After a widely appreciated three-year reboot, the NCAA D-I National Invitational Volleyball Championship had to go in ice like a million other events during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But you can’t keep a good idea down, which means the NIVC is back for 2021 as tournament officials have released details for the event, beginning with Selection Night on Nov. 28, after the NCAA Tournament has selected its field of 64 teams.
Modeled after the NIT and WNIT college basketball tournaments, the NIVC will feature 32-40 teams in a single-elimination format designed to reward deserving programs with a separate postseason experience. For 2021, Rounds 1 and 2 will be held Dec. 2-5, with Round 3 set for Dec. 6-8.
The semifinals will fall between Dec. 8-11, with the championship match slated for either Dec. 13 or 14. All matches are held on campus locations.
Previous NIVC champions are Ole Miss (2017), Iowa State (2018) and Georgia Tech 2019). The event has its roots in the Women’s Invitational Volleyball Championship, which was held between 1989-1995 before its restart under the guiding hand of Triple Crown Sports, producer of the women’s Preseason and Postseason WNIT, the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge basketball events, and the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, the first NCAA D-I softball event held outside the United States.
“We were massively disappointed to lose in the NIVC in 2020, as we’d heard from so many programs that this was filling a major hole in the college volleyball world,” said NIVC director Jared Rudiger. “One thing that COVID didn’t change was the number of standout college volleyball programs and the excitement they can bring to campuses in the chase for the NIVC title. We are thrilled to give high-performing mid-major teams and a determined core of Power 5 programs the chance to end their seasons on a high note.”
The selection criteria for entry into the NIVC suggests a team have at least a .500 winning percentage (including conference tournament matches) or be in the top 120 of the national Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
Numerous head coaches with NCAA programs are on the record with their support and appreciation for the NIVC.
Houston coach Dave Rehr has participated twice in the event, once while at Arkansas State and once with the Cougars. Said Rehr:
“In basketball they have (multiple) postseason tournaments, and teams rally around tournaments like that. To teach your volleyball team how to play in December is crucial. To have the experience of extra practice and matchups against really quality teams can only make your team better. The volleyball community needs to rally behind the NIVC and see it for the value it is.”
Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch: “The NIVC was a great event for our team and fans in 2018. We had a wonderful group of seniors that had been through a lot, and it was awesome they got to experience postseason play that year. Our fans and players relished the chance to continue competing, especially on our home court. I see the NIVC as more opportunity: more opportunity for female athletes, more opportunity for programs to gain experience in a postseason and more opportunity for fans to cheer on their teams and support volleyball.”
Bowling Green coach Danijela Tomic: “Our participation in the NIVC (2017-19) was invaluable. That’s when we turned the page. We want the MAC to send more than one team to the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t happen every year. To show our players, hey, you are not done after the MAC Tournament, we train, have Thanksgiving, train, then play. By the third year in the NIVC, we weren’t just happy to be in the postseason, we want to win. I would recommend the NIVC to teams like that, who were in our situation, where the expectation needs to be ‘we play in the postseason.’”
Georgia Tech head coach Michelle Collier: “It’s a group (in 2021) that has been leaned on from the start, one that learned a lot about postseason pressure in the 2018 and 2019 NIVC. That was a class that’s been playing a lot since their freshman year. They carried a lot of responsibility, and that’s one reason we decided to play in the NIVC – that was such a young group, and they needed the experience of playing, especially in a knock-out tournament, where if you lose you’re out.
“We played it in 2018, and the buildup for us to 2019, and then the buildup to the 2020 season, it was great to get that experience. I felt we just got better and better, and the competition got harder, and it prepared us for the (2020) run in the NCAA’s. We want that in our culture, that we are playing volleyball in December, and the NIVC definitely helped create that culture and the normalcy of thinking we’ve got a couple more weeks to go after Thanksgiving. It paid off for sure.”
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing college and youth events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. TCS youth fastpitch tournaments (including the 900-team Colorado 4th of July event) draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes.