This is the inaugural VolleyballMag.com Super 16 Media Poll, the first of its kind in coverage of NCAA Division I women’s volleyball. We’ve had requests over the years to do this, and the time is now as our sport and the excitement around it continues to grow on every level.
We’ve compiled a fantastic panel of media voters who cover the sport both regionally and nationally and, of course, follow NCAA volleyball every day around the country.
We chose to rank 16 teams because that’s how many teams get seeds in the NCAA Tournament. We also asked our voters to offer comments, and some of those appear after the list of pollsters.
Wisconsin is the top team and got eight of the 12 first-place votes and 185 points. Nebraska got the other four first-place votes and got 184 points, the slimmest of margins.
Here is the first VolleyballMag.com Super 16 with records and poll points in parentheses:
1. Wisconsin (11-0, 8 first-place votes, 185 points)
2. Nebraska (11-0, 4 first-place votes, 184)
3. Stanford (9-2, 163)
4. Florida (10-1, 148)
5. Louisville (11-1, 147)
6. Washington State (12-1, 134)
7. Oregon (12-1, 114)
8. BYU (13-1, 101)
9. Pittsburgh (11-2, 82)
10. Texas (7-3, 81)
11. Tennessee (11-1, 69)
12. Georgia Tech (52)
13. Minnesota (5-5, 43)
14. Arkansas (12-2, 42)
15. Penn State (8-3, 39)
16. Creighton (10-3, 29)
Also receiving votes: Arizona State, Baylor, Georgia, Purdue, Kansas.
Emily Ehman — Big Ten Network, ESPN analyst; former Northwestern DS
Ed Strong — VolleyballMag.com super Tweeter @VBMagazine
Michella Chester — THE volleyball voice of NCAA.com
Daniel Gillman — host of Six Rotations for the AVCA, Cal Poly play-by-play
Lincoln Arneal — Nebraska beat writer for Huskers Illustrated
Sam Gore — veteran broadcaster/studio host who does ESPN volleyball play-by-play, host of the Fifth Set during the NCAA Tournament
Mick Haley — ESPN analyst, former national-championship coach at Texas and USC and 2000 Olympic coach
Shelby Coppedge — ESPN analyst, former Texas A&M-Corpus Christi DS
Dennis Punzel — Wisconsin beat writer for the Wisconsin State Journal, author of Point! Wisconsin
Fran Flory — ESPN analyst, national champion at Texas, winningest coach in LSU history, AVCA Hall of Famer
Anne Marie Anderson — Emmy Award winner, volleyball play-by-play veteran who works NCAA matches for the Pac-12 Network, Big Ten Network and ESPN; played at Hofstra, where she still ranks in the top 10 in blocks
Lee Feinswog — editor of VolleyballMag.com
Lincoln Arneal: To me, there are three tiers of teams in these rankings. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Stanford and Louisville are playing a notch above everyone right now. The next group is the one-loss brigade. They each have several nice wins and have the potential to make a lot of noise in league play. Florida has the most impressive resume of the group but is a different team without Alexis Stucky.
Tennessee has looked impressive and pushed Wisconsin, same for Arkansas. Minnesota has struggled a bit so far, but has too much talent to not figure out how to be competitive in the Big Ten. For the last spot, I wanted to throw some shine on Arizona State. The Sun Devils have played a bit of a soft schedule, but have taken care of business so far. Depending on how their match goes against Stanford will determine if this is for real or a short stay.
Michella Chester: Toughest to order for me is Louisville, Florida, Stanford. All three feel really close — Louisville beat Stanford in five, but Florida swept Stanford. If you go JUST by that, it would be UF, Stanford, then Louisville. BUT, with UF losing Stucky and having to re-adjust to a new setter, plus multiple very close 5-setters, I moved them down a bit. I wish I could make Stanford Louisville and Florida tied for 3.
Nebraska takes over my 1-spot as the Badgers have been pushed to five a lot more this season too. Nebraska looking like a well-oiled machine leaving NO doubts against ranked teams.
Sam Gore: The top five have created a little distance between themselves and the remaining 11, in my opinion. Most surprising is Florida, who continues to grind out wins, despite losing Alexis Stucky for the season. Since her announcement of having to miss the rest of the season, the Gators have found a way to continue winning, which speaks to the coaching of Mary Wise and the character of the players. When you combine their early season wins over Penn State, Stanford and Minnesota, they continue to justify being in the top four.
Dennis Punzel: This is harder than I imagined. Close call on the top two, but Wisconsin gets the edge with strength of schedule. But Nebraska has looked great. The next five or so could go in any order, but Florida has some big wins with only the loss to Wisconsin. Another clump of teams for the last spot. It’s tough balancing teams with better records vs. teams with tougher schedules, but several losses to good teams.
Ed Strong: I was very tempted to put Nebraska at 1 but am just short of doing it for now. Incredibly impressed by what I’ve seen from Oregon so far this year, which gets them to the top of the one-loss teams. Florida has big wins but I’m just worried about how many lesser opponents they’ve let hang around. Changed my mind multiple times on the final spot before eventually settling on Purdue, but also considered (in alphabetical order) Arizona State, Dayton, Kansas and Minnesota.
Fran Flory: Wisconsin as been tested and proven they can win in hostile environments with their back against the wall. Nebraska is just not tested to the same level in terms of who they have played. Could definitely make a case for them to be No. 1 due to their defense.
Anne Marie Anderson: Oregon Ducks aren’t showing any flaws … Oregon looks as balanced as I have ever seen them … This week the Ducks host Washington State in what will be a measuring stick for two top-10 teams.
Shelby Coppedge: Wisconsin has proved themselves to be the No. 1-ranked team for a reason. Their size, athleticism, and chemistry make them unstoppable. They stay in system, utilize back row attackers, and strong team chemistry … Washington State has been one of my favorite teams to watch so far this season. This group does not get fazed or rattled no matter who they are playing, and are extremely hard to get out of system. This is the year for this team to go far in the tournament, as their team is mostly seniors and will be rebuilding after year.
Mick Haley: The first week of conference play brought many exciting matches. Staying healthy will be key for success, Florida and Creighton both dealt with key players being out. While Florida survived, Creighton struggled. Florida’s two five-set matches against ranked Auburn and unranked Georgia, showed incredible fight, but showed enough vulnerability to drop them out of the top four. Creighton, playing without injury prone Norah Sis, lost to Xavier, which moves them down. Consistency and body of work, moves up Nebraska, Stanford, Louisville and Tennessee. Anyone in the top 10 has the potential to be in Tampa come December.
Daniel Gillman: Nebraska has the most dominant wins this season, so they get the slight edge. I cannot wait to see how Washington State-Oregon and BYU-Texas (twice) goes this weekend. Minnesota (vs. Penn State Saturday) and Purdue (vs. Nebraska Friday) will have their chances to decide if they belong in the seeds.