Thursday, October 8, 2009

Playoff Picture's Muddy Waters

After an emotional Dig Pink match Friday night, the Charlotte volleyball team fins itself in the mix for a playoff spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, a goal that has eluded the squad in the previous two seasons.

Though the team is not outwardly talking about the tournament yet (taking it one match a time IS the best course and that's how they are choosing to progress through the season), it is worth taking a "big picture" look at the season that remains for the ladies in green and white.

The Midwest Three (No. 21 Saint Louis, Dayton and Xavier) have been very good and return a lot of talent and should contend for playoff berth. Many people believe that these three are locks for another appearance in the tournament.

Looking at the standings now, three teams are off to 0-4 starts... Fordham, La Salle and Rhode Island. Those happen to be Charlotte three wins to begin the season as the Niners head to a meaty part of the schedule.

George Washington, Duquesne and Temple all have two or three wins in the first four conference matches, making for an interesting stretch of matches this week and next.

The Niners head to Pittsburgh to battle Duquesne Friday night and then onto the Central Time Zone for a Sunday match at Saint Louis. These two matches are not "make or break" but could weigh heavily on potential tiebreakers for tournament berths.

The new schedule includes an extra pair of matches (going from 13 to 15), with a new rotation of teams on the schedule. The A-10 coaches voted to do away with divisions (East and West) and go to just one standings list for the ten teams that play volleyball in the league. This season, there are six teams that the Niners play twice (as opposed to four last season) and just three teams that Charlotte faces once (five last year, every team in the West Division). The plan is to rotate the schedule so that the three teams that Charlotte plays just once this year (Rhode Island, Duquesne and Dayton) would face the Niners twice next year and slide three other teams to a single matchup next year.

The match with Duquesne (2-1) pits two teams with just one loss against one another Friday night (Charlotte is 3-1). The only other match with two teams with a better conference winning percentage Friday night will be George Washington (3-1) versus Saint Louis (3-0). In the conference standings, these are teams two through five in the win column, meaning this pair of matches should allow the standings to separate the teams a little more than the three tiers that exist right now.

Dayton (3-0) and Xavier (2-1) each face winless Fordham and Rhode Island this weekend. Taking a look at the standings Monday should make the playoff picture a little more clear as we near the midway point of the conference season, which comes next weekend as Charlotte hosts travel partner George Washington on Saturday, October 17 at 2 p.m. in Halton Arena.

On a side note, the attendance figures for this season so far have been outstanding. The team is thrilled that Charlotte is averaging nearly 850 fans per contest this year. Thanks to those who have come out in support of the team to watch this exciting and faster pace of volleyball. It has been noted that they feed off of the incredible amount of energy that the fans provide in Halton Arena.

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