Here is the 2022 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 October 31. A “Signature Win” is a win against a regionally ranked team or a key win in conference.
The ASC is using their 6-team single-elimination format they rolled out in 2019 and are now in the second year of the one division format. The tournament starts on Thursday, November 3 with seeds 4 and 5 playing and seeds 3 and 6 playing in the quarterfinals. The winners will play Friday against the top 2 seeds, who receive a bye, and the final will be on Saturday. The tournament is hosted by UT-Dallas because the ASC awards this honor to the regular season champion.
LeTourneau and Hardin-Simmons will start things off at 5 pm on Thursday followed by ETBU and McMurry at 7:30 pm. LETU has won both matches against HSU this year winning in 5-sets at home early in the year and then in 4-sets at HSU in late September. It’s kind of interesting that these matches were both in September as they really don’t give us an indication of how they are playing now. ETBU has also won both matches against McMurry. Both were 4-set affairs and occurred in late September and just this past weekend. Host school UT-Dallas will be playing the winner of the LETU/HSU match. They have beaten both teams twice this year although LeTourneau did take the Comets to 5-sets when playing at home early in the year. UMHB will get the ETBU/McMurry winner and they have had good success against McMurry sweeping them twice. ETBU, on the other hand, have split with them and both matches went to 5-sets. If ETBU can get past McMurry, this could be an outstanding semifinal match. If both of the top two seeds make it to the finals, UT-Dallas would seem to have the advantage winning both matches against UMHB including a sweep at home recently. I think ETBU could be a real dark horse in this tournament and are pretty even with UMHB overall.
#1 University of Texas-Dallas Comets (18-5 and 14-2 ASC)
UT-Dallas leads the conference in Opponent Hitting Percentage and is second in Blocks/Set. It’s kind of interesting that they don’t lead more categories having finished first by a decent margin.
UTD runs a 6-2 offense behind Emma Sevening (4th in Assists/Set) and Izzy Sundquist. The Comets are led in hitting by Abby Jones, Catherine Croft, Madison Bell and Gabi Engels. Jones is the workhorse as she’s 7th in the conference in Attacks/Set. Someone to watch is Karle Lynd who didn’t start the beginning of the season but has done very well in her time since then and leads the conference in Blocks/Set and Hitting Percentage. Defensively they are led by junior Rachel Baxter (9th in Digs/Set) and she will definitely not be bothered by the importance of the matches.
I really hate the new ASC schedule as it means the Comets only played in 23 matches all year and most of them were conference. They were certainly tested early on playing quality teams in Augsburg, Southwestern, Cal Lutheran, WashU and Tufts prior to conference play. Once conference started, they really only had a couple of hiccups and have finished the year winning their last 5 straight. What has to provide hope to others is their loss at home to McMurry in mid-October. It only takes another match like that from the Comets to have one of these teams pass them by. Right now, I don’t see an at-large bid going to an ASC team so UT-Dallas will need to treat every match like their last.
This will be the Cru’s 19th appearance which has led to 7 championships including 5 in the last 7-years. They are the defending champions.
Signature Wins: Cal Lutheran and Mary Hardin-Baylor twice.
Awards: Emma Sevening (ASC Setter of the Year, All-ASC 1st Team), Catherine Croft (Sportsman of the Year, All-ASC 1st Team), Abby Jones (All-ASC 1st Team), Karle Lynd (All-ASC 1st Team), Gabi Engels (All-ASC 2nd Team)
#2 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (17-7 and 10-5 ASC)
Mary Hardin-Baylor leads the conference in Digs/Set and Attacks/Set. They definitely keep the rallies going with their defense. They are second in Hitting Percentage and Opponent Hitting Percentage.
UMHB runs a 5-1 offense behind Ella Brunson (leads conference in Assists/Set). There was some back-and-forth earlier in the year between her and Sydney Bowen who has also filled in at times during the season. Offensively the Cru are led by Hanna Frasca (2nd in Attacks/Set and 7th in Kills/Set), Kaylie Vasil (5th in Attacks/Set), Katie Warden and Jenci Seahorn. Hannah had a slow start the season but has played very well of late. Defensively, the Cru have three players with over 300 digs in Frasca , Alyssa Christiansen and Maddie Gillispie. The three of them take the 5th through 7th spot in Digs/Set in conference.
This has certainly been a down year for UMBH and that is with playing a schedule that wasn’t very tough. This is the first year where I can remember them not having a signature win. They are 8-1 in their last 9 matches but that loss was a sweep by UT-Dallas. I think they will have a tough time getting by ETBU if they face each other in the semifinals but history tells us that we’ll be getting another UTD/UMHB final.
This will be the Cru’s 15th appearance in which they have won 4 titles. They last won in the spring of 2021.
Signature Wins: None.
Awards: Hannah Frasca (All-ASC 1st Team), Kaylie Vasil (All-ASC 2nd Team)
#3 East Texas Baptist Tigers (18-6 and 10-6 ASC)
ETBU led the conference in Assists/Set and Kills/Set. They were second in Digs/Set. They are a team that can be very dangerous to anyone if they eliminate errors.
ETBU will run a 5-1 offense behind Lexi Moody (3rd in Assists/Set). The Tigers did run a 6-2 earlier in the year with Moody and McKenzie Mansell but not for over a month now. Offensively they are led by Graycee Mosley, Avery Reid and Hannah Perry. ETBU has had great success going to their two outstanding outsides (Mosley & Reid) so expect that to continue. Both are leaders in the conference in Attacks/Set with Mosley not only leading the conference but also the nation. When in doubt, they are going to her. When playing the Tigers, it’s important to have some height at the right-side position. Defensively they are led by libero Lillie Hill (2nd in Digs/Set) with Mosley also doing really well as a 6-rotation player.
ETBU started the year at the St Thomas Tournament and did well but the competition wasn’t the strongest. Still, they did beat the host school and Willamette. Both have had success in their conferences this season. The Tigers started the year winning their first 10 matches before losing to Sul Ross State. They are on a 4-match winning streak currently.
This will be the conference leading 20th appearance by the ETBU Tigers and third straight. They have won 3 titles but none since 2003.
Signature Win: None.
Awards: Graycee Mosley (ASC MVP, ASC Freshman of the Year, All-ASC 1st Team), Avery Reid (All-ASC 1st Team), Lexi Moody (All-ASC 2nd Team), Lillie Hill (All-ASC 2nd Team)
#4 LeTourneau University Yellowjackets (15-11 and 8-8 ASC)
LeTourneau didn’t lead the conference in any statistics but did finish second in Aces/Set. They were mid to below mid in most of the other categories sort of indicating that they are an overachieving team.
LETU will run a 6-2 offense behind setters Reina Lawson and Natalie Davenport. Their main hitters are Hannah Payan, Kaci Monk and Allison Smith. Pavan is the go-to player as she’s 6th in the conference in Attacks/Set. Smith is their most efficient hitter and is 4th in conference in Hitting Percentage. Defense may be their calling card and they are led by libero Morgan Nix who leads the conference in Digs/Set.
LETU continues their ASC Tournament run which now is 5-years straight. Going into the year, I didn’t think the streak would continue so it’s great to see this program continue to grow. They started the year only playing in the Rhodes Tournament losing to Westminster, but winning the three others. They finished conference in a four-way tie but won the first round of tiebreakers to get the 4th seed.
This is LeTourneau’s 6th appearance in the tournament and fifth straight. They have yet to win a title.
Signature Win: None.
Awards: Morgan Nix (ASC Libero of the Year, All-ASC 1st Team), Hannah Payan (All-ASC 2nd Team), Allison Smith (All-ASC 2nd Team), Kaci Monk (All-ASC 2nd Team)
#5 Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls (13-9 and 8-8 ASC)
Hardin-Simmons returns to the conference tournament after missing out the last two times. They led the conference in Hitting Percentage while finishing second in Assists/Set. They mainly landed in the mid to upper half in most statistics.
Hardin-Simmons will run a 6-2 offense behind Ali Meyer and Hannah Huckabee. The Cowgirls have five hitters over 2.0 Points/Set but are led by three first-years in Gabby Jones (3rd in Hitting Percentage), Aubree McCann and Liz Underwood. Jones can also hurt you serving (3rd in conference in Aces/Set) and the net (2nd in Blocks/Set). This is valuable experience for this young group of players and if you want that experience to end, it’s best if you start with stopping Jones. Defensively, it’s another first-year in Ari Villanueva that leads the team in Digs/Set and is third in conference in that statistic. The future is bright for this team. The question is whether the future is now.
HSU spent the first week of the season at Colorado College where they won their first three matches before losing to the Tigers 3-1. After dropping their first match in conference to LeTourneau, they rattled off 6 straight wins to take the lead at the time. They finished the season losing their last two but both were to good teams in UTD and ETBU. They were part of that 4-way tie and prevailed on the second round of tiebreakers.
This will be the Cowgirls 15th appearance but first since 2019. They have 5 titles after winning four years in a row between 2010 and 2013.
Signature Win: None.
Awards: Gabby Jones (All-ASC 1st Team), Aubree McCann (All-ASC 2nd Team), Hannah Langerman (All-ASC 2nd Team)
#6 McMurry War Hawks (12-11 and 8-8 ASC)
McMurry is another team returning to the tournament after a three-year run ended last year. They led the conference in Blocks/Set and were second in Attacks/Set.
McMurry will run a 6-2 offense behind setters Ashlyn Quillan and Lexi Miller. Offensively, they are led by Keetyn Davis, Tiffin Addyson and Bri Garcia. Is it just me, but does it seem like those three are all missing letters in their first name? Davis is second in the conference in Aces/Set and is 8th in Attacks/Set. Garcia helps at the net as the 6th best blocker in conference. Defensively, they have two players over 300 digs in libero Adile Leal (4th in Digs/Set) and Davis.
McMurry is the only team in this tournament that has taken a match off of UT-Dallas. On the downside, they followed that up dropping 2 of the next 3 to fall into that 4-way tie. Fortunately, they took the third tiebreaker and last spot in the tournament.
This is McMurry’s 16th appearance in the tournament. Although that is the third most, they have never won the title.
Signature Win: UT-Dallas.
Awards: Keetyn Davis (All-ASC 2nd Team), Addyson Tiffin (All-ASC 2nd Team), Adile Leal (All-ASC 2nd Team)
I think the smart money is on UT-Dallas. Regardless of who comes at them on the other side of the bracket, I think they are too strong playing at home. I think the McMurry loss should remind them that they can be beaten at home and without an at-large safety net, there is no reason they should let up. My dark horse is ETBU but they have a tough path just to reach the finals. With that said, if the Cru were to rise up and win this thing gaining a measure of revenge for last season, would it really surprise anyone?
Last year I kept track of Points/Set for the entire region, but I didn’t do that this year. Still, I think it’s an important statistic so here are the numbers for the six teams in the tournament:
So, if you are a fellow believer in this statistic, ETBU and HSU will win their matches with UT-Dallas squeaking by HSU and ETBU upsetting UMHB. ETBU then shocks the conference with the win in the finals.
I’m not going to run down the non-Region X teams but will highlight UC Santa Cruz. The C2C Tournament is the only time when the conference’s teams come together to play outside of a match or two during the season. The tournament will start on Friday with the quarterfinal and semifinal matches. It will conclude on Saturday with the consolation matches and the final. The conference awards their seeds based on the Massey Ratings since they don’t play a full conference schedule. The tournament is hosted by Mary Washington as the C2C rotates through the schools for these duties.
The quarterfinals will see Salisbury take on Mount Mary and Christopher Newport take on Pratt. The top two seeds received byes. The top seed is UC Santa Cruz who will play the winner of the Salisbury/Mount Mary match. Mary Washington is the second seed and they will play the winner of the Christopher Newport/Pratt match. UC Santa Cruz has beaten the 3 other top seeds when they made a trip out to Christopher Newport earlier in the year.
#1 Seed UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (18-4 and 3-0 SCAC)
UC Santa Cruz leads the conference in Assists/Set and Kills/Set. They are second Aces/Set and Hitting Percentage. You have to remember that since the conference really doesn’t play each other, most of the statistics are accumulated against other teams.
UCSC runs a 6-2 offense behind setters Sinead Beaupain (5th in Assists/Set) and Lauren Bliss. Offensively, Samantha Taylor (4th in Aces/Set, 4th in Kills/Set and 2nd in Points/Set) is their top hitter and will take the bulk of the swings along with Sydney Ahrendt. Kelly Ann Greene and Audrey Gilbert are both efficient hitters as they are 2nd and 3rd in Hitting Percentage. It will be interesting to see if they can get more swings and maintain their efficiency. Libero Emily Pasion leads the defense averaging 4.31 Digs/Set (good for 2nd in conference). It’s tough being in a conference that is primarily on the other coast, but things get easy now. Just win two matches and off to the NCAA Tournament you go.
It’s difficult scheduling a team that is so isolated as UCSC is. They played a lot of matches against the SCIAC and a number of really good tournaments picking up a number of great wins. They shouldn’t be phased by this tournament.
This is the second year for the new C2C Conference. Last year UCSC was surprised by Salisbury in the semifinals and they will want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Signature Wins: Cal Lutheran, Christopher Newport, Mary Washington, Salisbury, Trinity, Susquehanna, La Verne.
Prediction: I’ve got to go with the Slugs, right? In truth, this will be a tough tournament as both Mary Washington and Christopher Newport are good teams. Salisbury also can’t be overlooked. Playing at Mary Washington is also a problem as they will have home court. Still, this team only lost 1 set to the other three top teams and have a win over Trinity. To top it off, they know what will happen if they don’t come ready to play after being bounced last year.
UC Santa Cruz 17.12
Mary Washington 16.2
Christopher Newport 16.53
Mount Mary 12.1
Pratt Institute 14.59
The numbers drop a lot with the last two teams meaning Points/Set thinks Salisbury and Chris Newport will have an easy time of it. After that, Chris Newport will beat Mary Washington and UCSC will take down Salisbury. In the final, UCSC takes the title.
The SCAC tournament begins Friday and concludes on Saturday with 6 teams qualifying. The tournament is being hosted by Colorado College. The hosting duties for this tournament are done on a rotation basis. This is a single elimination tournament with the top 2 seeds (Trinity and Southwestern) earning byes. The other teams that qualified were Colorado College, Texas Lutheran University (TLU), Austin College and St Thomas. These are the same 6 schools as last year with only Southwestern and Colorado College switching places. This is the first time I remember that this conference has gone to a 2-day schedule. Last year it was three days with the final being on Sunday. Sunday finals are very difficult for the Selection Committee so I’m curious if this change holds.
TLU and Austin College will start things off at 11:30 p.m. followed by St Thomas and Colorado College at 2:00 p.m. TLU has beaten Austin College twice this season with Austin College only managing to get one set from the two matches. Colorado College beat St Thomas twice this year, but the last match was this weekend and it went 5-sets. Trinity will play the winner of the TLU/Austin College match and they have beaten both teams twice each. Southwestern will play the winner of the Colorado College/St Thomas match. They have split with both teams this year. You would expect Colorado College to have a home court advantage in this tournament.
#1 Seed Trinity Tigers (25-3 and 16-0 SCAC)
The Tigers are the best blocking team in the nation and one of the most efficient at hitting (7th in the nation). All of this impacts the ball coming to the back line as they are actually last in conference in Digs/Set. I mean, it’s kind of funny but if the ball never comes back over, it makes sense.
Trinity runs a 6-2 system with setters Marisa Amarino (2nd in conference in Assists/Set) and (lately) Jozie Dhayer although Trinity Herrera played time at the position earlier. It seems like the entire team averages 2.0 Points/Set or higher and they spread the ball around so it’s difficult to narrow down the offensive leaders. Sara Flynn will definitely be a factor as will Emily Ellis but really any of the six can hurt you. Ellis, Flynn and Sarah Williammee are 1st, 2nd and 5th in Hitting Percentage. Defensively, the team is led by Jenna Rodriguez and Nadia Kern but they are helped out by 6-rotation outside Reagan Whatley, too. Of course, the defensive story is the blocking where Ellis, Maddie Fate and Flynn all are ranked in conference.
Trinity earned the #1 seed by going undefeated in conference. They will get the winner of the TLU/Austin College match. They have, obviously, beaten both teams in both matches this year. The Tigers also played an outstanding out-of-conference schedule that included a number of top teams nationally. They are certainly the most battle-tested team in this tournament.
Trinity are the defending champions and have won the title a SCAC record 19 times overall.
Signature Wins: Berry, Transylvania, UW-Eau Claire, Johns Hopkins, Juniata, Scranton and Susquehanna.
#2 Seed Southwestern University Pirates (16-10 and 12-4 SCAC)
Southwestern University is not first or second as a team in any conference statistic. Instead, they sit in the middle or upper half across the board. It’s a sign that they are a good team but are not at their normal great levels. It will be interesting to see if they can elevate to greatness for the tournament.
Southwestern runs a 6-2 system behind setters Claire Romo and Annika Flora. Their outsides and middles are the strength of this team offensively and are led by Emma White (2nd in Points/Set) and Riley Brantley. White carries the load and is 4th in the conference in Attacks/Set. She can hurt you up front and in the backrow. Brantley is the most efficient hitter (3rd in Hitting Percentage) on the team and their best blocker (5th in Blocks/Set). Andie Valenzuela (6th in Hitting Percentage) is another efficient hitter although she doesn’t get the same number of swings as Brantley. The team has used a number of opposites and it appears that first-year Lily McWhorter (8th in Blocks/Set) has found a home there as she has come on strong towards the end of the year. Defensively, the team is led by libero Geneva Nedrow (4th in Blocks/Set). The key for this team is staying in system and getting the right side productive.
Unlike last year that saw the SCAC get two at-large teams into the tournament, I don’t believe they will get one this year unless Trinity somehow loses. I can’t remember a time when this conference didn’t get at least one at-large team into the tournament. The Pirates played a competitive schedule this season but had trouble securing the big wins they needed to advance their cause. They will need to win the tournament to make the big dance.
Southwestern last won the SCAC Tournament in 2015 and have 5 wins overall.
Signature Wins: Augsburg.
#3 Seed Colorado College Tigers (19-8 and 11-5 SCAC)
Colorado College led the conference in Assists/Set and Kills/Set. They were second Aces/Set and Hitting Percentage. Statistically, they are stronger than their record this season, which probably indicates that are capable of putting together a run in the tournament.
Colorado College runs a 5-1 system behind setter Jenny Jenks (1st in Assists/Set). Health has been an issue with this team as only 4 players have played in every match. They also lost their starting outside early in the year in Kellie Hopper. One of the issues with the Tigers is replacing the production at outside and they’ve tried a few players. When they get production from that spot then they become much more difficult to beat. Leading the team through it all is Isabella Lipacis (1st in Points/Set and Kills/Set) and Keeley Kandziora. Defensively, Colorado College is led by libero Peyton Hummel (3rd in Digs/Set) and at the net by Kaylie Stuteville (6th in Blocks/Set). As is the key with the Tigers is to get their outsides going, the key to stopping them is slowing down Libacis and making someone else beat you. Good luck!
The Tigers have played in every NCAA Tournament since 1998 but that streak is at risk if they don’t win this tournament. Their schedule wasn’t as strong as past season as it has become more difficult to attract top teams to their gym. This is the first time I can ever remember that they do not have a signature win.
Colorado College has won this tournament 3 of the last 5 seasons and have won 6 tournament titles overall. Playing at home should be a big advantage but they will have to get through three tough teams to do it.
Signature Wins: None.
#4 Seed Texas Lutheran Bulldogs (24-9 and 11-5 SCAC)
Texas Lutheran University is second in the conference in Digs/Set as they’ve always been a good defensive squad. They rank in the upper half of most of the other statistics.
TLU plays a 6-2 system behind setters Shavonne Respondek and Julia Chew. The attack has five players averaging 2.0 Points/Set or more. The main offensive threat is Maddy Schultz but you have to also watch out for Madison Weisinger (4th in Hitting Percentage). Both are seniors and will be making their last run at a conference title. On the defensive side, it starts at the net with Weisinger (4th in Blocks/Set) and then on the back line with libero Lexi Morris (1st in Digs/Set). One thing to watch is the health of Peyton Sulak (8th in Hitting Percentage) who went down against Our Lady of the Lake a couple of weeks ago. The team is 1-3 since her injury.
TLU finished in a tie with Colorado College but lost on the second tiebreaker (results against Southwestern). This team did play a tough pre-conference schedule beating Transylvania before losing in 5-sets to both Saint Ben and Whitworth.
Texas Lutheran has not won the SCAC tournament but this is their fourth straight appearance.
Signature Wins: Transylvania and Scranton.
#5 Seed Austin College Kangaroos (16-16 and 8-8 SCAC)
Austin College didn’t finish in the top 2 in any statistical category in conference but did continue their strong blocking tradition (3rd in conference and 23rd nationally).
Austin College runs a 6-2 system behind Brianne Tseng and Madison Manning. Tseng is always a fun to watch as a smaller but very quick player. The attack is very spread out with Riley Abernathy taking most of the load but not by a large margin. Victoria Smith is a very tall presence on the attack and in blocking. Olivia Linton is the third junior to watch and will get her swings from the outside. There are six players in total averaging 2.0 Points/Set or more but there has been a lot of mixing and matching after the three juniors mentioned. On the defensive side, the ‘Roos have five players with 200 or more digs. Tatum Torres leads with 309 but Chloe Miller leads with 4.25 Digs/Set.
Austin College always plays a lot of matches and always seems to reach 20 wins. This year, they fell short of that mark so you know it wasn’t a typical ‘Roo season. They had a rough start to the season going to the Northwest and getting beat 4 times but bounced back later in the season to beat Colorado College. They ended the season winning their last 4 matches.
Austin College has not won the SCAC tournament although they have not missed out in playing since joining the SCAC in 2013.
Signature Wins: None.
#6 University of St. Thomas Celts (20-10 and 7-9 SCAC)
This will be the second appearance for St Thomas in the SCAC Tournament and first as a full-DIII member. They finished first in conference in Aces/Set and Opponent Hitting Percentage. They finished second in Blocks/Set (16th nationally).
St Thomas runs a 6-2 but have three really good setters. Emerson Sykes leads the team in assists followed by Kendall Howard and then Alaina Lanik. One player to watch is Audrey Cataline who leads the conference in Aces/Set and leads the team in Kills/Set. Paige Havel is the force in the middle that is known for her blocking skills (1st in Blocks/Set) but can also put the ball down, too (7th in Hitting Percentage). Trinity Atkins is just a fun player to watch on the outside. She lacks height but can jump and is a smart player. The Celts changed up their libero midway through the season and are now led by Kara Spice.
St Thomas draws a tough path to the title as they will have to go through TLU and then Trinity just to make the finals. This is a 20-win team but they did drop their last three matches to end the regular season.
This is the second appearance for the Celts. They have never won the title.
Signature Win: None.
This is the 32nd SCAC Tournament and besides the first champion who was Rhodes, only Trinity, Colorado College or Southwestern have won. That’s not going to change this year, but that’s only because Trinity has a lock on it. They are a different team than the rest of conference and they shouldn’t have much problem claiming another title.
Here are their Points/Set numbers:
Colorado College 16.6
Texas Lutheran 15.8
Austin College 14.9
St Thomas 15.4
These numbers would indicate wins by Colorado College and TLU with Trinity and Colorado College moving to the finals where Trinity will win.
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 with Cal Lutheran hosting Pomona-Pitzer at the same time on Thursday. CMS went undefeated in conference so they have beaten all three times twice this season. La Verne has only beaten Cal Lutheran once and have dropped the other 5 matches. Cal Lutheran beat Pomona-Pitzer twice, which means Pomona-Pitzer lost twice to both CLU and CMS while beating La Verne twice. That kind of sounded like one of those logic problems you’d get in school. Based on that information, how many matches did Whittier win in 2016?
#1 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas (26-0 and 16-0 SCIAC)
Claremont-Mudd Scripps was the only undefeated team in the DIII nation this year so something tells me they are going to have pretty good statistics. And, I was right! They led the conference in Aces/Set, Assists/Set (1st nationally), Hitting Percentage (1st nationally), Kills/Set (1st nationally) and Opponent Hitting Percentage.
CMS will once again run a 6-2 system behind setters Georgia McGovern (4th in Assists/Set) and Spencer Hagenbuch. They lead a potent offense that is extremely deep as the Athenas can roll out different lineups to suite their purposes. The anchor and maybe the best player in the nation is Jenna Holmes. She is second in the conference in Kills/Set and Points/Set. She is outstanding in the service receive and hits an unheard of 0.299 as an outside (6th in conference). Two others averaging over 3 Points/Set are Audrey Sawyer (2nd in Blocks/Set and 3rd in Hitting Percentage) and Brenna Bell (1st in Hitting Percentage). Whether it’s them on the floor or Sakoda or McKee or Jones or Summer Ellis (2nd in Hitting Percentage), it just means the other team has issues. Defensively, CMS doesn’t see the ball a lot coming across the net. They are led by libero Dede Carranza who still managed to finish third in Digs/Set despite the elite offense from the Athenas.
CMS played a difficult schedule while going undefeated. The only downside was no late in the year tournament where they may have played some tougher teams. Still, they shouldn’t have issues in this tournament especially playing at home.
CMS is the top seed for the 5th straight year and is the defending SCIAC champion. They have five tournament wins in their history.
Signature Wins: UC Santa Cruz (twice), Babson, NYU, Millikin, Johns Hopkins, Trinity, Emory, Endicott, Cal Lutheran (twice) and La Verne (twice).
Awards: Jenna Holmes (Offensive Athlete of the Year, All-SCIAC 1st Team), Dede Carranza (Defensive Athlete of the Year, All-SCIAC 1st Team), Brenna Bell (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Audrey Sawyer (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Georgia McGovern (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Summer Ellis (All-SCIAC 2nd Team)
#2 California Lutheran University Regals (16-9 and 12-3 SCIAC)
Cal Lutheran was second in conference in Hitting Percentage. Outside of Digs/Set, they were in the upper half of the other statistical categories.
Cal Lutheran will run a 6-2 behind setters Tess Holbert (5th in Assists/Set) and Jalyn Chun. The Regals are really a two-headed offensive beast in Super Senior Maci Haddad (4th in Blocks/Set, Hitting Percentage and Kills/Set) and Sophia Muller (7th in Attacks/Set and 4th in Points/Set). If you can stop one of those threats, then a team’s odds go up against them. The defense is led by libero Julia Trento (5th in Digs/Set). This is an experienced team that did well in conference and probably have the best chance at upsetting CMS.
Cal Lutheran played a tough schedule prior to conference play where they couldn’t get the key wins they needed but something clicked when conference started. It looked like they were going to sweep the table excluding CMS until a late loss to La Verne.
Cal Lutheran is making their 13th appearance in the tournament and have won 5-times in their history.
Signature Win: Endicott, La Verne.
Awards: Sophia Muller (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Maci Haddad (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Julia Trento (All-SCIAC 2nd Team)
#3 Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (16-8 and 11-5 SCIAC)
Pomona-Pitzer led the conference in Blocks/Set and Digs/Set and were second in Opponent Hitting Percentage. It’s quite obvious that this team success is through their defense.
The Sagehens run a 6-2 system behind Kylie Mies and either Eleanor Nicholson or Savanna Cespedes. Offensively, they have one of the more efficient hitters in Grace Fan (5th in Hitting Percentage) and a volume player in Chloe Gill (4th in Attacks/Set and 3rd in Kills/Set). You also have to be worried about the two Paige’s (Mountanos and Wilson). Defensively, when the other team is able to get it around the block of Fan (1st in Blocks/Set) then it’s up to Lauren Asato (2nd in Digs/Set) to get it done. She’s one of the best in the nation at her position.
Pomona-Pitzer, like everyone other than CMS, will need to win the tournament to make the NCAA Tournament. Their first hurdle is Cal Lu who they lost to twice this season although CLU needed a reverse sweep two weeks ago to make that true. This is really going to be a toss-up in my mind.
This is the seventh appearance for Pomona-Pitzer. They have never advanced to the conference final.
Signature Wins: La Verne (twice).
Awards: Grace Fan (All-SCIAC 1st Team), Lauren Asato (All-SCIAC 2nd Team), Chloe Gill (All-SCIAC 2nd Team), Paige Mountanos (All-SCIAC 2nd Team)
#4 University of La Verne Leopards (17-9 and 11-5 SCIAC)
La Verne doesn’t lead in any statistical category but are second in Aces/Set, Assists/Set and Kills/Set. They are upper half in the other statistical categories.
No telling what La Verne will do with the offense. They’ve run a 6-2 and a 5-1 but in both cases Jordyn Patton (3rd in Assists/Set) will be involved. The other setter is Kailin Katena. The Leopards picked up an outstanding outside recruit in Mya Ray who was chosen SCIAC newcoming of the year and a 1st team selection. Ray was 1st in conference in Assists/Set, 1st in Kills/Set and 1st in Points/Set. She plays 6-rotation and is fun to watch when on the front row. They have five other hitters at 2 Points/Set or more with Ayana Mier being a great second option for the team. Blocking, both Kari Esseff and Olivia Rueckert are ranked in conference. Esseff is also 7th in the conference in Hitting Percentage. Madison Smith leads the defense.
La Verne took care of business in conference until it came to the top 3 teams where they went 1-5. Overall, they played a good schedule but were probably a Millikin, Trinity or Juniata win from being an at-large team.
By my count this is their 21st appearance in the SCIAC Tournament. They have won the title 11 times.
Signature Wins: Cal Lutheran.
Awards: Mya Ray (SCIAC Newcomer of the Year, All-SCIAC 1st Team), Jordyn Patton (SCIAC Character Award), Ayana Mier (All-SCIAC 2nd Team)
This should be a pretty easy path for CMS and that’s really a comment about them and not the other three teams. Cal Lutheran could put up a fight but none of the three teams have the depth to match up with CMS. Here are the Points/Set numbers:
California Lutheran: 15.5
La Verne: 16.5
Interesting that Cal Lu has the worst number here but their schedule was also tougher than everyone else except for maybe CMS. The numbers say CMS will win but we’ll see an upset by Pomona-Pitzer. In the final, it will be CMS taking the title.