Saturday, November 7, 2009

Get Ready For a Shootout in San Antonio

All right, we've got one week left in the SLC Volleyball regular season and nothing is really more clear than it was a month ago. Teams at both the top and bottom of the standings have had some odd things happen to them in the last week. Sam Houston's ride to the #1 seed (thanks to UCA's lack of eligibility) has hit the breaks the past couple of days. While we were over fending off bats at Northwestern State, SHSU dropped three straight sets to UT-Arlington. Then, tonight, the Bearkats went down in flames in straight sets again to Texas State. That evens up Sam Houston and Texas State's conference records at 11-3.

Many folks have pointed out that Sam Houston revolves around its two stars: Anna Ferguson and Karli Colbe. While we were live blogging from Huntsville a couple weeks ago we sure did type their names a lot. Now, Colbe did go cold today against Texas State and amazingly...Ferguson had 10 kills, Colbe had five and then NO ONE ELSE had more than two! So, yes, it can be said... as the Annacarli goes, so goes the Bearkats. But, you know, I think its something else. I actually think Michelle Miller and Camille Alfaro give them a more well-rounded attack than others believe. I think Sam's stalling out in recent days can be attributed to seven conference matches going to five sets including four straight before their straight set losses to UTA and Texas State. Could it be their reliance on two players PLUS fatigue?

Texas State finishes at UTSA and at TAMUCC. Sam Houston also finishes on the road. They have to play UCA and Northwestern. I think when you look at that, your first reaction is that Texas State is headed for the #1 seed after all. Wow. It sure didn't look like it at times, but gosh dog it...they always do this. That team always seems to get things together come tourney time. There is no question they are the hottest team in the conference right now (again, UCA is the outlier...they are undefeated, but won't be playing in SA). Texas State has won 8 straight in the league and could very well make it 10 before they meet up with seed #8 in two weeks.

So, UTA bounces Sam on Thursday and then does what for an encore? Rips Lamar to shreds this afternoon. Now, that's kind of scary. In a year like we are having in the conference this year, teams like UTA have to be licking their chops. If a top seed were to fall on the first day of the tournament, then I wouldn't rule out something crazy like a 6, 7, or 8 seed playing the the championship.

Then, to add to the fun, TAMUCC decides it really doesn't want to go 0-fer the conference and so they go out and sweep Southeastern La. and Nicholls on the road! Yes, the Islanders beat the Colonels in straight sets in the same gym where we lost. This is just nuts.

What all this madness should - and I accent - should do is solidify SFA as the third seed in the tournament. Let's look at the current standings as of RIGHT NOW and what games these teams have remaining:

Seed #1/2 (Tie): Texas State 11-3 (@ UTSA, @ TAMUCC)
Seed #1/2 (Tie): SHSU 11-3 (@UCA, @NWLA)
Seed #3: SFA 8-5 (vs. McNeese, SELA and Nicholls)
Seed #4: Lamar 8-6 (@NWLA, @UCA)
Seed #5: UTA 7-7 (@TAMUCC, @UTSA)
Seed #6: UTSA 6-8 (vs. Texas State and UTA)
Seed #7: McNeese 5-8 (@SFA and vs. SELA and Nicholls)
Seed #8 Nicholls 5-9 (@McNeese and @SFA)

SELA is still alive - they are 4-10 in conference and they have the same finishing schedule as Nicholls. While, I am at it.. is there any more hot-n-cold team than McNeese? I don't know what to make of them any more. They lost to Northwestern today in the bat cave.

When I look at those seeds, we seemed destined for #3. Even if we were to slip once this week (please, no slip ups...just win out), our insurance is that UCA is favored to beat Lamar. We have the same number of wins as them, own the tiebreaker and have one more game than they do. If we don't stay ahead of them, then well... we won't have much reason for optimism in two weeks. We just need to win two of our last three to get the three seed...and again, I think we should win all three.

Here is what is interesting: The winner of the 3/6 game plays the winner of the 2/7 game in the second round. Looking at those schedules, I am thinking SHSU might wind up with the two seed. That might be a nice path for us to get to the championship. Formula: Take care of business with three wins here in the last week. Sam rides into the tournament lukewarm having lost to UTA, Texas State and UCA in recent days and we get them back for what happened in our place this time last year. Sound about right? Well..hold on..keep reading.

Now, the astute reader is thinking: "Greg, you sound like you are making a prediction. And do you remember what happened the last time you reminded us of one of our predictions... you know 500=TAMUCC, well...we lost to Nicholls and there went your grand plan."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But, hey I wasn't the only one that looked past Nicholls, right? Plus, my role for this club is to blog and yell girls' names, so what do I really matter? While we are on the subject, you'll recall that in addition to predicting 500 would come at TAMUCC, my guess for our record going into the tourney was 22-12, 12-4 SLC. Well, if we win the the three games this week against our East foes, then we will be....drum roll please....22-12 overall and 11-5 in the SLC. Off by one game in conference. Damn Nicholls.

If you ask me right now to look at those schedules and pick seeds, then I say nothing changes. I'll predict the seeds are exactly as they are now. Which is dangerous. Because if that's the way it falls, then we would match up against host UTSA in the first round. Playing the host in the first round makes me a tad uneasy. But, if our side of the bracket is SFA/UTSA and SHSU/McNeese, then that's not a bad bracket to have in order to get to the final.

Of course, this is all speculation, some of which may be worthless. The bottom line is: For us to really have a shot at the final, we need a greater level of consistency. As topsy-turvy as the conference is this year, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the prospects of competing for the tournament championship. But, we have shown a tendency to fall into funks at times. Sometimes these funks last for matches at a time (see Texas State), and sometimes just sets at a time (see set 3 at NWLA), or sometimes just at critical times for a few points at a time (see final points of Set 4 at SHSU).

A funk at the wrong time in San Antonio means checking out of the hotel a day or two earlier than what is desired. I personally don't want to drive five hours just to turn around the next day and come home. How 'bout ya'll? The best thing to do? Dispose of McNeese, SELA and Nicholls by playing consistently good volleyball this week so we can travel to San Antonio on a high.

I'll see all of you in Johnson Coliseum on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday!