech will make it 9 non-DIII teams over the first three weekends, which is a little strange. Their only DIII opponents all year will be from the SCIAC.
Looking at the complete scheduling picture for each of these teams and I’ll start with Cal Lutheran. They have 6 out-of-region teams that include Augsburg, Emory and WUSTL. In-region their tougher matches are against Concordia and Trinity and, of course, the SCIAC teams. When it comes to the West Region rankings they will rely on some common opponent a bit so they really need to do well in conference. No matches against the NWC makes those comparisons tough for the RAC. With that said, if they can get a good ranking and they are able to take down at least one of those three big out-of-region teams then they could be looking good for an at-large. Caltech always has a tough road and I’ll be interested to see if their non-DIII schedule helps them in conference this year. The CMS schedule mimics the Cal Lutheran’s schedule. No matches against Trinity, Colorado College, UTD and UMHB could make for an interesting time for the RAC when figuring out the top spot in the West. Regardless, CMS usually wins and since they had no seniors last year and should have health this year, they should be sitting pretty. (By the way, CMS would also be a preseason pick for national champion this year.) La Verne has a nice schedule for 2019 with 5 non-region teams and matches against in-region Colorado College, Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound. The Colorado College match isn’t one I expect the Leopards to pull off but if they did they would be sitting pretty in the West. No matches with the ASC and only one with the SCAC will be an issue for the RAC when it comes to rankings. Pomona-Pitzer is interesting because they have matches with both Southwestern and Trinity. Winning these matches would really put the SCIAC over the SCAC with respect to common opponent. The Sagehens also have matches with Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound so their West Region ranking is really in their own hands this season. Whittier has only 2 out-of-region matches which makes that Carthage match really important. In-region they have Whitworth, Southwestern, HSU, Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound so there are definitely enough data points there for the West Region RAC. With respect to how these schedules help future NCAA at-large hopes, I really don’t have an issue with the exception of Caltech. The bigger problem with the SCIAC the past few years has been their ability to beat up on each other during conference. They are just too deep and unfortunately that hasn’t been reward by the NCAA at selection time. Because of this, winning as many out-of-region matchups as possible becomes even that more important.