In the end, each divisional bracket will come down to just two teams, but as of the release of the CIF Southern Section girls' volleyball playoff matchups on Saturday morning, each full bracket represents a maze of possibilities and plenty of strategizing and speculating for coaches as they try to map out their respective teams' paths to a CIF title.
That's the case for six area teams that qualified, including Burroughs, Burbank and Crescenta Valley in Division 2-A, Providence in Division 4-AA and Bellarmine-Jefferson and Holy Family in Division 4-A, and will begin their quest with first-round matches at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Burroughs (22-5) won the Pacific League and was ranked fourth in the division until the final week of the season, when it suddenly slipped to sixth. As a result, the Indians did not receive the first-round bye that was awarded to the top four seeds in Saturday's unveiling. Burroughs will instead host Paramount (9-9), an at-large team from the San Gabriel Valley League, in the first round.
"My first thought was, 'Good, we've got an at-large team. Hopefully, we should get past the first round,'" Indians Coach Edwin Real said. "But then when I kind of investigated how the byes went and how things went out, I was a little bit disappointed.
"Then I thought about it. That was disappointing, but what are you going to do? Whatever you get, you just go for it."
A win over the Pirates would put Burroughs in a second-round matchup with either Oxnard, the Pacific View League runner-up, or Valley Christian, the third-place team from the Olympic League, on Thursday.
"Looking ahead to Valley Christian or Oxnard, they've both been good programs in the past," Real said, "so we'll just have to wait and see."
Burbank (11-5), which placed third in the Pacific League, will open on the road against Xavier Prep (13-3), the second-place team from the Desert Valley League, and will face the No. 2 seed Whittier Christian, the Olympic League champion, should it advance to the second round.
Crescenta Valley (8-8) placed fourth in the Pacific League and will travel to meet Adolfo Camarillo (20-6), the Pacific View League champion.
"I watched clips online and they're pretty tall," Falcons Coach Jen Ku Lee said of Camarillo. "Their defense is pretty good. It's going to be a tough matchup for us. Right now, I think it's just best that we focus on ourselves and what we can do better.
"With [outside hitter] Kira [Guarino] and [setter] Payton [Wheeler] as our leaders, if they bring a good game, no one knows what's going to happen. Hopefully, my team can bring a defensive mindset and get the job done."
Crescenta Valley would meet either Olympic League runner-up Village Christian or the Hacienda League third-place team, Los Altos, in the second round.
Providence (8-10) will open at St. Paul after finishing third in the Liberty League. St. Paul (19-11) is the second-place team from the Camino Real League.
Awaiting the Pioneers in the second round would be another road trip to face third-seeded Laguna Blanca, the Condor League champion.
Bellarmine-Jefferson (12-6-2), the Santa Cruz League champion, dives into the postseason with a home match against Santa Clara (6-9), the third-place team from the Frontier League.
"I'm pretty happy to get a home game, that's kind of what you work for, to win your league and start off at home and get a little momentum going in the playoffs," Guards Coach Miguel Segura said. "For the most part, we're just going in there [thinking] it's another game, [let's] take care of business and take care of our home court."
A win would advance the Guards to play either Horizon League co-champion Alverno or Heritage League third-place Granada Hills Hillcrest Christian and Bell-Jeff could potentially clash with No. 1 seed Hemet if it reaches the quarterfinals.
"I actually like our draw," Segura said. "I know we're looking at a showdown with the No. 1 team."
Holy Family (14-8-3) shared the Horizon League championship with Alverno, but lost a coin flip against the Jaguars to determine the league's No. 1 playoff entry status and opens as the league's No. 2 squad against Santa Cruz League runner-up St. Anthony (12-8) on the road.
"We have few common opponents, which means we could probably fare well against them," said Holy Family Coach Robert Bringas, whose team has faced St. Anthony's league mates St. Genevieve and Bell-Jeff in tournaments this season. "I'm pretty confident. I think this will be a good first-round matchup for us."
The Gaels would face either Hamilton, an at-large entry from the Arrowhead League, or High Desert League champion Frazier Mountain in the second round.
"We've played well against some other teams that were above us in a couple tournaments," Bringas said. "We've had a good week of practice, so going in we'll be rested and anxious to play."