Friday, December 28, 2012

NCAA | Olympic HS Coach wins national NCAA Volleyball Tournament bracket competition

Bremerton’s Keith Peden beats out nearly 1,000 other contestants to claim top prize 

Keith Peden pays a lot of attention to volleyball. Now, all that attention has paid off.

Texas' big block helped the Longhorns
win the 2012 national championship
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Among nearly 1,000 nationwide contestants in the 2012 Northwestern Mutual Insurance NCAA Women’s Volleyball bracket contest, Bremerton’s Peden came out on top. He wins the grand prize: a $500 NCAA Shop Online gift certificate.

Peden correctly predicted that Texas would be crowned national champion. He also figured Oregon and Penn State would reach the Final Four. That’s pretty good picking.

“I kind of thought it was gonna come down to Penn State and Texas,” Peden tells Volleyblog Seattle. “And I had Oregon playing against Penn State, but I had Penn State winning that one." (Oregon won)

To beat out all other contestants, Peden correctly predicted that Nebraska would defeat Washington, and then lose in Omaha to Oregon. “Nebraska’s a tough place to play,” he says. “That was a key one.”

Another key was figuring that defending national champion UCLA and top-RPI team Stanford would both fail to reach the Final Four.

“UCLA struggled this year,” he says. “They weren’t consistent. They were kind of the Cinderella team last year. I figured they wouldn’t do it two years in a row. (The Bruins lost to Michigan State in the round of 32.)

“Stanford, I didn’t think their freshmen would hold them all the way through.” Stanford lost to Michigan, in the Elite 8.

“I record every single match. I drive my wife crazy. I watch it, I rewind, I look, and I rewind.”

Peden is the head volleyball coach at Bremerton’s Olympic High School, where his teams have won two league championships. He was a founding board member of the Olympic Premier Juniors Volleyball Club, and has also coached at Bremerton, Snohomish and Arlington high schools.

But Peden’s volleyball interests stretch much further. He subscribes to both the Pac-12 Network and the Big Ten Network, and is an ardent student of the game.

“Oh, yeah,” he admits, “I record every single match. And I find some time to watch it. Being a coach, like a lot of us are, I drive my wife crazy. I watch it, I rewind, I look, and I rewind. It takes me a few hours to look at every match. But I get to pretty much most of them.”

He does not, however, have access to the Longhorn Network, home of Texas volleyball.

“But the couple times I did see Texas,” Peden says, “I saw their athletic ability. They’ve got a couple kids now that can just freakin’ jump to the ceiling. I really thought that they had the overall talent to win the thing.”

With his NCAA Shop gift certificate, he plans to buy gear from his alma mater, the US Naval Academy. He grew up in Eastern Washington (a graduate of Spokane’s University High), and expects to pick up some WSU gear, too.

This was the first bracket contest other than basketball that the NCAA and Northwestern Mutual Insurance have sponsored. More are planned, including college hockey’s Frozen Four.

“We’re excited about expanding to volleyball,” says Northwestern Mutual’s Betsy Hoylman. “We expect to continue the relationship in the future.”

The immediate future will be the 2013 D1 women’s volleyball Final Four in Seattle. Peden expects Texas, Washington, Stanford and Penn State to make it to Key Arena. He thinks the Longhorns--who graduate just one senior--will be hard to beat.

“If you find a way to put your blockers on ladders, then maybe," he says. "They’re so tough to defend when they just hit right over the top of you. I don’t see anybody that’s gonna have a blocking team that can put a dent in them. As long as they stay healthy, I think Texas is definitely gonna be right back there.”

And does Peden plan to attend Seattle's Final Four?

“ I've got my tickets already,” he says. “Our club (Olympic Premiere), we’re all gonna get together. And we’re all gonna get to the (American Volleyball Coaches Association) coaching convention (also in Seattle.)

“We’ve even got a bunch of folks over in Spokane excited about it, too.”

12.29.12 | This report CORRECTED to reflect proper spelling of "Peden." Apologies for the error.

WRITTEN BY Jack Hamann | PHOTOS BY Leslie Hamann


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