Well, that sucks.
The 2019 NCAA Volleyball postseason bracket was announced on Sunday night on ESPNU and there was no room for the California Golden Bears squad that finished 20-10 on the year and was ranked as high as 14th in the country.
Sadly, the NCAA formula put too much emphasis on the last 10 games and the Bears are punished for dropping their last 6 matches, despite injuries during the first 4 of those streaks and close contests in the last 2 against 8th overall seed Washington and 3rd overall seed Stanford. Bears are probably really regretting not being able to close out Washington Huskies up at Seattle after going up 2 set to none and with a significant lead in the 4th set.
I can’t find the latest RPI rankings but the Golden Bears were ranked 45th in the country going into this tough last weekend with matches at Washington (8th) and Stanford (4th). The last 4 teams in were Illinois (43rd last week), VCU (49th last week), Washington State (56th last week), and Wright State (44th last week).
With the improvement in Strength of Schedule from playing at Washington and at Stanford, Cal should have finished with a better RPI than their 45th last week. More importantly, the Bears became a lot more competitive this past week with the return of junior Mima Mirkovic. Bears took 2 sets from Washington and 1 set from Stanford with Mirkovic back; they were back to being a top 25 quality team this past week despite getting two more losses. But the NCAA Selection Committee apparently were not paying any attention.
Nonetheless, the 2019 season under new head coach Sam Crosson should be a turning point for the program that has missed the NCAA postseason since last making it in 2013. Golden Bears had a brilliant 17-1 start to the year, with the lone loss to the defending NCAA champs in Stanford. Building on some of the positives from a year ago under interim head coach Jennifer Dorr, Golden Bears went from losing close matches in the 5th sets last year to winning those matches in 2019.
Bears will lose some important 2019 contributors in graduating seniors and starters in Maddie Haynes, Bailee Huinzenga, Savannah Rennie, and Emma Smith. Still, with Mirkovic, middle blockers Lauren Forte and Preslie Anderson, and both setters Isabel Potter and Jade Blevins back in addition to some impact freshmen, the Bears will be expected in 2020 to make the NCAA postseason.
The Pac-12 Conference will be represented by 6 teams. 3rd seed (and defending champs) Stanford, 8th seed Washington, USC, UCLA, Utah, and Washington State.
Still, it’s such as a shame that the Cal Bears were not invited to the NCAA postseason in 2019 for their huge turnaround season. I feel horrible for the players, particularly the seniors, on this team.