NCAA incompetence, Covid, and upsets highlight the first two rounds of the Tournament.
The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament got off to a rocky start last week when the NCAA faced backlash for the tournament setup. The eight practice courts in the convention center where the tournament is being held are made from sports court layered over a cement floor, which can put players at a high risk for injury.
Players and coaches were also informed that no locker rooms would be provided until the Elite Eight. Then, it was announced that there would be no commentary for the first two rounds of the tournament that would be streaming on ESPN. After the backlash ESPN vowed to add commentators “despite the variety challenges related to the pandemic.” The NCAA also explained in a statement that a secure changing area would be provided and that cushioning had been applied to the practice courts.
The show must go on however, and the first round of the tournament began on Wednesday. All the seeded teams in the tournaments are given a first round bye. The story of the day was the Rice Owls being removed from the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols, allowing North Carolina A&T to advance.
The second round of the tournament took place on Thursday and featured the sixteen seeded teams in the tournament. Two major upsets took place. The unseeded Pittsburgh Panthers swept No.14 Utah 3–0, and that win will send the Panthers to the regional semifinals for the first time in program history. Later in the day No. 15 Washington State lost 3–2 to Western Kentucky. With that win the Hilltoppers will also advance to their first regional semifinal.
Pepperdine and Dayton were the two other upset-minded teams in the second round. Pepperdine faced the 12 seed Baylor, and jumped out to a 2–1 lead. The Bears were forced to rally and stole the fourth set from the Waves, winning 27–24. Baylor won the fifth set to finish the comeback and advance.
It seemed as if No 6. Washington was going to get an easy win against Dayton after winning the first two sets. The Flyers refused to go away though, as they won the next two sets. Washington was able to stifle Dayton’s momentum in the fifth set and survive in a 3–2 thriller.
The sixteen remaining teams will face off in Round 3 of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament beginning Saturday beginning with No. 1 Wisconsin vs No. 16 BYU on ESPN3.