Let’s face facts. The top 25 in DII women’s volleyball seems like a pretty exclusive club. Though the actual rankings may change, the names are seemingly the same year in and year out. You could know nothing about DII women’s volleyball and predict that Concordia-St. Paul or Tampa will win the national championship… and have a great chance of being correct.
That’s why it’s all the more impressive when teams come out of nowhere to make some noise. As we get to crunch time of the 2022 season, let’s take a look at some of the teams that have surprised thus far.
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(Note: All records through Oct. 24. Regional standings are based on the statistics and RPI on Inkblot Sports.)
Wayne State (Neb.)
It’s not surprising that the Wildcats are playing well. Twenty-win seasons have become pretty commonplace in Nebraska. But Wayne State (Neb.) is in the loaded NSIC, and 20 wins usually leave you in the middle of the pack. Now, Wayne State isn’t simply atop the NSIC standings, the Wildcats reached the pinnacle, holding the No. 1 spot in the land for several weeks this season before falling this past Monday to No. 3.
The team started off 24-0 before dropping a tough match to perennial contender No. 5 Southwest Minnesota State. That was good for the best start in program history. It all started with a clean sweep at the Colorado Premier Challenge, the annual tournament that begins the season by pitting the top talent in the land against each other. That included a victory over Concordia-St. Paul, the first of two victories — in straight sets, mind you — over the Golden Bears this season, giving the Wildcats the edge in a tightly contested NSIC. Add wins against St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth and this team that fell just short in 2021 looks tournament ready in 2022.
HISTORY: DII volleyball teams with the most NCAA DII national championships
With Quincy’s victory on Oct. 22, the Hawks set the DII-era program record for wins in a single season. That should tell you all you need to know. But how about this: per Inkblot Sports, the Hawks are No. 1 in RPI in the Midwest.
Let’s talk a little bit more about how this season measures up, historically speaking. The Hawks are 21-1, tying the all-time program mark set way back in 1994, so the next win adds more to this historical run. They opened the season on an 14-0 run, which as I’m sure you guessed, was the best start in program history. That included four-consecutive sweeps in the Henderson State University Tournament, another program first to open a season. That got Quincy national recognition and the Hawks have been nationally ranked since Sept. 26, also uncharted territory for the program (the only time the Hawks were ranked previously was in the unofficial spring 2020 season). Last season, Quincy was a respectable 18-13, so to say this dominating start is surprising is an understatement.
Dallas Baptist is 20-4. How impressive is that? From 2018-20, the Patriots were 48-79. Last year, DBU turned the corner, going 14-8 but missed out on the NCAA tournament.
Now, the Patriots are No. 3 in the South Central.
Though DBU lost its last time out, the Patriots had won 11 in a row, two shy of the program record. After splitting the season-opening tournament, the Patriots won four in a row at the Steel City Showcase and have been powering along since. Projected to finish fifth in the Lone Star Conference, DBU currently sits in second place with wins over two of the schools projected to finish ahead of it.
Fairmont State has been steadily improving over the past few seasons. From 13-17 in 2018, to 16-15 a year later, the Falcons impressed with a 21-win season last year, falling just short of the NCAA DII tournament.
That progress continues this season. After a 9-0 start — which according to Fairmont State is its “best start in recent memory” — the Falcons currently sit at 23-4 and No. 3 in RPI in the Inkblot Sports regional standings. To take it to the next level, Fairmont State needs to figure out how to beat MEC heavyweight and tournament contender Wheeling, which has been the cause of half the Falcons losses in 2022. Despite that, the Falcons are looking strong and can make some noise if they find their way into the bracket.
If you go back the past five full seasons to 2016 (remember the Sunshine State Conference did not play in 2020), Eckerd has not had a 20-win season. The most wins the Tritons had was 19.
So, sitting at 18-4 with nine matches to go is pretty impressive.
Among those wins? The Tritons avenged an early season loss by defeating reigning national champion Tampa on Oct. 11 — their first win over the Spartans since 2011 — and took down nationally ranked West Florida a mere three days later. This team hit a four-game losing streak in mid September and hasn’t looked back, winning their last nine in a row. Eckerd hasn’t made the DII tournament since 2017, but if it keeps up its winning ways, the Tritons may hear their name once again on selection night.