MVC Championship Tournament Next Up for Johnson & Bears

  0 Braden Keith | November 20th, 2017 | College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, News

2017 Missouri Valley Conference Volleyball Championship

The 6-team bracket for the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Volleyball Championship has been set. The #3-#6 seeds will each play an opening round ‘play-in’ game for the right to face #1 Missouri State and #2 Northern Iowa in the semi-finals.

The Missouri Valley has sent multiple teams to the NCAA tournament in each of the last 2 seasons (4 in 2015, 3 in 2016), but with Wichita St. joining the American Athletic Conference this year, there’s only really 2 NCAA candidates out of the league in 2017.

Missouri Valley Conference RPIs (by seed)

  1. Missouri State – #41
  2. Northern Iowa – #50
  3. Illinois State – #96
  4. Drake – #124
  5. Indiana State – #245
  6. Valparaiso – #183

But Wichita State’s departure has also meant that all Missouri Valley teams have taken a strength-of-schedule hit this season. Missouri State, even undefeated in the conference and 26-5 overall rank only 41st in D1 RPI this season. That’s in spite of wins over RPI #36 NC State and #38 RPI Ohio State. Most of their losses have come to highly-rated teams (#8 Washington, #12 Kansas,#27 Illinois, #43 Washington St.), but a loss to #90 Lipscomb (15-12) is dampening their numbers.

Northern Iowa, meanwhile, has just a handful of signature wins on their resume – a 3-2 victory in August against RPI-#9 USC, another against RPI-#6 Nebraska, and a third against RPI-#15 Iowa State.

That leaves a bit of a dichotomy. On paper, it seems as though a Northern Iowa win could still leave Missouri State with a high enough RPI to make the tournament (while giving lower-RPI’ed Northern Iowa an auto bid). On the other hand, Northern Iowa’s resume of top-15 wins could make them an enticing at-large bid for the NCAA.


Regardless of what could be decided based on results of the tournament, there’s an outcome here that seems very likely. Missouri State has won by a combined 6-1 score this year in their 2 games, have won 19 straight games. Missouri State also has an all-time conference great senior, Lily Johnson, on their roster. Johnson, who was one of 10 players recently named to the Missouri Valley’s 25th-year anniversary team, is the conference’s all-time leader in kills and a 3-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.

She leads the conference this year in kills/set (4.55), is 2nd in aces/set (.32), and is first, by some distance, in points/set (5.14). It takes a truly-special player to put up those kind of numbers on a team as successful as Missouri State. Emily Butters ranks 2nd in the conference in digs (5.85/set) defensively and Lynsey Wright (3.23 kills/set) offensively.

Northern Iowa has some weapons too, an incredible pedigree, and have shown that they can play with anybody in the country. Piper Thomas leads the league in hitting percentage (.355), and they have 3 players averaging 3.34 kills/set-or-better this season. The number of offensive weapons they have is what help them compete with teams like USC.

But in a championship game, it’s hard to bet against the team with the best player and biggest star. We’ll call Missouri St. on a 3-1 win on Sunday.


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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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