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  • Writer's pictureEmma Treptow

Meet the Top Four Seeds in the 2023 NCAA Volleyball Tournament

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

After a thrilling 2023 NCAA volleyball season, the NCAA Tournament is upon us. Selection Sunday which occurred on Sunday, November 26 saw 64 teams secure their place in the Big Dance. The top four seeds of the tournament this year are Nebraska, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Pitt. Let’s meet the teams.

No. 1 Nebraska

Record: 28-1 (18-1 Big Ten)

The nearly undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers take the overall number one seed in this year’s tournament, to no surprise. They have been the dominant team thus far this season, with notable wins over #1 Wisconsin, #5 Stanford, and #16 Penn State. The Huskers won their first Big Ten title since 2017, snapping Wisconsin’s four-year winning streak after finishing 18-1 in the Big Ten.

Nebraska players cheer as they huddle in a circle after scoring a point.
Nebraska Volleyball celebrating a point. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

They are a young team, led by freshman setter Bergen Reilly who has been outstanding thus far. As a freshman, she leads the Big Ten in assists per set, averaging 10.74 this season. Being one of the best defensive teams in the country, it is hard not to mention Lexi Rodriguez who continues to prove to be one of the top liberos in the nation. Sophomore middle-blocker Bekka Allick is another key piece to the Huskers’ defense, averaging 1.35 blocks per set.

Junior Merritt Beason has taken on a large piece of the offensive production for the Huskers, averaging 3.81 kills per set. She is helped by freshman Andi Jackson who has been more than impressive in her opening season with Nebraska, averaging a .406 hitting percentage this season.

The Huskers’s only loss came at Wisconsin, in a sweep where the Badgers averaged a .357 hitting percentage for the match. Nebraska ranks first in the Big Ten in opponent hitting percentage, averaging .141 this season. It was an uncharacteristic day for the Huskers in Madison as they also struggled extensively on the serve-receive in this match. That will be something to look out for as they get into the tournament.

Also in the Nebraska Quadrant: #2 Kentucky (SEC Champions), #3 Arkansas, #4 Florida

No. 2 Stanford

Record: 26-3 (19-1 Pac 12)

The Stanford Cardinal retained the crown as Pac 12 Champions after only dropping one match during Pac 12 play to #21 Arizona State. They have been consistent this season, dropping two matches in non-conference play and one conference. They have beaten #7 Texas, #2 Louisville, and #4 Washington State.

Stanford players in white jersey, except for their oberon who is in a black jersey, celebrating a point with their arms up. The net is in front of them.
Stanford Volleyball celebrating a point scored. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics

The Cardinal were incredibly dominant in the Pac-12, averaging 14.40 kills per set and a .316 hitting percentage, both of which lead the conference. Kendall Kipp is Stanford’s biggest threat offensively, averaging 4.13 kills per set, which is third in the Pac-12.

Kami Miner runs the Cardinal’s offense with pose, as one of the strongest setters in the country, as she averages 11.72 assists per set. The connection between Miner and Kipp will be something to keep an eye out for throughout the tournament as Kipp is Miner’s most set player.

Middle blocker McKenna Vicini is the Cardinal’s leader in blocks per set with 1.36, which sets her at second in the Pac-12. Stanford is overall one of the most complete teams in this tournament and they are hungry to make it back to the Final Four after not making it since their national championship run in 2019.

Also in the Stanford Quadrant: #2 Texas (2022 National Champions & Big 12 Champions), #3 Tennessee, #4 BYU

No. 3 Wisconsin

Record: 26-3 (17-3 Big Ten)

The Badgers were unable to defend their Big Ten title but had yet another successful season, leading to this overall three-seed. Back-to-back losses to Penn State and Purdue pushed the Badgers out of Big Ten title contention but their resume is still incredibly impressive. A win on the second to last day of the regular season over #1 Nebraska is by far their biggest win, but the Badgers also beat #3 Florida, #21 Arkansas, and #19 Purdue.

Wisconsin players in red jersey, their libero in a white one,  going in to huddle after a point
Wisconsin Volleyball celebrating a point. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics

The Badgers are one of the strongest offensive teams and blocking teams in the nation. With a season average of .311 hitting percentage and 3.01 blocks per set, two stats that lead the Big Ten, the Badgers have shown that they are an overall complete team.

They are led by Sarah Franklin who averages 4.17 kills per set and has been absolutely dominant for Wisconsin so far this season. But she isn’t their only option: middle-blockers Carter Booth and Anna Smrek are both in the top three for hitting percentage in the Big Ten this season, plus they have the addition of Temi Thomas-Ailara and Devyn Robinson on the outside.

Their 6-2 offense isn’t the traditional look but Kelly Sheffield has good reason to run it as both Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill have shown that they are top setters. As for the block, Booth has been dominating the net, averaging 1.55 blocks per set, to lead the Big Ten. CC Crawford is close behind with 1.29 blocks per set, showing how strong Wisconsin continues to be on the block.

The back-to-back losses happened when Smrek was out for concussion protocol, and she will be crucial for the Badgers in the tournament, as she offers support on offense and defense as her 6’9 frame can get up for the kill and the block.

Also in the Wisconsin Quadrant: #2 Oregon, #3 Purdue, #4 Kansas

No. 4 Pittsburgh

Record: 25-4 (17-2 ACC)

Pitt is the co-ACC champions, alongside Florida State after posting identical 17-2 records, and is the only team with a number one seed with a loss to an unranked opponent. Their notable wins include two wins over #15 Kentucky, #11 Georgia Tech and #4 Louisville.

Pitt players in white jersey with blue shorts while the libero has a blue jersey. They have on arm sleeves and are going in for a huddle post scoring.
Pitt Volleyball celebrates a point scored. Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics

Pitt is led by Rachel Fairbanks who was voted unanimously as the ACC Setter of the Year. Fairbanks averaged 10.37 assists per game while helping the Panthers average a .318 hitting percentage this season. Olivia Babcock has had a tremendous freshmen year for the Panthers, capping it off as the first Pitt player to earn the ACC Freshman of the Year award. She averaged 3.92 kills per set while hitting .304.

Graduate transfer Emma Monks has impressed in her first season with the Panthers, as she leads the ACC in blocks, averaging 1.56 per set, and averages a hitting percentage of .405. Her teammate Chiamaka Nwokolo sits in sixth in the ACC in blocks, averaging 1.17 per set, while sitting in third in hitting percentage with a .433.

The Panthers have made it to the Final Four for two consecutive seasons and are looking to make it back, and all the way to the national championship this year.

Also in the Pittsburgh Quadrant: #2 Louisville, #3 Creighton (Big East Tournament Champions), #4 Washington State


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