When we look at statistics loss due to graduation to gauge the strength of a team going into the next season we assume that every other player is coming back. Often, and frankly most of the time, this is not the case. So, I like to look at the new rosters when they get published on the team’s websites and compare them against the preceding year. The major problem with this is that the incoming roster is one of the last things schools update. Another more minor problem are the schools that remove players from last year’s roster when they decide to leave the team. It’s like they just disappeared from their team altogether. I certainly don’t know all of the reasons a person would leave the team but I think removing their history (if they played the entire year) is sort of rude. With all of that in mind, I want to look at the major players in the West Region when they do publish their roster to gain an understanding of their losses. Really, I feel I have to do this since my conference predictions are so poor each year. For this first installment, I have found three West Region perennial top teams (Southwestern, Trinity and UT-Dallas) that have published their rosters. Let’s take a look at who is leaving and what each team has coming back.
Southwestern currently only shows 8 players on their 2019 roster. Their 2018 roster had 17 players at the end although you wouldn’t know that unless you were familiar with the program because they have scrubbed some players off the website. The seniors that have graduated are Brandi Campos (564 digs), Jamison Duck (443 points) and Jillian Jeane. The other 6 players leaving early include a starting setter, starting outside and a starting middle. That really just leaves a starting right side and middle, which is a lot to make up in one season. They do have a replacement middle and a few defensive specialists that could play libero so I can see at least two positions being filled from what is currently on the roster. Best case, one of the outside positions also gets filled from returning players.
I currently have 9 recruits listed for Southwestern, which would bring their total roster size up to 17 players. Two are listed as setters and at least one of them, most likely, will be playing a lot of minutes in 2019. The recruiting class also lists a number of outsides and I expect at least one of these players to get a full-time job starting off the year. Overall, the mix of positions recruited and the height of the players is really good.
Overall, the statistics loss due to graduation and their turnover would indicate that Southwestern is going to struggle in 2019. By my calculations their statistics loss including everyone is a staggering 64%. As we saw last year where they faced a similar issue, Southwestern started slowly before becoming one of the Top 8 programs in the West by the end of the year. Watch how the Pirates start 2019 for an indication on whether they have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. As we all know, you can’t gain a berth into the tournament in the first two weeks but you sure can lose any chance at an at-large bid.
Trinity is certainly in better shape than the Pirates at this stage of the year and we have some good information as they have published their full roster (the first West Region school to show a roster with all players including their recruits). They lost 5 seniors from 2018 – Sara Mullens (501 digs), Jade Schoenberger (270 points), Jessye Castro, Amelia Roden (132 digs) and Madeline McKay (409.5 points). Trinity also appears to be losing a backup middle but should be retaining the rest of the players from their 17 player 2018 roster. Those losses certainly can be significant and include their libero, right side and an outside. On the plus side, Trinity has a deep roster with players in position to take over those roles if they win their preseason battles.
Trinity shows 7 new recruits, which will bring their 2019 roster to 18 players. A couple of these new players could challenge for the libero role and a few look like they may have a say in filling the right side and outside positions. After watching their recruiting videos I will say the competition during their preseason will be tough.
The Tigers show about a 37% loss in points from graduation going into 2019 and for a program like Trinity that can be made up pretty easily. It’s possible they get tripped up once during that opening weekend to an unexpected team as they figure things out, but I believe the Tigers should return as strong as last year when it’s all said and done.
UT-Dallas falls closer to Southwestern than Trinity when looking at their losses going into 2019. They only graduated one senior in Sydney Riordan (295.5 points) but it appears they will have 6 other players not returning based on the roster posted on their website. Riordan played outside and they look to be losing their libero along with two hitters. That leaves their setters and their middles along with Jillian Via who played both right side and outside last year and really she’s the only one left that was in their service receive. Some of what they have to replace depends on how the Comets will use Fayna Zeng and whether she sets or plays libero. I still remember Zeng as a freshman prior to her injury being a total pest from the libero position and if she’s healthy it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s where she ends up. They have just enough on the roster to replace their hitting but I believe they will need at least one if not two recruits to step up this year.
As for their recruits, I have 4 listed on the site which would bring their roster up to 14 but I’m probably missing 3 others. Right now of the four I found, all are hitters so they should all be in the mix to fill the open spots.
UT-Dallas is sitting right around 41% points lost due to the departing players going into 2019. That’s not too far off from Trinity and they are returning only one less player. So upon further review they are probably closer to the Tigers than the Pirates but my main worry with the Comets is the loss of their service receive and how heavily the team relied on some of these core players last year. UT-Dallas should still have a really good team in 2019 but I think a lot will depend on their new recruits and how fast they get to performing at a Comet level. It’s a lot to ask when you schedule is so tough through the first 8 matches.