Play volleyball! Conference-by-conference breakdown as NCAA women’s spring season begins

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Lauren Matthews leads Western Kentucky in Conference USA/WKU photo

After a fall in which we watched the Big 12 and Sun Belt conferences take a crack at full conference seasons, and saw the ACC and SEC play abbreviated schedules, finally on Friday NCAA women’s volleyball begins in earnest.

Mostly.

It’s happening with so many questions, most revolving around the reason we’re in this situation in the first place, COVID-19.

But as the sport begins anew, there are some left behind as the field eyes an April NCAA Tournament.

The Ivy League and Big West, with 19 teams between them, have canceled and won’t play until the fall when it all starts over again. The SWAC lost its perennial front-runner when Alabama State dropped out for the spring, and so did in-state SWAC for Alabama A&M.

Stanford, the two-time defending champion that resides in Santa Clara County, California, where the COVID regulations are among the toughest in the country, has alreadly canceled its first two Pac-12 weekends.

And then Thursday evening Penn State, which was scheduled for two matches at Michigan, released this statement: “Penn State women’s volleyball’s two-match series at Michigan scheduled for Friday and Saturday has been postponed. The universities mutually agreed to the postponement out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff. The institutions will work with the Big Ten Conference to identify rescheduling options.”

So, just as in pro sports and NCAA football and basketball, there will be others and schedules might be adjusted on the fly. But for now, here’s a look in alphabetical order what’s ahead for all of the remaining 30 conferences that will compete this spring. Every one of these conferences get an automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Tournament, which will include 18 at-large bids with the Ivy and Big West dropping out.

American Athletic — The AAC gets under way Friday with six non-conference matches. There is more of the same Saturday and Sunday. Here is the schedule page, but there are no links for TV or streaming.

UCF, which was picked to win the league in the coaches poll, opens play Tuesday when it plays host to FAU. Cincinnati, which won the league last year, doesn’t open until January 29 when it goes to Illinois State for back-to-back matches.

The AAC also listed its preseason team that includes McKenna Melville of UCF as the player of the year.

ACC — The 15-team league mostly completed its fall slate that had three pods of five teams each, although when it was all said and done, neither Notre Dame, Louisville, Clemson, Florida State, nor Wake Forest got in all eight scheduled matches. Georgia Tech fared the best at 7-1.

There is no spring update on the ACC volleyball page but some schools have announced what appears to be a 10-match schedule that begins in March.

America East — There is nothing on the AE website, although the Stony Brook website, for example, lists a 14-match slate — including 12 conference matches — that starts February 16.

ASUN — Five of the league’s teams play this weekend, including Jacksonville against Davidson and Wofford on Friday. Also on Friday, Liberty plays VCU at 10 a.m., Lipscomb is at Middle Tennessee, North Alabama goes to Chattanooga, and North Florida plays South Florida. Click here for more.

And here for the ASUN schedule.

Atlantic 10 — Dayton was picked to win the league again, followed by VCU and Saint Louis in the coaches poll. 

The A10 has three matches on the Friday schedule, including the 10 a.m. first serve with VCU at Liberty. Here is the complete A10 schedule.

Big 12 — The big question, now that the conference played a full schedule in the fall, is what do the teams do in the spring? 

On the Big 12 website, the schedule shows the first match February 26 when Iowa State plays two matches at Marquette, against Saint Louis and the home team. Iowa State is also scheduled to play host to Oklahoma in March. 

The full schedule can be found here.

But with all respect to the other teams, we all are waiting to see what Texas, which went 14-0 in the fall and won the Big 12’s automatic NCAA bid, and Baylor (13-3) do, and also Kansas State (10-6) as it hopes for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Big East — The preseason poll shows St. John’s atop the East Division and Creighton atop the Midwest.

Play gets under way Friday when Marquette is home for Illinois State and Creighton plays host to crosstown foe Omaha. Here is the full Big East schedule.

Big South — Play begins February 6 with teams playing eight opponents twice. The Big South website was unresponsive but individual schools have schedules.

Big Sky — This schedule has 11 teams playing 16 conference matches over nine weeks, beginning Sunday with four matches. The top eight teams in the standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the Big Sky Conference Tournament hosted by Northern Colorado from March 31-April 2. The tournament champion will earn the Big Sky’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Northern Colorado is the defending conference champion.

Big Ten — Already the first postponements have hit the B1G when it was announced Thursday that Penn State can’t go to Michigan. That not withstanding, click here to read our Big Ten team-by-team preview.

Colonial — There is no other information on the CAA website, but there is a schedule and it shows the first match as Georgia Southern playing at Charleston on January 30. 

Conference USA — Western Kentucky and Rice were picked to win their respective divisions in the preseason coaches poll that also has a preseason team.

Teams play a 12-match conference schedule. Schools will play two matches per visit at three select C-USA campuses, and will host three teams for a two-match series. The tournament is April 1-3 at Southern Miss. The top four teams in each division following  the  regular-season  will  qualify  for  a  single-elimination, three-day championship. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

Here is a link to the schedule that includes six matches Friday.

Horizon — Wright State was picked No. 1 by the league’s coaches, followed by Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee. The season begins Monday with five matches, including Wright State vs. Milwaukee.

Here is a link to the schedule.

Metro Atlantic — The MAAC doesn’t get going until March 7 with a championship set for April 1-3 in Albany. There is no volleyball schedule listed at this time.

Perennial favorite Fairfield, however, has a story and a schedule.

MEAC — The schedule is up and shows Morgan State getting things going Saturday at Temple, with both Delaware and Norfolk State in action Sunday. The season runs through March 19.

Mid-American — Miami and Central Michigan were picked to win their divisions in the coaches poll that was announced Wednesday.

The season opens Friday with six league matches. Click here for the complete schedule that runs through April 3.

Missouri Valley — UNI was picked to win the the league with a slim margin over Illinois State in the coaches poll. UNI got six first-place votes and ISU four.

Play begins Friday with four matches. Click here for the full slate.

Mountain West — There are no stories on the website, but play begins February 4 when San Diego State goes to UNLV. 

Click here for the complete schedule that runs through April 3.

Northeast — If anyone knows anything, email lee@volleyballmag.com

Ohio Valley — There is a schedule and it starts February 7 and runs through March 29.

What’s more, in the poll of coaches and sports information directors, Southeast Missouri was picked No. 1, followed by Jacksonville State and Morehead State. It also lists a preseason team.

Patriot — This comes from American University, the perennial team to beat, and not the Patriot League:

“The Patriot League’s nine women’s volleyball programs will play a 10-match, League-only schedule beginning on Friday, Feb. 19. Teams will play five home and five road contests during the regular season, scheduled to conclude on Sunday, March 28.

“The top four teams will qualify for the 2021 Patriot League Spring Volleyball Championship with semifinal-round action set for Friday, April 2. The League championship game is planned for Saturday, April 3.”

There is no schedule to be found.

Pac-12 — Click here to read our Pac-12 team-by-team preview.

SEC — The SEC resumes action a week from Friday, on January 29, with five matches. The conference played an eight-match schedule in the fall and all but LSU and Ole Miss, which played six times, got in all eight.

Summit — Play starts Friday. South Dakota was picked to repeat as champion in the coaches poll released this week. Click here for the complete story, which also lists the players to watch and notes that include Kansas City rejoining the league.

Friday’s slate includes five matches. Click here for the complete schedule that goes through April 3.

Sun Belt — The Sun Belt played a full conference schedule and conducted its tournament with Texas State (24-2) beating Coastal Carolina (18-1) in the title match, taking the NCAA bid that goes with it. Coastal would certainly have been up for an at-large bid but in the tourney final, star player Anett Nemeth blew out her knee. 

There’s no word on what or if the Sun Belt is doing this spring.

Southern — ETSU (East Tennessee State) was picked No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll. Click here for the complete story, which also lists the SoCon preseason team. 

There is one match on Friday’s schedule when Chattanooga is home for North Alabama, and on Saturday Western Carolina is scheduled to play twice at Clemson.

Southland — The Southland will look a lot different next year with the impending move to the WAC by four of its members, including two teams that perennially finish at or near the top in Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State. 

Action begins Friday with three schools in action. 

The SLC tournament is set for March 31-April 1 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Click here for the complete schedule.

Also, in the coaches preseason poll, SFA was picked to defend its title, followed by Sam Houston.

SWAC — As we mentioned, league favorite Alabama State has dropped out. So Prairie View was the pick by the coaches to win it, followed by Jackson State and Texas Southern. The poll is here.

Things get under way on Sunday with a full slate. Click here for complete schedule that runs to the SWAC tournament March 27-28.

WAC — NM State was the coaches’ pick to win it again. Click here for the complete release that includes news and notes.

Action begins Friday with five matches. Click here for the complete schedule that runs through March 23.

West Coast — Round up the usual suspects. San Diego was picked No. 1, followed by BYU and Pepperdine in the coaches preseason poll. Click here for the complete release, which also lists the all-preseason team.

Play begins when San Diego visits Gonzaga for matches Sunday and Monday. The other eight teams begin play Tuesday, including BYU at Portland and Pepperdine home for San Francisco.

Click here for the complete schedule that runs through March 27.

 

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