2022 CAA Volleyball Championship

CAA Volleyball Championship Preview: Towson Tries For Fourth Straight Title

CAA Volleyball Championship Preview: Towson Tries For Fourth Straight Title

There are some familiar faces trying to be the queens of the CAA Volleyball Championship again, but there are worthy challengers trying to ruin those hopes.

Nov 16, 2022 by Briar Napier
CAA Volleyball Championship Preview: Towson Tries For Fourth Straight Title

There are some familiar faces trying to be the queens of the Colonial Athletic Association Volleyball Championship once again, but there are some worthy challengers trying to ruin those hopes, too.

With an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and the chance to represent the CAA on the biggest stage in college volleyball on the line, the revamped eight-team Championship will give more programs than ever a shot at holding the torch for the league when the national postseason begins next month.

One obvious favorite - Towson - will try to make its mark again, but other upstarts and competitors will aim to knock the Tigers off of their perch. 

With three days of hectic volleyball on the horizon, there's sure to be plenty of tension, triumph and heartache to come, especially with so much on the line.

Here's a look at the storylines to watch out for ahead of the CAA Volleyball Championship, which will get underway Thursday and conclude Saturday. 

All matches will be streamed live on FloVolleyball.

Is Towson Bound For A Four-Peat?

Few teams across the country have dominated their leagues over the past few seasons quite like Towson has ruled the CAA volleyball scene. 

Winners of the past three CAA regular-season and Championship titles, a historic four-peat of earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is in the cards for the Tigers. 

The difference this time around is that this might be Towson's best team, not just over the past few years, but in the program's entire history. 

Coach Don Metil's squad is 26-1 overall - a .963 winning percentage, which is on pace to be Towson's best for a single season - and leave the Tigers four wins away from tying the school's single-year record for wins. The mark was set in 1993 during a 39-match season. 

The Tigers have both the league's highest hitting percentage (.280) and lowest hitting percentage allowed (.137), both of which are the best in the CAA by a heavy margin, and have one of the most efficient attacks in the entire country. 

The successful effort is led by senior middle blocker Lydia Wiers and junior outside hitter Nina Cajic, whose percentages of .381 and .379, respectively, rank No. 1 and No. 2 individually in the conference. 

Towson went unbeaten in non-conference play (including a win at then-No. 7 and reigning Final Four team Pittsburgh) and only has lost 14 sets in 27 matches played, helped by the fact that the Tigers on average tally 18.5 points per set to keep them at least competitive in essentially every game. 

With the Tigers probably in the national postseason no matter what happens this week (current RPI: 36), there's a question for the program that remains: What's the next step? 

The program picked up its first NCAA Tournament win in 2019 but has been knocked out in the first round in its two appearances since. Win two in a row this year, however, and it may signal to the rest of the nation that Towson is here to make noise against the rest of America's elite.

Hofstra Looks For Vengeance

Towson may have won the CAA regular-season title, yes, but no program gave it a bigger fight -   and turned more heads across the regular season - than Hofstra, which battled the Tigers for the league's No. 1 seed until the final weekend. 

After starting the season 3-8, the Pride kicked things up a notch as soon as conference play hit, romping to a stunning 14-0 start against CAA competition. In the preseason, they were projected to finish fifth by the league's coaches. 

The run set up a winner-take-all pair of matches against Towson for the conference title, and though the Tigers prevailed by emerging victorious in both opportunities, it also showed that Hofstra earned itself a new reputation as a team to be feared in the postseason. Hofstra is gunning for its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2018. 

The Pride have an elite defense (.181 hitting percentage allowed) behind the CAA's leader in total digs, sophomore libero Chiara Cucco (453), and one of the conference's top middle blockers and kill deniers in redshirt senior Sarah Pierre (1.1 blocks per set, third in the CAA). 

But what made the Pride so effective against much of the CAA is that they rarely were subject to any danger, with no team able to take a game to five sets on coach Emily Mansur's squad during its winning streak to start the conference campaign. 

If such consistency holds in the CAA Championship (especially after Towson hit Hofstra in the mouth and ripped a regular-season crown away from its grasp), the Pride may not be as far behind the Tigers as it may seem. 

If the back-to-back defeats messed with Hofstra's mojo, though, perhaps it could be in a bit more danger heading into the postseason.

Elon The Tourney's Dark Horse

Entering the CAA Championship as the No. 5 seed and at a flat .500 overall (13-13), Elon likely wished for a bit more success in the regular season, especially with the league's Preseason Player of the Year (and past All-American) senior outside hitter Leah Daniel wrecking defensive lines as she's done throughout the past few seasons. 

But the Phoenix have two very, very important things going for them entering a postseason in which they could be the favorites to play spoiler and drive the tournament into chaos with a big win or two. 

The first is momentum.

Elon comes into the CAA Championship having won six of its past seven matches, a run that included three sweeps, and has resulted in plenty of key defensive plays from senior libero Jordan Gower and her 4.57 digs per set, the best mark in the conference. 

The second is that the Phoenix are the only team this year that can claim a win over Towson, with Elon stunning the Tigers in a five-set thriller on Oct. 15 behind Daniel's match-high 16 kills and a fantastic 27-dig performance from Gower. 

It was a performance that directly showed the Phoenix can compete with the best the CAA has to offer if everything is firing on all cylinders - and in tournament play, all it takes is one bad night from the opponent for a confident dark horse team to take advantage. 

Still, don't quite pin down Elon as a runaway favorite yet. It still needs to get past fourth-seeded Northeastern in the first round of the CAA Championship. The Huskies won both matches against the Phoenix in Boston in early October. 

But a win by Elon almost certainly would set a rematch up with the Tigers (assuming they take care of business against No. 8 Stony Brook in its own quarterfinal), and with the knowledge that it has toppled Towson already, Elon might just be in the mood to do it again.