One of my favorite sporting events of the year kicks off this weekend; the NCAA women's volleyball tournament. I have three reasons to be excited about this year's 64-team tournament:
1) As usual, American University, whose coach runs the club (Metro American) that I coach for, won the Patriot League and received, in effect, a #7 seed (only the top 16 teams, who host the first two rounds, are officially seeded), and a potential second-round match-up with...
2) #8 overall Penn State, the four-time defending champions, who may be more vulnerable this year than they have been since 2006, more because of their seven losses than because of what else has been going on in State College. I will obviously be rooting for the upset here, but also for someone to beat Penn State before they win a fifth consecutive NCAA title; as UConn women's basketball has shown over the past few years, it's not a great thing for the overall health of a sport if one team has absolute dominance for so long.
3) Lastly, my alma mater, Pepperdine University, shredded the West Coast Conference this year to the tune of 13-1 (22-6 overall), and may have the best team they've had since an Elite Eight run during my freshman year in 2002. Leading the charge is WCC Player of the Year Kim Hill, at least the best player since Julie Rubenstein in 2008 and perhaps since Katie Wilkins led that 2002 team. Pepperdine is hosting UNC, Cal, and Missouri State for these first two rounds (average undergraduate enrollment of 21,600 as opposed to Pepperdine's 3,500), and if they win their first two games get to head to Honolulu to perhaps face Nebraska, USC, and Hawaii.
This should be a very exciting tournament, with Penn State no guarantee to make the final weekend, and a number of teams that have been very good in recent years (Texas, Nebraska, Iowa State, etc.) gunning for a chance at a title. And hopefully, on top of that, Pepperdine can play the role of Butler in this tournament (but more 2010 Butler than 2011 Butler). If you get ESPNU, there should be some matches on starting this weekend, and I heartily encourage you to watch. GO WAVES! (And go AU Eagles!)