Around the Big Ten: 2021 Women’s Volleyball Tournament

Story posted April 9, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Emma Holtz

The NCAA tournament for collegiate volleyball kicks off in less than a week, which means that the selected field of 48 teams around the country are gearing up for the defining games of their season.

On April 8, the Big Ten Honors were released. Notable names such as Wisconsin Badgers star middle blocker Dana Rettke and setter Sydney Hilley were two of seven players unanimously selected for the All-Big Ten Volleyball First Team. Rettke had no hitting errors throughout the season.

Penn State junior setter Gabby Blossom and junior right side Jonni Parker made the All-Big Ten Volleyball Second Team. Although, Penn State breakout freshman Annie Cate Fitzpatrick was snubbed from the All-Freshman Volleyball Team. Fitzpatrick tied her teammate Kaitlyn Hord with 3.08 points per set during the 2020 season.

One of the most recognizable names listed on the All-Freshman Team is Purdue’s Taylor Trammell, a middle blocker who amassed 112 kills and 119 blocks this season. As a team, Purdue has been making steady strides over the regular season.

With a record of 14-6, Trammell and the No. 7 Boilermakers head into the NCAA tournament poised and prepared to compete. They will face the winner of UCF and High Point.

One of the prominent storylines surrounding the tournament this year is the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers’ chances of maintaining their undefeated status and bringing a title home to Madison. This will be Wisconsin’s 24th NCAA tournament appearance. The Badgers steamrolled through their season to become back-to-back Big Ten champions.

Now, they face some of their stiffest competition around the nation along with five of their conference teams. The Badgers’ experience and chemistry on the court certainly sways the chances in the favor.

However, college volleyball is notorious for upsets and comebacks, so the Badgers are definitely a team to watch as their NCAA tournament story unfolds. They’ll face the winner of Bowling Green and Weber State.

With the tournament being played completely in Omaha, Nebraska, a big question surrounds the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers if they’ll be able to earn the NCAA title in their home state. The team certainly has weapons at their disposal with outside hitter Lexi Sun and libero Kenzie Knuckles leading the kills and digs categories on the Cornhuskers’ roster.

The University of Nebraska embraces the successes of their women’s volleyball team and hopes to continue that success in the NCAA tournament. Husker Nation is often called the one of the most devoted collegiate volleyball fanbases, so the excitement of watching the NCAA tournament right in their backyard is heightened.

Nebraska begins their road to the championship on April 15 where the Cornhuskers play the winner of Texas State and Utah Valley.

Another big question this tournament can answer is: Can the Nittany Lions capitalize on their 40th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance? Penn State has been dominant in Big Ten volleyball since the NCAA tournament’s conception in 1981.

Speculation swirled around whether Penn State would even make the field of 48 due to their last matches canceled against Wisconsin and Nebraska, leaving their record at 9-5. Nonetheless, the blue and white enter the second round of gameplay ranked No. 13.

While Penn State did not recently face two of the top teams in the regular season, the Nittany Lions are eager to utilize their roster talent. They will play the winner between Rice and N.C. A&T.

In terms of gameplay, No. 3 Minnesota will face the winner of Georgia Tech and Lipscomb and the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes will square off against the winner of Missouri and South Dakota.

Looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, the matches will be played in Omaha at the CHI Health Center Omaha Convention Center and Arena. The tournament is jointly hosted by MECA and the University of Nebraska.

 

Emma Holtz is a freshman majoring in public relations. To contact her, email exh5337@psu.edu.