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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | November 29, 2022

The top 7 storylines in the 2022 DI women's volleyball tournament

2022 DI women's volleyball tournament bracket predictions

The 2022 DI women's volleyball tournament is here, with games starting on Thursday, Dec. 1. We have a lot to look forward to and a pretty short wait until the action begins. But until then, here are the top seven storylines I am ready to watch play out in the postseason. 

Is this the year of Logan Eggleston and the Texas Longhorns?

Logan Eggleston

The biggest one of all — is it the year of Logan Eggleston? All season long everyone has said that the Player of the Year award was hers to lose. But that is not the only thing she is missing ... she came back to Texas for a national title. That is, the title they have been searching for the past three seasons, coming up short in all three of them. If you have read any of my articles or watched me talk about volleyball in videos at all this season, you might have heard me say this before. This year's Texas team reminds me so much of last year's Wisconsin team. The Badgers, too, had been knocking on the door for a national title for years, coming up short every time, and had their star Dana Rettke and crew returning for her fifth and final season. Looking for that AVCA NPOY award and of course, the trophy at last and the fairytale ending. I remember writing these exact words in my 2021 preseason storylines article: "Will this be the year of Dana Rettke?" And in my postseason recap, I wrote this: "The Dana Rettke prophecy came true."

If you don't see the similarities between these two teams stories, you just might need to look a little harder. The Longhorns return all of their pieces from last season, and then added even more. Eggleston, Molly Phillips and Asjia O'Neal returned, they added a huge outside in Madi Skinner, and then amped up their defense with the addition of Zoe Fleck. They quite literally have all the pieces to win a national title, and it feels like this is their year to do it. The Longhorns do have a tough quadrant of the bracket — a little tougher than you might expect for the No. 1 overall seed. But, it is still possible they make it out. Let's see if this is their year. 

Who will go on the inevitable run?

Upsets are bound to happen. It is sports, after all. No matter how much better a team is, they can always be beaten on any given night for any number of reasons. With single elimination, a chalk bracket is so incredibly unlikely. Last season, we saw Kansas go on a run led by Caroline Crawford, now a star on Wisconsin's roster. The Jayhawks upset Oregon in the first round before downing Creighton. Illinois pulled off a huge upset over No. 7 Kentucky, too. Who will make some noise this season?

How will San Diego fare?

San Diego Volleyball

Another big and exciting question mark for this season: How will San Diego do in the tournament? The Toreros burst onto the scene this year after pulling off some BIG wins in the beginning of the season. They surged into the top 10 and then stayed up there as teams fought through their tough conference schedules. They did everything they could with what they had, but ultimately, it wasn't enough for a top-four overall seed. Stanford got the nod instead, and the No. 1 reason for that was because San Diego just lacked the strength of schedule. 

The stars aligned oh so perfectly, though, that the Toreros would have the chance, if they both advance, to face off against Stanford in the regionalfFinals. They would have their chance right then and there to prove the committee wrong. Some might think they will come up short since they haven't played a top-10 opponent in months. Some think they are the real deal. Only the tournament will tell — can't wait to watch it play out. 

Is Stanford back to stay?

The Cardinal are one of the most prolific volleyball programs in the NCAA. If you want to argue that, argue it to all of their national titles. They won back-to-back 2018-19 before completely falling off the map in 2020. They looked to be on the come-up in 2021, but this year was different. The Cardinal surged back into the top 10 and look to be a national championship caliber team yet again. They earned a top-four overall seed, and out of all the quadrants in the bracket, they just might have the best path to Omaha. I am excited to see if this is the year they make it back to the national semifinals, and if this level of success is here to stay. 

Can Louisville win its first national title?

Louisville Volleyball

Louisville has been a force to be reckoned with for the past few years. It all started when they shocked the world with an upset over Texas while Dani Busboom-Kelly rocked her sparkly red blazer on the sidelines. Aiko Jones was on that roster, and now a win like that wouldn't be a shock at all. It would be expected. The Cardinals established that level of excellence not only within the ACC but nationally, and Busboom-Kelly awaits her first national title as head coach. They made it to the national semifinals last season and came SO close to advancing to the national championship match, but Wisconsin just barely got the win in five and ended up winning the whole thing. They lost a few key pieces this season, but have not missed a beat. Claire Chaussee has been a special player for them all year long, and she can lead them to a national title, no doubt. Anna DeBeer missed a large chunk of the season due to injury, but has been back in the lineup out of the backcourt for a few weeks now. 

So the big question is, can they win their first title? A trophy would make history — no female has ever won the championship as a Division I women’s volleyball head coach. Ever. To make it even crazier, it is possible they will have to go through Nebraska in the regional finals, Busboom-Kelly's alma mater, and then Wisconsin in the national semifinals again. How amazing would it be to witness history? 

Can Wisconsin two-peat with almost an entirely different lineup?

We have seen many volleyball teams repeat for the national title in history. But how often do you see it after they lost their core? Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley and Lauren Barnes anchored that Badger team last season, and the new-look team this year is accomplishing feats just as great. Not only are there so many new faces, but it is a completely new offensive system, too. The Badgers went from having one of the best setters in the nation to winning 18-straight matches in the Big Ten with a 6-2 system. This would certainly be a great story if the Badgers could get it done in back-to-back seasons. 

Will Ohio State finally make it out of the final 16?

Ohio State is another team that rose to fame in recent years. But for the past two years in a row, their tournament run was cut short in the last 16. I talked to Mac Podraza at Big Ten Media Days before the season, and she said this team was sick of it. They knew they could do better, they wanted a national title, and it has been their goal all season long. It seemed more than probable just a month ago... I would have been really confident that they would have a top-four overall seed in the tournament. If that was the case, they would obviously have much better odds of making it to the top eight teams in the nation and breaking the curse. The Buckeyes looked like a championship caliber team in their midseason form before losing four straight to end the season. Two of those losses were entirely unexpected to Maryland and Indiana. Just like that, four losses later, this team went from being in contention for a Big Ten title and a top-four seed in the tournament to finding themselves in Texas' quadrant. That means this team would have to get through Minnesota (possibly) to make it out of the third round, and then get through Texas if they wanted to make it to the national semifinals. Just like that... their season long goal got a lot more difficult. Let's see if they make it past the rut and pull off something miraculous. It is certainly possible.  

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