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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | November 30, 2022

7 dark horse teams to watch in the 2022 DI women's volleyball tournament

Complete expert analysis and reactions to the 2022 NCAA volleyball bracket

Time to break down some dark horses in the 2022 DI women's volleyball tournament. Last season, it was easy to just categorize these teams as "unseeded." This season, the top 16 seeds host, but 32 teams are technically "seeded." I am going to categorize this list as teams not seeded in the top 32. 

Here are my top dark horse teams to watch in the tournament:

Georgia

The Dawgs are an unseeded team to watch in the tournament. I believe this so much that I even picked them in my bracket to take down eight-seeded Towson in the first round. Georgia has been hot and cold all season, but we have seen them in some really great moments. They took down then-No. 5 Florida in a straight SWEEP. Kacie Evan lead in that match and has led the offense all season with over 4.09 kills per set. The Dawgs ended the season hot with two huge sweeps over LSU, so watch out for them entering the tournament. 

UNLV

UNLV is another team with the potential to fly under the radar. This team is entering the tournament 26-4 with a No. 24 RPI. As for their resume, they beat Kansas in four, pushed Miami to five, and finished the season on a 17-game winning streak. 

LSU

LSU volleyball

LSU had to be on this list if I picked them to pull off a big upset in the first round. The Tigers are another hot and cold team this season. A win over Kentucky followed up with a loss to the Wildcats, same with Ole Miss, a win over Arkansas and Iowa State. Most of their losses, too, are to REALLY good teams. They have seen tough teams many times before heading into the tournament. Think Houston, Penn State, Florida and Rice. 

Colorado

Colorado

I think Colorado could seriously make some noise in the tournament. They play Rice in the first round, and they have the potential to upset here. Out of all the teams on this list, I think Colorado and Pepperdine have the most impressive wins. They have taken down both Southern California and Washington — two teams that have stellar players and star power. On top of that, they went to five against Oregon, a top-16 seed and host in the tournament. Maya Tabron and Lexi Hadrych lead the offense — watch out for the Buffs in the tournament. 

TCU

TCU volleyball

TCU is next. The Horned Frogs ended the season on a five-match winning streak including a HUGE win over then-No. 10 Baylor. Audrey Nalls led all players with 22 kills in the win while hitting .364. But on top of that, the defense was lights out. They pestered the Bears into a season-high 42 combined errors. When you see a team perform like that over a top-10 team in the nation, you know what they are capable of. Let's see what they put together in the tournament. 

Pepperdine

So, this team has 10 losses on the season, yes. But it also wins over Baylor, Minnesota AND Washington. That win over the Gophers impresses me the most. Rachel Ahrens and Meg Brown are two names that you might even remember from last year's tournament, but this year they have the addition of Emily Hellmuth. She is just a freshman but leading the team in kills per set. She posted 21 in the win over Minnesota. This team definitely has a lot of players with tournament experience and some strong offensive pieces that could be dangerous in the tournament. 

Kansas

Kansas volleyball

Lastly, how about the team that pulled off the biggest upsets last season... You have to imagine that a team playing the No. 1 team in the nation multiple times will learn a few things along the way. The Jayhawks pushed the Longhorns to five. Texas BARELY escaped with the win. If you remember their run last season, Caroline Bien was the name to know. She went OFF in the tournament, and she is still a Jayhawk. Plus, they have a good matchup in the first round with what I would think are good odds against Miami. I would not count this team out. 

Here are my top teams to watch that will NOT be hosting, as in not seeded in the top 16:

  • UCF
  • Houston
  • Georgia Tech
  • Southern California
  • Rice
  • Arkansas
  • Purdue
  • Washington

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