Tennessee, ranked No. 23, is having quite a season.
The Vols, who finished 12-15 last year, 5-13 in the SEC, are now 22-5, 13-2 after winning in four at No. 23 Missouri on Wednesday. What’s more, Tennessee took over sole possession of second place in the SEC, a game up in the win column on idle No. 13 Florida.
And they won with first-year head coach Eve Rackham back in Knoxville. She’s pregnant and close to her due date.
In the Big Ten, No. 4 Illinois and No. 7 Penn State won. Two others won in-state rival matches, as Kansas State scored a nice Big 12 road victory at Kansas and NC State swept North Carolina.
Recaps and notes follow, but first a look at Thursday’s schedule where a handful of conferences begin their post-season tournaments with NCAA Tournament bids on the line.
Those include the ASUN, MAC, Metro Atlantic, Ohio Valley Conference, and Sun Belt conferences. Click on the respective conference to go to their tournaments pages.
Top-ranked BYU, the only unbeaten team left in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball, has a West Coast Conference match at Saint Mary’s.
There are five matches in the WAC, which includes the two teams tied for the lead. Kansas City (11-3) is at NM State (a game back at 10-4), and UT Rio Grande Valley (11-3) is home for Chicago State (3-11).
There’s a big one in the Big Sky, where first-place Idaho (14-2) plays at second-place Northern Arizona (13-3).
Also, Mountain West-leader Colorado State is home for UNLV.
And Pepperdine of the WCC, displaced because of the fires in California, is the host to Gonzaga in a match that will be played at UCLA. Pepperdine will also play home matches at UCLA on Saturday against Portland and Tuesday against San Diego.
Tennessee, Kentucky win: Three of the SEC’s four ranked teams were in action as Tennessee (22-5, 13-2) continued its remarkable turnaround with a 19-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-12 victory at Missouri (22-6, 12-4).
Tessa Grubbs led with 20 kills, 18 in the last three sets. She hit .385 and had two digs and a block. Raquel Perinar had 11 kills, hit .333 and had three digs and two blocks, and Erica Treiber had nine kills, three aces, two digs and four blocks, one solo.
“They were undefeated at home so far this year,” said Tennessee assistant coach Tyler Adams, taking over as Rackham stayed home. “It is a really good tribute to our team and the steps we have taken this year to come into a road environment and get a big win.”
Kylie Deberg led Missouri with 16 kills and had an ace, an assist, and five digs. Tyanna Omazic had 10 kills on a night when the Tigers hit .209, minus .029 in the final set. Tennessee hit .300.
League-leader Kentucky (21-4, 15-0) cruised at Arkansas (11-14, 5-10) 25-18, 25-15, 25-13. Leah Edmond led with 12 kills and hit .321 to go with six digs and two blocks, while Alli Stumler had 10 kills with no errors in 24 swings to hit .417. She had three aces, eight digs and a block. Kentucky hit .390.
Reagan Robinson led Arkansas, which hit .133, with 11 kills.
Illinois, Penn State, MSU win: Illinois (25-3, 14-3 Big Ten) blasted Northwestern (15-14, 5-12) 25-16, 25-11, 25-14. Ali Bastianelli and Megan Cooney had 10 kills each for the Illini. Bastianelli hit .500 and had four blocks, while Cooney hit .533 and had three digs and two blocks. Jacqueline Quade had nine kills and hit .500 and had two assists, an ace, two digs and two blocks, one solo. Northwestern hit minus .025 …
Nia Reed had 16 kills and hit .520 to go with five blocks, two solo, as Penn State (21-6, 12-5) swept visiting No. 19 Michigan (19-9, 8-9) 25-12, 25-23, 25-15. Jonni Parker added 13 kills and hit .440 as the Nittany Lions hit .361. Carly Skjodt had 11 kills for Michigan, which hit .107. She added three aces and seven digs …
Rutgers (6-24, 0-17) got close, but remained winless in the league after visiting Michigan State (17-13, 5-12) escaped with a 28-26, 25-14, 23-25, 16-25, 15-12 victory. Maddie Haggerty led MSU with 13 kills, 12 digs, an assist and an ace. Naya Gross had 12 kills, hit .625, and had six blocks. Tali Marmen had 12 kills and hit .500 for Rutgers, which led 11-10 in the fifth before Michigan State pulled away.
Oregon beats Utah: The No. 16 Ducks (18-9, 11-6 Pac-12) beat visiting Utah (15-13, 7-10) 25-22, 25-21, 25-20 for their sixth win in a row.
Lindsey Vander Weide led a balanced Oregon attack with 12 kills, hit .370, and had five digs and a solo block. Taylor Borup had nine kills, 11 digs, two assists and three blocks, one solo.
“We have a really confident group right now,” Oregon coach Matt Ulmer said. “I think we’re just really starting to click at a high level. We’re trying to keep it out there and keep that momentum, and we get another chance Friday.”
Megan Yett led Utah with 14 kills, 10 digs, an assist and three blocks. Dani Drews had 11 kills, hit .300 and added 11 digs and a solo block. Willow Johnson and Ronika Stone had eight kills each.
NC State sweeps UNC: NC State (14-12, 8-8) not only swept the match against North Carolina 7-18, 3-13) 25-22, 26-24, 25-16, but beat the Tar Heels twice in a row in Raleigh for the first time since 1991. That included a five-set win last season. Jade Parchment led NC State with 10 kills and 11 digs. Skylar Wine had 11 kills for UNC to go with two assists, a block and seven digs.
Big 12: It was a good night for the road teams.
Kansas State (14-11, 4-10) won at Kansas (15-9, 8-5) 25-22, 26-24, 25-16. Brooke Heyne had 17 kills and hit .311 for K-State and added eight digs and two blocks. Elle Sandbothe had 13 kills, hit .308 and had a dig and seven blocks. Rachel Langs and Ashley Smith had 14 kills each for KU. Langs hit .592 and had two digs and seven blocks, two solo …
Iowa State (14-3, 7-7) won at Oklahoma (15-11, 7-7) behind 18 kills by Jess Schaben, who had 11 digs and two blocks. Eleanor Holthaus had 13 kills with no errors in 20 swings and hit .650 to go with an assist, five digs and four blocks. Alyssa Enneking had 15 kills, 12 digs and a block to lead the Sooners …
And TCU (14-11, 6-8) won at West Virginia (11-16, 2-11) 20-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-21. élan McCall led with 22 kills, hit .583 after making one error in 36 swings, and had two assists, 14 digs and a block. Lexi McLean had 10 kills and 11 digs. Natania Levan led West Virginia with 16 kills, hitting .467. Kristina Jordan added 13 kills and six blocks, one solo.