2012 was the year of new faces as NCAA Women's Volleyball crowned a new champion. It was a year of new young stars and unpredictability. As each round passed, upsets abounded and two teams made first ever Final Four appearances. The perennial powerhouse bowed out in the semifinals and a team that has been knocking at the door was finally able to win the school's first title since the late 80's. The Texas Longhorns used their arsenal of powerful hitters and big blockers to outplay their opponents.
On first glance, the match-up between Texas and Oregon for the national championship should have been a dogfight all the way through. In the previous match, unseeded and unranked Michigan had taken the Longhorns to five sets with some surprisingly great all-around play and tough serving. If Oregon could do the same, they could contend for the title.
I have to take a moment to give the squad from Michigan a few props. Last week, I assumed that they wouldn't match up very well against Texas. On paper, they shouldn't have. Not many teams can hang with Texas's arsenal of hitters including Haley Eckerman, Bailey Webster, Khat Bell and Sha'Dare McNeal. But in the end, unranked and unseeded Michigan gave No. 3 Texas more of a run for their money than No. 5 Oregon did in the final. What I couldn't quite figure out was how.
When No. 1 Penn State and No. 3 Oregon met up in the semifinal of the Final Four, the safe money was on the Nittany Lions. Having won four national titles in the last five years, experience was certainly on their side. Oregon was playing in its first ever Final Four in program history so they were breaking new ground. One would have expected Penn State to play steady and Oregon to play some anxious, nervous ball.
Penn State and Texas are supposed to be in Louisville this week. The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season and Texas No. 3. But the other two teams that will take the court on Thursday night will make the first ever Final Four appearances in program history, which will make this weekend's finale a tough one to call.
The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament are in the books and we now know that there will be no repeat champion. In the most surprising casualty of last weekend, defending champs and No. 7 seed UCLA fell in four sets to unseeded Michigan State in the second round.
The first rounds are behind us and things are about to get really interesting in the NCAA Tourney. This is my favorite part of the playoffs, when we get down to the Sweet Sixteen and the games start getting tougher. Can the surprise survivors keep the streak going? Will the top seeds live up to their billing? Who has what it takes to make the Final Four?
The AVCA this morning announced the selections for the 2012 All-America teams. Though the Player of the Year will not be announced until December 14th, the Division I first team list includes two players from Penn State, two from Texas and two from Oregon, but those are the only three programs with more than one player on the list.
The NCAA Tournament is finally here and the first round matches begin on Thursday. It's always interesting to check out which teams earned one of the 16 seeds in the 64-team playoffs. As usual, there are a few questionable choices, but there don't seem to be any glaring controversies with the chosen teams as the seeds seem relatively true to the final AVCA Coaches Poll.
It would not be the playoffs if we didn't make some arbitrary predictions. Yes, we're almost always wrong about them, but that's why we love sports. So of the top teams who do you think will take the title this year?
It was not nearly as dramatic as what happened in college football last weekend, but volleyball had a little shake up of its own nonetheless. No. 1 Stanford's 22-match win streak was snapped as they suffered their first loss since early September. A lackluster performance against No. 8 USC ended in a four set victory for the Trojans.
Check out the profiles of the teams that traveled to the 2012 Final Four including class breakdowns, coaches, big hitters and big wins and losses during the regular season.
Find out who won the national title each year since the match has been played.