With the WCC having a very strong year in women’s volleyball, here are the latest national rankings as of October 13th. The WCC continues to have two ranked teams including one in the top ten. Multiple others have been ranked or nearly ranked so far.
BYU, #9, UP ONE SPOT: The Cougars just keep rolling along. They picked up wins over Pacific and Saint Mary’s this past week to remain undefeated in WCC play. They dropped a game to both the Tigers and Gaels, but that’s probably because they are having a pretty easy time right now and are in cruise control. They are by far the best team in the conference right now.
They only gain one spot in the rankings because of their weak competition. Outside of LMU nobody is amazing in the WCC this year, so with the Cougars already in the top ten it will be hard to find quality wins to boost their ranking in conference play. Even if they run the table from here they may not even have the strength of schedule to climb into the top five.
But a high enough ranking for a national seeding in the NCAA Tournament is a very realistic possibility if they don’t stumble. If they season ended today they would be a national seed and host their first and second round matches, a big advantage for any team. San Diego got this benefit last year and cruised to the Sweet Sixteen after hosting their first two matches of the tournament. The Cougars will want to maintain this pace for that reason even if they lock up the WCC title early.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, #24, UP ONE SPOT: The Lions slipped a little bit and were just barely in the rankings at #25 last week. They benefited from an easy week with just one match where they swept Pepperdine. So the polls had really no choice but to allow them to stay in the rankings. A couple teams dropped out of the rankings which helped them move up a spot.
They are already 2 1/2 games back of the Cougars after a couple of losses in WCC play to Pacific and Gonzaga. They aren’t bad losses, but after an undefeated non-conference schedule and BYU being so dominant it has to be frustrating to be 16-2 and barely keeping up with the Cougars. They still get two shots at BYU to change their fate, but if you’re the Lions your goal right now is to try and stay ranked by taking advantage of weaker WCC opponents and make sure you lock up an NCAA Tournament. If they drop a few more games to weaker opponents they could be in trouble as the NCAA Tournament is far from a lock right now.
SAN DIEGO, NOT RANKED: The Toreros took care of business this past week, but their recent struggles likely caught up to them. A lot of teams take a couple weeks for their true ranking to show up because many voters will fill out a ranking based on their general idea of a team and may not be totally up to date with their most recent results. Last week USD was receiving votes, but this week more voters probably caught that they are struggling. They are not receiving votes despite a good 2-0 week including a big comeback win over a quality Pacific squad.
It’s hard to say what we should make of the Toreros right now. It’s been quit a tumble from their preseason #14 ranking, but they are still very dangerous and talented. And at 5-2 in WCC play they are still in the running for the championship. Their fate may rest with their two BYU matches starting with a must-win meeting in San Diego this Friday. And the implications could go beyond just the WCC. The Toreros are now fighting just to make the NCAA Tournament, a rare occurrence for a team that isn’t used to being unranked this late in a season.
The BYU matches and their second meeting with LMU represent their only chances left to pick up some quality wins. You can’t trust this team to get through all their other games totally unscathed right now, so they need some marquee conference wins to help their case. If they get swept by both BYU and LMU plus another bad loss or two, they may not make the NCAA Tournament at all. It’s do or die time for the Toreros, and they can really start to turn it around with an upset of BYU this week.
SANTA CLARA, NOT RANKED: Santa Clara is another team that the rankings can’t really figure out. Like the Toreros, they went from receiving votes last week to not getting any votes. And you can point directly at their collapse against Gonzaga as the result. The Broncos had the Bulldogs down 2-0 and ended up losing in five sets. Any loss when you’re in the “receiving votes” category normally seals your fate and drops you out, and that’s what happened to Santa Clara.
Like the Toreros, the Broncos are on the ropes. But at 3-3 in WCC play, they are probably out of the running. If the Toreros have a slim shot at the WCC title, the Broncos probably lost any shot with the loss to Gonzaga. Having suffered a sweep to BYU already it’s probably NCAA Tournament or bust for the Broncos. Beating LMU this weekend would be a good start, and they really can’t afford another loss to anyone not named LMU or BYU if they want to have a shot.
PACIFIC, NOT RANKED: The Tigers had a very tough week. After a loss to BYU they had San Diego down 2-0 but lost in five sets. After having climbed all the way into the “receiving votes” category, we may not see them get close to the top 25 again unless they catch fire and go on a big run. With three losses in their past four matches, their upset of Loyola Marymount a few weeks ago seems like a distant memory.
Despite the struggles, Pacific has proved they can hang with talented teams. If they can sweep LMU or pick up an upset of BYU while avoiding any more bad losses, they have a case for the NCAA Tournament. We will just have to wait and see because the Tigers have been pretty unpredictable so far.
GONZAGA UP NEXT? Last week talked about how Gonzaga’s strong play could get them up into the rankings eventually. They still aren’t receiving votes, but they are looking good after gutting out five set wins over San Francisco and Santa Clara. At 4-2 they are still in the hunt. They are in a very weak part of their schedule right now, and if they get past Pacific it’s possible they could be riding a seven match winning streak heading into their second match with Loyola Marymount.
The Bulldogs probably really wish they hadn’t dropped a five set thriller to San Diego, because if they hadn’t they would be in prime position with their only other conference loss to BYU. Gonzaga is sneaky good this year, and if they can do what they are capable of we could see them also fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth.