How NCAA women's volleyball works
The GIST: The world’s most intense game of “the floor is lava” is also one of the NCAA’s top sports, boasting 1057 women’s teams nationwide, including 344 in Division I (DI). Volleyball’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years — the 2022 championship saw record viewership and the 2023 edition will appear on network TV for the first time. Huge.
How it works: Volleyball uses a best-of-five, set-match format: The first team to score 25 points wins a set, and the first team to triumph in three sets wins the match. But sets must be won by at least two points, so close competition can push scores beyond the 25-point threshold. And if the matchup goes to five sets, only 15 points are required for the dub.
- Each team fields six players at a time and must follow complex rules for mid-set substitutions and court position rotations. Here’s a handy guide to all the court positions (i.e. who’s saving the day with a dig and who’s going for the kill).
Who to know: Stanford leads all schools with nine national DI championships since the inaugural tournament in 1981 and has remained a major threat despite a roster rebuild after their 2019 natty. But these days, the Midwest owns the volleyball scene: Four of the preseason Top 10 hail from the highly-competitive Big Ten, led by No. 2 Wisconsin.