Sixty-four teams qualify for the NCAA Championship tournament in volleyball.
Of those 64, 31 bids go to automatic conference champions.
Coach Jamie Holmes wants the Aggies to be one of those 31.
“We want to get into the tournament,” Holmes said. “Even if we don’t win the [Big West] Conference, I still think we can do it.”
The Aggies were selected to finish fifth in the Big West this year in a poll by the coaches. UC Davis will have to compete against reigning two-time champion and perennial national powerhouse Long Beach State for the league title.
Holmes knows the western seaboard is one of the toughest places to play collegiate volleyball, but she said the Aggies are ready for the challenge.
“The West coast is the home of modern volleyball,” Holmes said. “I don’t think it hurts us playing over here as much it helps us. It speaks highly of a team if it can compete on the west coast.”
A team’s record is important in getting selected for the championship, but it’s not necessarily how many wins the Aggies get as much as who the Aggies beat.
The biggest determinant for an at-large bid into the tournament is a team’s Rating Percentage Index, or RPI. The RPI is a complicated formula that ranks a team relative to every other squad in the nation. Holmes said the Aggies will be keeping a close eye on this.
“A good RPI is what I’ve chosen as a team goal,” she said. “It’s a realistic stat that really affects our chances to get into the NCAA tournament.”
Currently, the Aggies are ranked in the top 100 in RPI, but Holmes believes they will need to improve upon this if they wish to accomplish their goal.
UC Davis has just two seniors on this year’s squad, but those two are important to its success. Outside hitter Kayla Varney became just the sixth Aggie ever to top 1000 career digs earlier in the season. Opposite hitter Melanie Adams has been strong all year for the Aggies.
“Melanie is in great physical shape and playing both offense and defense well,” Holmes said. “Kayla has helped anchor the system and is one of the top non-libero diggers in the conference. I’m looking for these seniors to help set the tone on this team.”
While Varney and Adams have been stellar thus far, junior middle blocker Betsy Sedlak has been one of the best players in the conference. Sedlak has already earned Most Valuable Player at two of the Aggies’ four tournaments. Sedlak is second on the team in kills with 119 and has a hitting percentage of .495.
While Holmes is glad to see the type of production she’s seeing from Varney, Adams and Sedlak, she’s more enthusiastic about everyone contributing to the team.
“This is the most parity I’ve seen on a team since I’ve been here,” Holmes said. “Everyone is getting better and I want to see this continued improvement throughout the season.”
Holmes wanted to see the Aggies out-team their opponents. She wants the players on the court to fight together as a unit and for everyone to feel supported. Holmes feels UC Davis has done a good job thus far out-teaming its opponents.
“We’ve had a total team effort,” she said. “We’ve had the best bench in the gym and everyone is doing their best.”
The Aggies have played in four tournaments so far. Their first event didn’t go as planned as UC Davis lost both of its matches to Utah and Utah State.
The Aggies rebounded nicely at the Southern Methodist Doubletree Invitational, going undefeated and knocking off the host Mustangs in the final game.
UC Davis then traveled to the Hilton Garden Inn Classic in Berkeley, Calif. The Aggies swept both Seton Hall and Fresno State in straight sets, but lost to the host Golden Bears 3-0.
Arguably the Aggies’ best performance was this past weekend at the Aggie Invitational in front of their home crowd. UC Davis went 3-0, topping Portland State, Nevada and Pac-10 Conference power house Oregon State.
With the early season successes, Holmes is excited about where this team can go.
“This is a great group that’s hungry for some wins,” Holmes said. “It’s a very coachable, athletic team. It’s overall a solid program.”
JASON ALPERT can be reached at email@example.com.