Northern Illinois Huskies
Overall record: 25-5
Conference record: 15-1 (MAC)
Top Players: Jenna Radtke, sr., MB (MAC Player of the Year); Mary Grace Kelly, sr., OH (all-MAC)
How they got here: The Huskies have rattled off six consecutive wins after falling in straight sets at Miami (Ohio) on Oct. 29. They finished 23-5 in the regular season and were the co-champions with the RedHawks for the MAC after starting the year 5-4. The Huskies got an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Overall record: 25-5
Conference record: 16-2 (SEC)
Top Players: Carly Kan, sr., OH (3-time all-SEC); Alyssa Munlyn, soph., MB (2-time all-SEC); Melanie Crow, jr., OH (all-SEC)
How they got here: The No. 15 Tigers finished tied atop the SEC with Florida, which is the No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament, but earned the conference crown by beating the Gators in five sets in Columbia late in the year. Crow is a talented transfer from Ole Miss and Kan has been a standout since coming to Missouri – she was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2013. The Tigers' five losses this season came against BYU, Miami (Ohio), Texas A&M, South Carolina and Utah, all of which made the NCAA Tournament except for the Gamecocks.
Overall record: 18-13
Conference record: 8-12 (Big Ten)
Top Players: Danielle Cuttino, jr., OH (first team all-Big Ten); Faye Adelaja, sr., MB (honorable mention all-Big Ten)
How they got here: While the Boilermakers had a losing record in conference, the Big Ten was a brutal road this season. Eight teams from the conference made the NCAA Tournament – including five that were in the top 16 seeds. The top three seeds in the tournament came from the Big Ten with No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 Wisconsin. Purdue took the Badgers to five sets in both matches this season.
Iowa State Cyclones
Overall record: 18-10
Conference record: 10-6 (Big 12)
Top Players: Jess Schaben, soph., OH (first team all-Big 12); Grace Lazard, soph., MB (second team all-Big 12); Samara West, jr., MB (second team all-Big 12)
How they got here: The Cyclones finished third in the Big 12, ahead of Kansas State (No. 14 seed), Baylor and TCU – all of which made the NCAA Tournament. Their biggest win of the year came in a five-set victory at home over Texas, which is the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. All 10 of their losses on the year came against teams that made the 64-team field, so they are plenty battle tested. In a game against in-state foe Iowa, the Cyclones won in straight sets. In the Huskies match against the Hawkeyes, Northern Illinois lost in straight sets in DeKalb in the third match of the year.