The drama came down to who would be the No. 4 seed, BYU or Texas.
It went to BYU as the NCAA announced the Division I women’s volleyball bracket Sunday night.
“We thought we were deserving of the fourth seed based on some of the criteria that goes on but apparently they didn’t see that and that’s what happens when you’re a coach, sometimes you don’t get what you want and what you see fit in your program,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said.
Not surprisingly, Pac-12-champion Stanford is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament.
“We are excited for the tournament. This is what we’ve been working towards all season,” Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said. “We have prepared ourselves well with our non-conference schedule and the challenges we faced in the Pac-12.
“I think our team is motivated and ready for the obstacles that lie ahead.”
Big Ten-winner Minnesota is the second-seed, and Illinois, second in the Big Ten, got the No. 3 seed.
“I think it went well,” said NCAA selection-committee chair Carrie Coll, the senior woman administrator at Fresno State. “It’s a grueling process.
“You have moments where you feel good about things and moments where you have incredible heartburn about the way it’s playing out.”
BYU, which beat Stanford early and was the last undefeated team left, lost a key cog when outside hitter McKenna Miller went down with a season-ending injury. But the committee gave the Cougars the benefit of the doubt.
“We’re excited to head into the tournament as the No. 4 seed,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “We’re looking forward to another opportunity to play in the Smith Fieldhouse in front of our awesome fans.”
The top four seeds, of course, get to play the third and fourth rounds at home if they win the first two.
There were some bracket surprises.
The Big 12 got just two teams in, Texas, the No. 5 seed, and Baylor.
“As I said on the show, Kansas and Kansas State were two of the teams we were considering for the last spots,” Coll said. “Their team sheets were a struggle for us to get them in.”
The West Coast Conference got five, including BYU — which plays host to Stony Brook — Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s, and the last two teams placed in the bracket, Loyola Marymount and San Diego.
“We are extremely excited to continue competing together,” LMU coach Aaron Mansfield said. “We know how competitive every team is in the region and are excited to see how we match up.”
LMU was a surprise to many. But when it came down to it, the Lions made the cut.
“You go through the same process there that you do at the top,” Coll said. “Side-by-side analysis of each selection criteria. The win percentage, the RPI, common opponents, head-to-head (LMU not only beat BYU last week, but beat Kansas early).
“Your gut sometimes makes you feel like, ‘Wow, is that the right team?’ And we laid out the team sheets for all those teams we were considering, they had that significant late-season win, they had four top-50 wins, they beat Kansas. That’s how it shook out.”
For that matter, the last four out were the Big 12’s Kansas and Kansas State, Maryland of the Big Ten and Princeton of the Ivy League.
“You go through getting those last few in and whoever that 16th seed is and the difference between four and five, well, you sweat those.
“But we stayed true to the process and maintained the selection criteria and ultimately kept the presence of mind that we want to present the best experience for the student-athletes who have done so much work this season. We want their experience to be the best it can be.”
For some, that means some long-distance travel, like SWAC-champion Alabama State going to Palo Alto, Calf., to play Stanford, Duke playing LMU at Stanford, or Southern Conference-winner Samford, another Alabama team, headed to Los Angeles where it will play USC.
Also at USC the Big West champion, Cal Poly, plays San Diego.
“We’re excited to be going back to the tournament,” Cal Poly coach Sam Crosson said. “I know the girls are excited and ready.
“We’ll spend this week preparing and getting them ready to play and hope to have a large amount of Cal Poly fans make the trip down to USC.”
There are some other long-distance trips, like Pepperdine playing Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley at Wisconsin.
But there are two self-contained in-state foursomes.
Texas plays host to Southland-winner Stephen F. Austin and Conference USA’s Rice plays Sun Belt-champion Texas State.
“We feel it is a good seed and we are not disappointed at all,” Elliott said. “We’ll put our best foot forward here and we are excited to be at home the first two rounds. We got good opponents who are in-state and we need to focus on our first opponent and then move from there.”
Things will be fierce in the Sunshine State as UCF (Central Florida) is at home for ASUN-winner FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast), while the SEC’s Florida plays Florida State of the ACC.
“It’s really a proud moment for us to be able to host a first and second round of the NCAA tournament,” UCF coach Todd Dagenais said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty tough, pretty challenging first and second round for everyone.”
Getting all the teams in the right places was a challenging part of the puzzle for the committee.
“Those are difficult things, because we’re bound by the bracketing principles and those regionalizations of having to have the fewest number of flights,” Coll said. “If a team can drive, they have to drive, no matter where they fell in the bracket.”
There were 32 automatic bids and nine conferences got more than one team.
That included the Pac-12, which led with eight after Colorado got in.
“This team played great down the stretch,” CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. “We had six matches on the road in our last eight and we had to win five of them to do this.”
The Big Ten got seven, including Penn State, which, along with Stanford, are the only teams to appear in every one of the 38 NCAA Tournaments. This is the 26th consecutive season that at least six B1G teams have gotten in. Five of the top 10 seeds are from the conference.
In addition to the WCC, the ACC, led by Pittsburgh, and the SEC, led by Kentucky, also had five.
“This is definitely an exciting time for us as a program, to be able to host,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Fisher said. “We’ve been talking about this for a few years. We’re really pleased with the decision of the committee to let us host, and we’re excited to start preparing.”
The Southern Conference (ETSU got an at-large), Big West (Hawai’i), American Athletic (Cincinnati), Missouri Valley (Illinois State) and Summit (Denver) had two each.
Six programs, including FGCU, are making their first appearances: Bryant, Eastern Michigan, South Dakota, Syracuse, and Navy.
Click here for the bracket at NCAA.com.