What a nice coincidence. On Friday, the start of the NCAA volleyball season — our version of opening day — we will get our one-millionth page view since we launched the new VolleyballMag.com website on August 1, 2016.
Because of analytics, we will know when we will reach that magic number, probably in the late morning or early afternoon, but it’s not like with the old car odometers when you could see it roll over to 100,000 miles. Anyway, that’s pretty cool for us and it’s all because of readers like you. Just another reason why Friday is a great volleyball day.
In the last NCAA match, last December on a cold night in Columbus, Ohio, Stanford’s Kelsey Humphrey’s tracked down an out-of-system ball, bumped it high to the left side, and the remarkable freshman, Kathryn Plummer, pounded it to clinch the national championship for the Cardinal.
It was the last match we would see the elegant John Dunning coach. After he retired, so, too, did the legendary Dave Shoji, who was at Hawai’i for 42 years. And then Rich Feller hung it up at Cal, three old-guard guys gone from the game.
Russ Rose enters his 39th season at the helm of Penn State, and there are plenty of veterans running their shows, but around the nation an army of young, new first-time coaches are getting their shots. They will, of course, get their comeuppances, because when this season ends in Kansas City, the four teams left will likely be coached by veterans.
And it all starts anew Friday.
Three from the old guard and a new guy meet where I’ll be, in Gainesville, Fla., where No. 5 Nebraska, coached by veteran John Cook, faces No. 18 Oregon and its first-year coach, Matt Ulmer. Then No. 1 Texas and coach Jerritt Elliott take on No. 12 Florida and its coach, a true veteran of the game, Mary Wise, starting her 31st year overall as a head coach and 27th at Florida. On Saturday, Nebraska plays Florida and then Oregon faces Texas. Quite a couple of days of big-girl volleyball.
There are so many great tournaments to start these. My partner, Ed Chan, will cover No. 2 Stanford at Long Beach State on Friday morning and then No. 16 Michigan at USC on Friday night.
We can only be in one place at a time, but what college-vball fan wouldn’t want to be at Wisconsin on Friday when No. 4 Minnesota plays No. 11 North Carolina and No. 7 Wisconsin plays Louisville? And then Wisconsin plays UNC on Saturday.
Or how about being in Seattle when No. 3 Washington plays host to Pittsburgh and No. 9 Creighton faces Saint Mary’s, with a U-Dub vs. Creighton match on tap for Saturday?
That’s just a sampling. For the full schedule, you can go to the NCAA.com scoreboard page, where it list 223 matches for Friday and 255 for Saturday.
Yeah, it’s back.
Not, however, for a couple of Texas teams. With Hurricane Harvey heading to the Lone Star State and a flash flood warning issued in San Antonio, Tulane will not travel to compete at the I-10 Cardinals Classic. Host Incarnate Word canceled all athletic events for the weekend, so Tulane will now simply drive a couple of hours to Lafayette, La., and play Louisiana-Lafayette twice.
And another reason that’s significant is because Louisiana-Lafayette has three of my former Volleyball Baton Rouge players, juniors Sydney Davis, Hanna Rovira and Katherine Young, and there may be few other times this season that I can shamelessly get their names in a roundup.
I’ve spent the past week writing and editing previews of the power-five conferences, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. But I haven’t forgotten all those great teams and players in the 27 other conferences. Accordingly, Tuesday starts two weekly VolleyballMag.com features: The VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll presented by the National Invitational Volleyball Championship and the players-of-the-week roundup.
So let’s get it going. To my many coaching buddies out there, high fives all around to the last day when every one of you is still undefeated. You can’t win ’em all, but all of us who love college volleyball are winners today as the season gets under way.