After stepping away in 2020, the National Invitational Volleyball Championship is back in the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball postseason mix with a 31-team field.
This is the fourth year of the revived NIVC, a single-elimination tournament held from 1989-95 before its reboot by Triple Crown Sports, which also runs the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events. There are eight regional hosts for the first two rounds, which begin Thursday and Friday: Arizona, Boston College, Chicago State, Colorado State, Stephen F. Austin, Troy, Valparaiso, and Weber State.
The third round is December 6-8, with the semifinals December 8-11, and the championship match is scheduled for December, 12, 13, or 14. Whenever possible, matches are held on campus sites. Previous winners of the revamped NIVC were Georgia Tech (2019), Iowa State (2018) and Ole Miss (2017).
The 2021 field features five teams that were either outright winners or tied for their regular-season conference titles: Colorado State, Delaware State, Jackson State, Sam Houston State and Weber State. Also, Arkansas accepted a bid after being one of the first four programs to miss out on the NCAA Tournament and received a first-round bye — it will take on the winner of the first-round match between Jackson State and Stephen F. Austin.
“The NIVC is giving us an opportunity not to end our season in that disappointment and go end up the season the court,” Arkansas coach Jason Watson said. “We get to define it, the way it should be, and that is much healthier. Athletes understand winning and losing, not RPI or strength of schedule or all those other metrics.”
“With the explosive growth of volleyball, and how the maturing club scene has allowed dozens of DI programs to raise the bar of excellence in recruiting, it only makes sense to add to the postseason options in the college game,” NIVC director Jared Rudiger said.
“Teams will chase an NIVC title as a reward for experienced rosters, or to provide a true learning experience for young players when it comes to the demands of the postseason.”