NCAA tournament begins: We’ve got the matchups, the facts, notes and trivia

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Lauren Page-Ronika Stone-August Raskie-Oregon-NCAA volleyball roundup11/29/2018
Oregon's Lauren Page, Ronika Stone and August Raskie, trying to block Stanford's Kathryn Plummer at Matthew Knight Arena this season, are home to open the NCAA Tournament against NM State on Thursday/Stephen Burns photo

There are two Rubios, three Petersons, at least two Mikaylas and two McKennas (but there should have been three McKennas), two Gaels and two Jacks — the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona and the Ladyjacks of Stephen F. Austin.

All that and more as the NCAA Tournament begins Thursday with eight of the 32 first-round matches. 

Up first (all times Eastern):
At UCF
Florida State (19-9) vs. Florida (24-6), 4:30 p.m.
UCF (27-3) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (26-6), 7 p.m.
At Texas
Rice (24-6) vs. Texas State (26-6), 5 p.m.
Texas (20-4) vs. Stephen F. Austin (32-2), 8 p.m.
At Wisconsin
Northern Iowa (24-9) vs. Pepperdine (21-8), 6 p.m.
Wisconsin (22-6) vs. Green Bay (20-10), 8:30 p.m.
At Oregon
Hawai’i (18-8) vs. Baylor (19-8), 7:30 p.m.
Oregon (20-10) vs NM State (24-7), 10 p.m.

All the broadcast and streaming links can be found at VolleyballMag.com’s daily TV listings.

The rest of the schedule follows and so do all of our pre-tournament tidbits, the latest notes from the coaching carousel, and the listings of the power-five POYs. It’s a busy day in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball.

Sunshine State: The state of Florida kicks things off at UCF in Orlando with Florida State, which finished second in the ACC, playing arch-rival Florida, third in the SEC. Florida State is one of 11 teams to have appeared in the last 10 NCAA tourneys and a big reason why is transfer Payton Caffrey. The junior outside hitter led FSU in kills and aces and was named the ACC player of the year.

Florida, which played in last year’s NCAA championship match that it lost in four to Nebraska, beat Florida State in four at Tallahassee in their annual non-conference meeting. But that was before Florida’s Thayer Hall missed most of the last third of the season with an undisclosed injury and FSU won seven of its last eight ACC matches.

Just as intriguing is the second match between American Athletic Conference-champion UCF, which stood 10th in the last NCAA RPI ranking, and FGCU, which won the ASUN. Both these teams are as hot as can be. UCF, which went 18-0 in the AAC, has won 24 in a row. FGCU has won 15 in a row and is playing in the NCAA tourney for the first time. UCF, however, won both their regular-season meetings and is 5-1 all-time against FGCU. 

Big in Texas: This meeting in Austin might be the only four-team gathering where every team won its respective league. Conference USA-champion Rice plays Sun Belt-winner Texas State and then Big 12-winner Texas plays Southland Conference-winner Stephen F. Austin.

Rice had won 15 in a row and clinched the league before losing its last two C-USA matches. But the Owls won the conference tournament and will have to be their best to beat high-flying Texas State. While Russ Rose finishes his 40th year at Penn State, Karen Chisum is next on the longevity list, finishing her 39th year at Texas State. Texas State is ranked No. 22 in the NCAA RPI and boasts a tremendous transfer from Florida, leading attacker Cheyenne Huskey, the best freshman setter (and, yes, there are some good ones) in the country in Emily DeWalt, who leads a balanced attack. 

Texas, of course, is the prohibitive favorite in this foursome — it swept Texas State earlier this season —- but give SFA its due. The Ladyjacks are 32-2 with the most wins in the country, went 16-0 in the SLC and have won 29 in a row under another veteran coach, Debbie Humphreys, who is finishing her 31st year.

On Wisconsin: This is where you’ll find two of the three Petersons. Bobbi Peterson is in her 19th season as the Northern Iowa coach and one of her twin daughters, Baylee, is a freshman DS who has filled in at outside. And her sister, Sydney, is the third Peterson — she’s the starting libero for Texas. 

UNI won the Missouri Valley Conference, while Pepperdine was an at-large from the WCC after a crazy couple of weeks that saw the Waves finish their home season at UCLA because of the fires.

Vicki Friedman of ESPNW had an outstanding story on what Pepperdine has been through.

Wisconsin, which finished tied for third with Nebraska in the Big Ten, is a prohibitive favorite at home, but Horizon League-champion Green Bay, in its first NCAA Tournament since 2003, has a big-time hitter in Taylor Wolf and the Phoenix is at least playing in its home state.

Just Ducky: Hawai’i was a surprise entry into the tournament, but the Rainbow Wahine, second to Cal Poly in the Big West, can quiet the critics with a win over Big 12 runner-up Baylor at Oregon. Baylor, which might have led the NCAA in injuries this season, is as dangerous as any team out there when Yossiana Pressley, Aniah Philo, Shelly Fanning and Hannah Lockin are all healthy. Second-year coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos has Hawai’i back in the tournament for the 26th year in a row.

Oregon is another one of those teams that when healthy and hitting on cylinders can go far in this tournament. If you follow NCAA volleyball you know that a team with an offense led by Lindsey Vander Weide, Ronika Stone, Willow Johnson, and Taylor Borup, a setter like August Raskie and freshman libero Brooke Nuneviller can beat anyone. But the Ducks have been up and down all season, usually related to their health.

And NM State? That’s where one of the Rubios come in. Dave Rubio is the head coach at Arizona, which opens play Friday at Nebraska against Missouri. But his brother, Keith, is in his eighth season as an assistant to Mike Jordan at NM State, which won the WAC Tournament. NM State had a couple of big hitters in Tatyana Battle and Savannah Davison.

All those notes: Well, we’ve given you the Jacks, the Petersons and the Rubios.

McKennas? UCF freshman McKenna Melville ranked 15th in the nation in kills per set (4.51), while Washington State senior outside hitter McKenna Woodford leads her team in kills (398). Her Cougars play host to the aforementioned Lumberjacks of NAU. And McKenna Miller was a star outside hitter for BYU, but the junior blew out her knee late in the season …

Two Mikaylas? They both play for South Carolina. Mikayla Robinson is a sophomore who led the Gamecocks in blocks with 96, 22 solo, and hitting percentage, .298. Junior Mikayla Shields led South Carolina with 3.22 kills per set. 

Speaking of South Carolina, how about Tom Mendoza? He did a superlative job at High Point (which is also in the tournament, playing Marquette on Friday) and then took South Carolina to its first NCAA Tournament since 2002 in his first year. The Gamecocks went from 12th to fifth in the SEC standings …

And how about those Gaels? Yes, there are two. 

Metro Atlantic-champion Iona, a school located just northeast of New York City in New Rochelle, N.Y., plays at Pittsburgh on Friday. 

And Saint Mary’s, an at-large team from the WCC from Moraga, Calif., east of Oakland, also goes by the Gaels. Saint Mary’s plays Washington at Creighton on Friday.

Coaching carousel: Jon Wallace will not return after 20 years as the coach at Santa Clara. This past season, the Broncos finished 6-24 overall, 1-17 in the West Coast Conference. Wallace is the winningest coach in school history and a three-time WCC coach of the year (2000, ’05, ’07). His 20-year record was 367-230, 180-128 in the WCC and that included taking the Broncos to the 2005 national semifinals … 

NJIT coach Peter Vokert resigned after four seasons. His teams went 46-116 in his four years, 7-51 in the ASUN… 

Also, since we previously had coaching changes, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale fired coach Kari Thompson after two years. The Salukis went 11-49 during that time, including 5-26 this season, 1-17 in the Missouri Valley Conference …

We previously listed openings at Air Force, Alabama, Delaware State, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, IUPUI, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana, and UTEP. The interim tag is off Jennifer Dorr at Cal, which has listed the job opening.

POYs
Catching up on some postseason announcements:
ACC
Player of the year: Florida State junior OH Payton Caffrey
Defensive player of the year: Notre Dame senior L Ryann DeJarld
Setter of the year: Louisville senior Wilma Rivera
Freshman of the year: Syracuse OH Polina Shemanova
Coach of the year: Dan Fisher of Pittsburgh
The complete ACC release, which lists the first, second and all-freshman teams.

Big Ten
Player of the Year: Minnesota senior S Samantha Seliger-Swenson
Defensive Player of the Year: Penn State senior L Kendall White
Co-Setter of the Year: Illinois senior Jordyn Poulter
Co-Setter of the Year: Samantha Seliger-Swenson
Freshman of the Year: Penn State RS Jonni Parker
Coach of the Year: Hugh McCutcheon of Minnesota
The complete Big Ten release, which lists the first, second and all-freshman teams.

Big 12
Player of the year: Texas junior OH Micaya White
Freshman of the year: Texas MB Logan Eggleston
Co-Setter of the year: Oklahoma sophomore Kylee McLaughlin
Co-Setter of the year: Texas Tech senior Missy Owens
Libero of the year: Oklahoma sophomore Keyton Kinley
Coach of the year: Jerritt Elliott of Texas
The complete Big 12 release, which lists the first team, second team, and all-rookie team.

Pac 12
Player of the year: Stanford junior OH Kathryn Plummer
Libero of the year: Stanford junior L Morgan Hentz
Setter of the year: Stanford junior Jenna Gray
Freshman of the year: USC S Raquel Lázaro
Coach of the year: Kevin Hambly of Stanford
The complete Pac-12 release, which lists the first team, second team and all-freshman team.

SEC
Player of the year: Kentucky junior OH Leah Edmond
Libero of the year: Kentucky sophomore Gabby Curry
Freshman of the year: Kentucky OH Alli Stumler
Coach of the year: Craig Skinner of Kentucky
The complete SEC release with the first team, second team and all-freshman team.

Friday’s NCAA Tournament schedule:
At Pittsburgh
Michigan (22-9) vs. Navy (23-8), 4 p.m.
Pittsburgh (29-1) vs Iona (20-7), 7 p.m.
At Creighton
Saint Mary’s (19-9) vs. Washington (18-12), 4:30 p.m.
Creighton (28-4) vs. South Dakota (21-9), 7 p.m.
At Kentucky
Purdue (23-8) vs. East Tennessee State (28-6), 5 p.m.
Kentucky (24-4) vs. Murray State (22-9), 7:30 p.m.
At Penn State
Syracuse (18-8) vs. Yale (19-4), 5 p.m.
Penn State (23-7) vs. Howard (20-10), 7:30 p.m.
At Nebraska
Arizona (22-10) vs. Missouri (23-7), 5:30 p.m.
Nebraska (24-6) vs. Hofstra (25-7), 8 p.m.
At Marquette
Cincinnati (25-7) vs. Illinois State (25-7), 5:30 p.m.,
Marquette (26-6) vs. High Point (21-9), 8 p.m.
At Minnesota
South Carolina (19-9) vs. Colorado (18-13), 5:30 p.m.
Minnesota (25-3) vs. Bryant (22-12), 8 p.m.
At Illinois
Louisville (21-8) vs. Dayton (23-7), 5:30 p.m.
Illinois (28-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (21-13), 8 p.m.
At BYU
Utah (18-13) vs. Denver (27-2), 6 p.m
BYU (27-1) vs. Stony Brook (21-8), 9 p.m
At Washington State
Tennessee (25-5) vs. Colorado State (23-7), 7 p.m.
Washington State (21-9) vs. Northern Arizona (26-8), 10 p.m.
At Stanford
Loyola Marymount (20-9) vs. Duke (16-11), 7:30 p.m.
Stanford (28-1) vs. Alabama State (23-17), 10 p.m.
At USC
San Diego (16-12) vs. Cal Poly (25-2), 9 p.m.
USC (21-10) vs. Samford (19-14), 11 p.m.

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