The NCAA Championship highlights the work of a four-month Division I season, but can be assumed to go further. Championships are won in the gym, on a random Tuesday in March. Perhaps a title is won on the recruiting trail in various convention centers around the country. Even the season itself has a bit of bad luck for some programs; Ohio State had a preseason rank in the top 25, yet finished the season under .500 with their setter on the proverbial IR. Some have an extraordinary chance of achieving what has not been achieved at other programs, such as the possibility of the Gators winning their first national championship.
We at VolleyMob have spent the entirety of the 2017 season covering every and any story the majority of the nearly 1300 four-year schools and every story to pique even the most moderate volleyball fan. However, it is time for us to put our money where our mouth is. We are tasked with the enviable job of making predictions and casting nets for information without the mediocre guess of knowing what it takes to make it as far as Nebraska and Florida have made it this season.
But, I digress.
Here are our thoughts for the match tonight:
NEBRASKA’S KEY TO VICTORY
- Serve and pass
Nebraska’s five-set victory Thursday evening had everything, even a little serendipity; On Penn State’s match point in set four (26-25), a perfect pass fell to the floor as senior setter (and Florida transfer) Abby Detering tripped over right side Heidi Thelen in transition, causing the beginning of the end of set four. This particular play may go forgotten in time, but one major factor to keeping Haleigh Washington off the board in set one was Nebraska’s relentless serve and serve receive. The ability to set all options offensively while keeping your opponent on their toes is the major start to any rally. Knowing your first contact in any rally should be a tough one; your serve if your are serving (read: Michigan State’s success this season) or your serve receive if you aren’t (read: UCLA’s effectiveness despite being undersized)
FLORIDA’S KEY TO VICTORY
- Athleticism and depth
OK, that’s two. Yet one of the consistent things the other writers at VolleyMob told me in our poll of predictions was Florida’s ability to reach deep into their bench—deeper than most teams. Their athleticism and speed, however, made Stanford limited in their attack options. Florida was the smaller team in this match, yet outblocked the Cardinal, 9-6.5. Stanford averages more aces per set than Florida, yet, Florida’s pace of serve and relentless challenges behind the service line ended any chances of Stanford getting first-ball kills.
Our predictions are as follows:
Bill Stadick: Florida in 4
Katie Stadick: Florida in 5
Carly DeMarque: Nebraska in 4
Brandon Johnson: Nebraska in 4
Braden Keith: Florida in 4
This author: Nebraska in 5
The consistency in the Nebraska picks were that Nebraska is the better team, whereas the Florida picks were because of depth and athleticism. Either way, we should be treated to a great final.