The Final Four, and the "What If's"
And just like that, we are in the final four. As predicted, the East fell in all of their matchups last night, leaving Northwest and Blair on the top side of the bracket. Blair is going through one heck of a season, going from 0 wins in the regular season to the final four.
On the bottom half, Clarksburg came out with a quick 3-0 win over Wootton, and WJ emerged as the victor in a tightly contested back-and-forth 4-set match with each set going into the high 20s.
Due to COVID, the 2021 season has certainly been an unusual one. Here's a quick run-down we like to call, the "what if's" of the 2021 season.
What if there was cross-divisional play during the regular season? In an effort to minimize covid-19 exposure, the county decided to create divisions that would play within themselves for the entirety of the regular season. As we've mentioned before, this artificially inflated the records in the East division, which happened to be the weakest of the three this year, by a large margin. This resulted in a strange bracket, where a number #16 was able to beat a 1 and an 8. Had there been cross-divisional play, I certainly don't see Blair getting to the final 4, or Northwest having such an easy path to the finals.
What if Clarksburg had won the coin-toss? The end of the regular season resulted in a tie between Einstein and Clarksburg, which forced a coin toss to determine who received the 1 seed, and who received the 2. Had Clarksburg won the coin toss, they would have been in the top half of the bracket, and it would have Clarksburg vs Blair in the first round, rather than Einstein vs Blair. Would Blair still have been able to pull an upset and end up in the final four? In one word - doubtful. This could have also placed QO vs Einstein as the opening round. Is it possible that QO could have also pulled off an upset and gone to the quarters?
What if Wootton had their entire lineup for the 2nd round? Another unintended consequence of having such a late season is that playoff volleyball happened to coincide with AP exams and senior week. Clarksburg did defeat Wootton pretty convincingly in 3, but Wootton was without starting libero/outside Luis Perez, who had an AP exam scheduled on the day of the quarter-finals. Could we have possibly seen Wootton in the final four rather than Clarksburg?
All the Churchill / WJ what-if's? The Churchill / WJ match was an interesting one. On Churchill's side, they lost starting outside hitter Nathaniel Wu to injury, the weekend before playoffs, right before facing WJ, forcing sophomore Eric Chen to step in at the last minute in a county quarter-final. Could this match have gone the other way if Churchill was at full strength? Another interesting twist is that Ryan Harper, who had a huge impact at middle in this match, had an AP exam earlier in the afternoon. Apparently the Churchill / WJ match was re-scheduled to 8PM but had it not been, there was a strong chance that Harper would not have been able to make it. Could WJ have won without their senior middle hitter? There were also some very tight calls and no-calls that certainly could have swung one way or another had there been an R2. However, COVID restrictions, once again, prevented the use of an R2 for these games. Could a few net touches and under calls have changed the trajectory of a very tightly contested game?
- What if RM had a team? Richard Montgomery not participating this season was a huge surprise in MCPS volleyball. Had they competed, their team would have featured three strong club players in Tony Wu (senior outside), Connor Kennedy (junior outside/oppo), and Corrigan Peters (junior middle). Those three alone, with supporting pieces would have made for a very formidable team and certainly one that we would be talking about in this post-season. Could they have ended up as far as the final four, or even further?
If there's anything we can say about this year, is that it certainly has not been short of intrigue. In a year when we thought volleyball may not even happen, here we are in the Final Four of the MCPS playoffs. The bottom half features WJ vs Clarksburg, and Blair vs Northwest on the top. Both matches will be played on Monday. Stay tuned for additional pre-game predictions and analysis. We wish all four teams the best of luck as the playoffs continue.
Thank you for reading! As always, if your team is looking for spirit wear, uniforms, or warm-ups, or if you just want some cool volleyball gear, check out 1-on-none at https://1-on-none.com and give us a follow at @1_on_none!