Last week the Southland Conference put out the preseason polls. Yes, pollzzz...plural. See, the coaches have one poll and the volleyball sports information directors at each school also have a separate vote and poll.
One thing I keep hearing and reading from around the conference is that the conference is "wide open". You read over at McNeese's website - coach says "its wide open". Scan over to Texas State and Karen Chisum says "its wide open". Our own Coach Debbie Humphreys has used the phrase a few times. I'll preview each of our conference opponents in the coming weeks as SLC play draws nearer, but if you haven't already done so - scan the polls. Note that in both polls there is agreement on the top five teams - albeit not in the same order. There's SFA and Central Arkansas as the consensus top two in the SLC East and in the overall tougher West side of the conference we see Texas State, Lamar and UTSA bubbling to the top.
But is it really "wide open"? In terms of those five clubs, could any one of them win the NCAA bid? I dunno. I tend to think the road to the big dance runs though San Marcos - they appear to be the "favorite" (if there is one). But, I will say this... I would not be surprised one bit if Central Arkansas has the best record in the conference when its all said and done. Now, they are still awaiting eligibility for postseason tourneys due to their being new to the conference, but UCA could be scary good.
So, what about us? Can we vault back to the championship game of the SLC Tourney? Sure. I can see scenarios where we do. So, what do we have to do?
1) We will have to show we can play with Central Arkansas. A split of our two games with them at a minimum. Hey, each team won the road game last year, so we should be able to do this, right? But... they racked us up in Nacogdoches and you can be sure the veterans remember. It was Senior Night and it was a big disappointment - Lauren Railey's 1500/1500 milestone aside.
2) Take care of our home court - and get a big win against Texas State in our only regular season match with them. Of the three top ranked teams from the West, we travel only to Lamar. Beating Texas State and UTSA on our own home floor goes a long way to making a convincing case that we belong in the top tier.
3) Absolutely no - and I mean NO - let downs against the weak sisters in the East. Yes, I recall the McNeese game in Lake Charles last year, but their own story about the game called it an upset. That kind of stuff cannot happen this year if we are going to contend for the NCAA bid.
If the above three things occur, then we should be right in the hunt for top billing in the conference. If none of those three things happen, then this isn't a five team race at all and more than likely Texas State and Lamar wind up in the title game.
Predictions, you ask? See, this is the great thing about writing a blog. I can do this sort of thing. If I write for the Nac newspaper or other entity, then I just shy away from that sort of stuff. I'm not shy.
Going into the SLC Tourney:
Conference: 12-4 (in the top half of the seeding for the tourney)
Debbie Humphreys gets her 500th career victory in a rout at Corpus Christi on October 12.
What do you think? After the quick sets then sound off if you like in the comments.
Quick Sets From Around the Conference: Central Arkansas and Lamar kicked off the season by having their current girls play an alumni squad in an exhibition game. I still say that's a bad idea. Lamar actually lost a set to the alumni. That's got to be just a tad bit embarrassing, right? Even if it is recent alumni....The title of Northwestern State's article about their kick-off-the-year celebration said that they are trying to "turn the corner on a winning street" Uhh? What in Hades does that mean? "Turn the corner on a winning street"?Follow me here... if you are on a "winning street" and you turn the corner, then aren't you off the winning street and on some other street...you know.. not the winning one that you were on? That metaphor is just plain stupid. I don't get it....This time of year every coach or player in the conference says "We have good depth" or "I like our depth" or something like that. "Depth" is just one of those pre-season buzzwords everyone likes to use whether its true or not.....One name to remember... Bianca Sauls of UTA. She only played about half of 2008 due to injury and UT-Arlington really wasn't any good last year so she's a bit under the radar. But a careful look at what she was able to do while healthy points to a pretty darn good player.