Is the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship In for a Surprise as the ‘Dark Horses’ Steal the Spotlight?

Published 11/30/2023, 12:31 AM EST

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The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament has reached the postseason stage. Volleyball fans of all the powerhouse teams are rooting hard for them, as everyone is anticipating which team will take the Championship trophy this year. However, the 2023 season carries a unique trait, unlike the previous seasons.

The 2023 season of NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship has witnessed way too many upsets. Several teams took down the behemoths in the league and stood strong against some very difficult tests. Interestingly, many of those teams have also made it to the playoffs. Will 2023 be the year a dark horse team takes the crown and leaves all powerhouses in the dust?

The making and the rise of new Titans of NCAA Women’s Volleyball


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In 2021, the Wisconsin Badgers took the NCAA by storm when their efforts under head coach Kelly Sheffield won them the NCAA Championship. The women’s volleyball program had started in Wisconsin in 1974, but the Badgers didn’t become champions for 47 years. However, 2021 saw them cruise through an unbeaten regular season campaign, where they eventually became champions as well.

NCAA Women’s Volleyball recently tweeted a video featuring hostess and reporter Michella Chester on its official X account. Chester mentioned the names of some unseeded dark horse teams that carry more than enough firepower to lay waste to the tournament favorites.


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The powerhouse dominating Georgia Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs have a regular season record of 19-11 and ended the season with four consecutive wins. While these numbers don’t impress much, they qualified for the playoffs by registering victories against powerhouses like Arkansas and Georgia Tech. 

Moreover, the Bulldogs also wield a highly effective weapon in their arsenal in the form of Sophie Fischer. The senior middle blocker of the Bulldogs bagged the SEC Player of the Year award this year. The Bulldogs will face Arizona State on 1 December in an away game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers from the Big Ten

The Minnesota Golden Gophers is a rare unseeded team in the Big Ten Conference who managed to hold their head high. The Golden Gophers own a regular season record of 16-12, which includes three clean sweep wins in its last four matches.

Minnesota also boasts a staunch player in the name of Taylor Landfair. The outside hitter is the reigning Big Ten player of the year. This is a huge achievement in a conference that is loaded with powerhouse NCAA teams like Nebraska, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Penn State. 

Moreover, Minnesota is also fueled by the leadership skills of newly appointed head coach Keegan Cook. The Golden Gophers can definitely benefit from his guidance, which previously helped Washington reach the national semi-finals. Minnesota will go against Utah State in their first round of the NCAA playoffs.

The underrated NCAA powerhouse, UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

The UCSB Gauchos are perhaps the biggest unseeded draws in the tournament. The Gauchos have registered massive regular season numbers and amassed 27 wins with just four losses. This easily rivals as well as overtakes several powerhouse women’s volleyball programs in the NCAA.

Furthermore, the Gauchos also boast a flamboyant home court record of 12-0, something many powerhouses have failed to do this season. The US Santa Barbara Gauchos have their first playoff-round fixture against Fresno State.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the clean sweeping of NCAA

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors is another team from the Big West Conference of the NCAA, apart from the UCSB Gauchos. The Rainbow Warriors posted a regular season campaign of 23-8. In fact, 17 of these 23 victories are clean-sweeping wins.

This puts the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors directly in the league of the Wisconsin Badgers and the Nebraska Huskers. A key ingredient in these Hawaiian victories is their senior superstar player Amber Igiede. The middle blocker has put astronomical numbers game after game, sailing the ship of her team every time.

The tenacious Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs don’t have very impressive regular season numbers, but they deserve to be in the NCAA playoffs. While their regular season record reads as 16-14, their on-court heroics always keep rival teams on their toes.

The TCU Horned Frogs are one of the most unpredictable and sneaky teams that can change the course of the match. The Horned Frogs have junior outside hitter Melanie Parra in their camp who leads their offensive charge. TCU will face Florida State in its first round of the NCAA Playoffs.


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The Baylor Bears and the will to survive

The Baylor Bears make the last entry in this list. The Bears have made it out alive in a highly competitive environment at the Big Twelve Conference of the NCAA. Despite their unflattering record of 16-12, the Bears have proven themselves as deserving postseason candidates.


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All these teams are battle-tested and have also posted big numbers in both losing and winning efforts against powerhouse universities. Will any of these teams blindside everyone else and claim the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship for themselves?

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Written by:

Ankit Singh


One take at a time

I am an avid sports enthusiast who always seeks the adrenaline that comes with fast-paced action in anything and everything. Being an active sportsperson in school who played many different sports, I have always loved having multiple options. At Essentially Sports, I bring my kick for adrenaline and my taste for variety as I write about various avenues of Olympics sports.
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