Here are the updated AVCA Volleyball National Rankings as of November 3rd. Not much movement, but some matches with some key implications for the WCC standings did shake things up a little bit.
BYU, #14, DOWN THREE SPOTS: The Cougars took a rare stumble last week getting trounced 3-0 at Santa Clara. It’s not a bad loss, but the Cougars have been rolling this season and to see them get swept by an unranked team doesn’t happen very often. In fact the Broncos are just the second unranked team to beat the Cougars this season, and the first team all season to sweep them.
Santa Clara is rising quickly and the Cougars bounced back with a sweep of San Francisco two days later, so they don’t take too much damage in the rankings. The real concern was that it opened the door for some contenders who were chasing them in the WCC standings. But as we will talk about in a moment, they didn’t take advantage. Amazingly despite the hiccup, BYU actually comes out it in better shape to win the WCC than before thanks to struggles of teams behind them.
Currently they are a game and a half ahead of second place Pacific and have a head-to-head win over the Tigers. They get home matches this week against them and Saint Mary’s, and considering how tough they are to beat at home the Cougars could end this week in complete control of the WCC and looking to polish off clinching the title the following week against San Diego.
SAN DIEGO, UNRANKED, FORMERLY RECEIVING VOTES: In the words of the immortal Adam Sandler character Billy Madison, “YOU BLEW IT”. Harsh but true. The Toreros went into last week red hot and receiving top 25 votes. If they continued to win, they could go into their November 14th match at BYU with a chance to sweep the Cougars and take control of first place. Instead, they limp into this week even further back and receiving no top 25 votes after back-to-back losses.
Going to Provo and getting a win is really tough so in an ideal world the Toreros were hoping for the Cougars to suffer an upset loss before then. They got it when BYU fell to Santa Clara, but they failed to take advantage. Later in the day with a chance to move into first place, the Toreros were swept by San Francisco, and they made matters worse by dropping a tough five set match to Santa Clara later in the week.
In one week, the Toreros went from second place and a game behind BYU for first to fourth place and two games behind the Cougars. Pacific is a half game ahead of them, and they are tied in the standings with Santa Clara but behind them after the Broncos beat them twice this year. They are back to receiving no top 25 votes, and their season is suddenly in doubt.
There is a road back, but it’s gotten very slim. Beating Pacific and Saint Mary’s this week are absolute requirements now. They can jump the Tigers with a season sweep after beating them earlier in the year. If they do that, they can regain some momentum going into their match at BYU which is also now a must-win if it wasn’t already. But even if they do all that and win out, they still need help.
Assuming they win out, they would need Santa Clara to drop at least one more match. If they finished tied, Santa Clara has the tiebreaker. They would also need BYU to drop one more match. Fortunately they would have the tiebreaker with the Cougars so it’s only one BYU loss needed instead of two. The Broncos have some tough matches left, so them picking up another loss or two is possible. Hoping the Cougars drop another AND San Diego getting the upset in Provo however is a real stretch.
The Toreros had it laid out for them on a silver platter, and they couldn’t deliver. All they can do now is focus on winning every match and let the results happen. An at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament is still very realistic with their reputation and RPI, so the focus should be to get over the disappointment of letting the WCC slip away and getting back into postseason contention.
SANTA CLARA, #29, FORMERLY NOT RECEIVING VOTES: Lost in all of the above about the struggles of BYU and San Diego was Santa Clara, the team that gave both of them fits. The Broncos had a spectacular week sweeping BYU and pulling out a comeback five set victory over San Diego. The wins have completely changed their status and thrown them into contention. At 8-4 they are up to third in the standings and have season splits with BYU and Pacific, the two teams ahead of them. They also have the season sweep over San Diego who is tied with them with an identical 8-4 record.
Ironically, the Broncos have less of a shot at winning it all than the Toreros. Having completed their series against all the teams around them, the Tigers can’t help their case against the teams they’re chasing. They would need to hope Pacific loses one more and BYU loses two more AND have the tiebreaker scenarios fall their way to have a shot. Losses to San Francisco and Gonzaga have come back to haunt them, and they still need to play those two again. It’s been a valiant effort, but it looks like they will come up short regardless of what happens.
Fortunately like San Diego, they have built an impressive resume that just got a lot stronger. They could claw their way into the top 25 with a strong finish, and the upsets over BYU and San Diego may have solidified an NCAA Tournament worthy resume. Like the Toreros the main goal is to just finish strong and see what happens.
PACIFIC, NOT RECEIVING VOTES: Where is the love for Pacific? They were getting some votes last week and won their only match last week sweeping Saint Mary’s. Their winning streak is up to five matches and is highlighted by a sweep of Santa Clara. But it wasn’t enough to keep them getting votes, probably because Saint Mary’s isn’t great and they weren’t getting many votes to begin with.
But all of the sudden, the Tigers are quietly in the mix. The struggles of other teams allowed them to rise into second place as they are a half game ahead of San Diego and Santa Clara. This may be a bit of a mirage however based on their results against the contenders. They split the series with Santa Clara, and they have already fallen to BYU and San Diego. They now get those two teams back-to-back for the second time this season, and this time they’re on the road. It could be a short visit for Pacific in the top portion of the standings.
Still like all the other contenders we’ve discussed, the Tigers have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Not only would beating San Diego and/or BYU go a long way to keeping them in contention for the WCC Championship, those are their last two shoots at signature wins that could help their postseason resume. They need a good 5-6 wins in their final seven matches if they want at-large consideration, and beating a top team and continuing their winning streak would be a good start to that.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, NOT RECEIVING VOTES: The Lions have finally righted the ship with two wins last week over Gonzaga and Portland, but it’s too little too late. At 7-5 in WCC play there aren’t many scenarios that can help them. They have losses to all four teams ahead of them, and to hope that every one collapses is not only a reach but probably statistically impossible. To go from an undefeated non-conference schedule to this is still quite a shock.
But despite all that, and we’re sounding like a broken record now, they are yet another WCC team with postseason hopes. Their strong start is still looking good, and as long as they don’t totally collapse and at least win some of their final matches they should still make the NCAA Tournament. They had been ranked or receiving votes up until a couple weeks ago, and they still have a strong record and some signature wins.
TRAFFIC JAM: The real question here as we go into the final games is who is going to polish off a postseason-worthy resume? All these teams still have lots of matches against each other, so it’s hard to believe they can all finish strong enough to garner at-large bids. Outside of BYU, none of them have guaranteed themselves a trip to the NCAA Tournament, so it will be very interesting to see who gets hot enough and who collapses. Odds are are won’t see them all in the postseason, so these final matches will be critical.