After an unpredictable year that saw possibly the strongest collection of teams in conference history, the postseason has finally arrived. The Big Ten tied a conference record on Sunday when, for the fifth time in league history, eight teams were selected to the NCAA Volleyball Championship.
Two weeks remain in the regular season. Arms are tired, players are sick, teams know each other’s tendencies, and the tournament is on the horizon. The Big Ten title appears to be undecided until the conference’s final weekend and barring shocking upsets, which have been prevalent this season, November 30 should be the long-awaited matchup volleyball fans have been clamoring for.
For years, Big Ten coaches have spouted off clichés about how difficult a grind the conference is week in week out, how there are no off nights, that you’re in for battle in every match, and that there is no margin for error. While accurate in some sense, until the 2013 season, it seemed like a lot of coach speak to pump up the reputation of the league.
“The margin for error in our conference is as thin as it has ever been.” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen made that statement heading into last Saturday night, a night that may have represented a first in Big Ten women’s volleyball. All 12 teams were in action, and at the end of the evening, all but two would play nerve-racking 5-set matches.