The 1981 NCAA Division I women's volleyball tournament was the first year that the NCAA sponsored women's volleyball, following 12 years in which the AIAW conducted the women's national intercollegiate championships. The tournament consisted of just 20 teams.
The Final Four was held on the campus of UCLA, where the heavily favored Bruins lost in the national title match against Southern California in five games: 9-15, 15-7, 10-15, 15-13, 15-7. Southern California finished the year 27-10.
In the consolation match, San Diego State swept Pacific, 3-0, to claim third place.