Summit League Announces Spring Plan for Soccer and Volleyball

The Summit League’s plans for the resumption of soccer and volleyball, fall sports, were released last week.  Generally, the conference followed a similar approach employed for basketball scheduling by establishing a double round-robin format to save on travel costs.

However, the NCAA Tournament auto-bid and hosting duties for fall sports are somewhat of a head-scratcher, especially for women’s soccer and volleyball. Both play a fall 16-game schedule but face four-team playoffs to earn an NCAA Tournament auto-bid. Men’s soccer, with only 10 conference games, will award the NCAA auto-bid to the regular-season winner.

In the case of DU volleyball, nearly a cinch to be in the top four teams, a grueling 16 match conference schedule becomes much less significant unless they are undefeated and worthy of an at-large bid.  Why rely on an end-of-season four-team weekend tournament, especially with only one scheduled bye per team during the regular season? Also, why award South Dakota the next two conference tournaments (Sanford Pentagon)? The Coyotes earned hosting duties this season by winning the last regular-season conference title. But why award South Dakota two years of hosting duties for the Summit League NCAA auto bid?  And, as we know, home court is valuable in volleyball when anything can happen in a short series.

Women’s soccer plays 16 games as well following the double round-robin format. However, they have three byes built into their schedule which allows for rest and accounts for possible COVID-19 impacts. Even though Denver won the regular season last year, Omaha has been assigned the four-team tournament. With COVID-19 travel risks, Omaha is centrally located in the Summit League so that makes good sense. Then, following tradition,  Denver (the 2019 champion) will once again host the 2021 tournament.

Men’s soccer went the right way by awarding the conference championship to the regular-season winner, eliminating the end-of-the-season weekend tournament.  Then, as tradition dictates, Western Illinois who won the 2019 regular season, hosts the tournament in Macomb, Illinois. In our view, men’s soccer is taking the safest and best path to place the conference’s best team in the NCAA playoffs.

Schedule details for each sport are below:

Volleyball
– 16-match regular season beginning Sunday, Jan. 31 and going through Saturday, March 27.
– The league’s nine members will play a double-round robin format with each team receiving one bye during the spring season. Teams will play the same opponent twice at one site.
– A four-team Championship will take place April 2-3 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
– South Dakota, the 2019 regular season champion, will retain the right to host the 2021 Championship.

Women’s Soccer
– 16-match regular season beginning Friday, Feb. 12 and going through Sunday, April 11.
– The league’s nine members will play a double-round robin format with each team receiving one bye during the spring season. Teams will play the same opponent twice at one site.
– A four-team Championship will take place April 15-17 at Caniglia Field in Omaha, Neb.
– Denver, the 2019 regular season champion, will retain the right to host the 2021 Championship.

Men’s Soccer
– 10-match regular season starting Saturday, Feb. 13 and going through Saturday, April 10.
– The league’s six men’s soccer members will play a double-round robin format during the spring season with a match at each respective school’s travel partner to open and close the season. In between, teams will play the same opponent twice at one site with three bye weeks and a make-up week built into the schedule.
– The Joint Council agreed to grant the league’s automatic bid to the regular-season champion and forego a Championship in the spring.
– Western Illinois, the 2019 regular season co-champion, will retain the right to the 2021 Championship.

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