The 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship features six teams that played in the event last year and 16 squads that won 20 or more matches this season.
What’s more, last year’s NIVC had seven teams that made this year’s NCAA field: Green Bay, Illinois State, Rice, Stephen F. Austin, Syracuse, Texas State and UCF, with the latter program running off to a 27-3 record and the No. 13 seed in the tournament.
The 2017 NIVC saw Syracuse and Green Bay display their potential by making it through to the quarterfinals, but that’s where it ended for them. TCU and Texas Tech were in one semifinal, with Ole Miss and West Virginia in the other — Ole Miss took down Texas Tech in the final, 3-0, as Caroline Adams set an Ole Miss record for digs in a single season.
Here’s a look a some of the mid-major teams working toward a strong postseason run in the 2018 NIVC:
Bowling Green — The Falcons lost in the first round of the MAC tournament, but they won four straight road matches to end the regular season.
The heart and core of the roster is senior libero Kallie Seimet, named the MAC player of the year for the past two seasons, while freshman Katelyn Meyer (with a team-high 259 kills) made the all-MAC first team. Seven players have 99 or more kills for Bowling Green. Head coach Danijela Tomic has guided the program to two straight MAC regular-season titles; the Falcons were the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament for the first time since 1992.
California Baptist — The Lancers just finished their first year as a Division-I program, winning 19 matches overall and going 9-7 in the WAC. They can’t play in their conference tournament or the NCAA tournament for two seasons; it’s a program that won NAIA championships in 2004 and 2005. Four players have at least 280 kills, with sophomore Tesa Oaks leading with 385 kills. California Baptist has one of the more demanding road assignments, as they are heading to Tulane, that got hot at the end of the season.
Central Arkansas — With 26 wins this year and 27 in 2017, the Sugar Bears are assembling some impressive momentum under fourth-year coach Jeni Jones Chatman. Samantha Anderson has 404 kills and is hitting .339, and Haley Tippett has 370 kills. They are part of a five-player senior class that has changed the dynamic in the program. The team has also adapted to an offense run by setters Elizabeth Armstrong (a junior) and sophomore Bailey Waddington; Armstrong was sidelined by an injury but is now back, and Chatman uses both setters in various ways depending on the matchup.
College of Charleston — The Cougars have that rare combo of two players with more than 400 kills in Devon Rachel (443) and Kennedy Madison (403). Both made the all-CAA first team, and Rachel was named player of the year. Allison Beckman runs the show with 11.63 assists per set. Head coach Jason Kepner helped the Cougars establish a bit of College of Charleston and Colonial Athletic Association history in 2017, guiding CofC to a 27-6 overall record, a CAA regular season championship, and the first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in both school and conference history.
The NIVC Tournament Central has all the info you will need.
Round 1 schedule (all times Eastern):
Thursday, November 29
at Iowa State
Bradley (23-8) vs. Bowling Green (19-11), 5 p.m.
Iowa State (16-13) vs. Drake (21-14), 7:30 p.m.
at North Texas
Wichita State (13-17) vs. Central Arkansas (26-6), 5:30 p.m.
North Texas (17-16) vs. Tulsa (19-11), 8 p.m.
Fresno State (20-10) vs. UC Santa Barbara, (17-11), 7:30 p.m.
UNLV (19-11) vs. UC Irvine (16-12), 10 p.m.
Portland (18-12) vs. Northern Colorado (15-13), 6 p.m.
Wyoming (20-10) vs. Utah Valley (19-13), 8:30 p.m.
Little Rock (19-12) vs. California Baptist (19-10), 6 p.m.
Tulane (25-8) vs. Arkansas State (19-13), 8:30 p.m.
Valparaiso (25-10) vs. Ball State (22-9), 5:30 p.m.
Miami-Ohio (22-8) vs. Northern Kentucky (21-9), 8 p.m.
at Georgia Tech
College of Charleston (21-11) vs. St. John’s (23-11), 4 p.m.
Georgia Tech (17-14) vs. USF (20-11), 7 p.m.
Appalachian State (22-8) vs. Radford (21-6), 4 p.m.
Clemson (17-14) vs. Alabama A&M (22-15), 7 p.m.