From Colorado upsetting No. 13 Penn State to Arizona evening its record to the usual suspects rolling on, Saturday was another day of what promises to be a heck of an NCAA volleyball season.
Start with the unranked Buffaloes, a program that got a new coach from nearby Denver in Jesse Mahoney and the host for this year’s Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.
Sophomore Alexa Smith led Colorado with 12 kills and 18 digs in a 22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 20-15, 15-3 victory. Junior Gabby Simpson returned to the lineup after missing the first three matches due to injury, and added 10 kills, 25 assists, eight digs and two blocks. Another junior, Stephanie Shadley, had nine kills, nine digs, two blocks and two aces.
“It feels pretty good. That’s why you play the game, for matches like that,” said Mahoney, whose team was up 8-1 at the change in the fifth set. “Five sets against a top-25 team, the crowd yelling and screaming, and your players playing their best volleyball so it was a lot of fun.”
Penn State hit .154
In the other match, No. 9 Stanford defeated No. 17 Illinois 25-22, 19-25, 25-12, 20-25, 15-12, and if you’re looking for a national player-of-the-week candidate, start with Stanford freshman Audriana Fitzmorris, who had 20 kills, hit a match-high .559 (20-1-34), with seven blocks, three digs and an ace. Senior Inky Ajanaku had 13 kills on .407 hitting and six blocks.
Senior Michelle Strizak led the Illini with 17 kills and 11 digs, while sophomore Ali Bastianelli set a program record with 14 block assists.
“It was a great match,” Illinois coach Kevin Hambly said. “We had to be resilient. We had to fight back and we showed some grit. We were down in the fourth set and had to fight back and win that and then pulled it out. We lost a tough one and came back around and got our butts kicked in one and came back and fought. There was lot of good things that happened in that. We just want to win it to close the deal, but we got better in that match and at this time of year, that’s what you are looking for.”
Stanford plays Penn State on Sunday, while Illinois and Colorado go at it.
This one had to be worth the price of admission as No. 10 BYU beat No. 11 Ohio State 9-25, 24-26, 25-14, 25-20, 15-9 in the same Nationwide Arena that will be the site of the NCAA Championships in December.
Freshman McKenna Miller led the 6-0 Cougars with a career-high 31 kills, second-most all-time in the BYU rally-scoring era, to go with four blocks while another freshman, Mary Lake, added a career-high 38 digs
Top-ranked Nebraska crushed visiting Oregon State 25-16, 25-14, 25-12 before 8,196 fans. The Huskers’ 20th consecutive victory saw five Huskers with at least six kills, including eight kills and five blocks by Amber Rolfzen. Kadie Rolfzen had eight kills with seven digs and four blocks. Mikaela Foecke had seven kills on .545 hitting, and Andie Malloy had seven kills. Kelly Hunter had six kills on seven attacks to go with 25 assists and 10 digs. Justine Wong-Orantes had 12 digs, and Kenzie Maloney had nine.
No. 2 Wisconsin entertains Texas A&M Corpus Christi Sunday.
No. 3 Texas whipped Miami 25-17, 25-19, 25-10 as the Longhorns hit a season-best .494, posting 50 kills on 89 swings, led by freshman Micaya White’s 14, junior Ebony Nwanebu’s 12 and senior Paulina Prieto Cerame’s 11.
“Well, I think we get more comfortable and we played steadier,” coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We were able to do the things we do in practice. So, it’s the part of the season where you figure yourself out. It takes a little bit of time, but I like what I saw tonight.”
No. 4 Kansas won a wild one at home against Arkansas 25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 31-33, 15-8. Kelsie Payne had 25 kills, one short of her career high. Taylor Soucie had 13 kills and no errors. Danielle Harbin led Arkansas with a career-high 22 kills.
Fifth-ranked Washington is off until it goes to Hawai’i next weekend.
No. 6 Minnesota made the most of its trip to Puerto Rico, beating No. 16 Florida State 25-14, 26-24, 21-25, 25-12 as Hannah Tapp hit .615 and she and Sarah Wilhite had a team-high 18 kills apiece. The Gophers continue with the best of the ACC when they play Louisville and North Carolina later in the week.
Florida State got 15 kills from Milica Kubura and 10 from Christina Ambrose.
Seventh-ranked Florida was hardly challenged Saturday at Michigan State, routing Central Michigan 25-10, 25-17, 25-10 and then crushing Morgan State 25-11, 25-12, 25-9. The Gators play the home team Sunday.
No. 8 UCLA stayed unbeaten by sweeping host No. 15 Hawai’i 25-23 ,25-22, 25-22. Junior Reily Buechler posted her second double-double in a row with 14 kills and 11 digs, senior Taylor Formico added 16 digs and freshman Savvy Simo recorded 13 digs as UCLA improved to 6-0. Nikki Taylor led the home team with 17 kills.
No. 12 North Carolina won the 1,000th victory in program history by sweeping previously unbeaten TCU 25-23, 25-20, 25-18.
No. 14 Texas A&M beat Virginia Tech in Puerto Rico 8-26, 25-23, 25-15. Jazzmin Babers had 14 kills and hit .407.
“I think we had a slow start and unfortunately met with some of the best teams in the country and weren’t able to close our first match (a 3-2 loss to No. 16 Florida State). Our second match, we were beat by a better team (No. 6 Minnesota), and tonight’s match I thought was a much better overall performance but still had a slow start,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said.
“We recovered from that fortunately. We found a lot of things on our team that we need to continue to improve in, some serving things, some blocking things, some ball control things. Those are all fixable. And we saw some moments of some really, really awesome things from some of our young players that haven’t been on the court much.”
No. 18 San Diego beat Texas A&M Corpus Christi 25-20, 26-24, 25-18 and finally plays at home Thursday when the Toreros entertain UC Irvine.
No. 19 Western Kentucky, ranked fourth in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll, scored victories over Saint Louis and Arkansas State (11 in the VBM poll) to close out play in St. Louis. The Toppers crushed the home team, 25-1, 25-13, 25-13, and then improved to 6-1 by beating Arkansas State 25-18, 25-27, 25-18, 25-21 as Rachel Anderson had 16 kills and hit .483.
No. 20 Loyola Marymount, ranked 5 in the VBM poll, got back on track with a 28-26, 25-13, 25-16 victory over Montana State.
No. 21 Louisville continued to struggle, falling to Auburn 15-25, 17-25, 25-14, 25-22, 15-8 after wining the first two sets.
Brenna McIlroy led Auburn with 18 kills. B
“There is nothing tougher than to be up 2-0 in set and lose. There is nothing better than to be down 2-0 in sets and lose,” Louisville coach Anne Kordes said. “We are young and we are going to have to scratch and fight all year. But with the arms and passing we have, our offense will get better.”
No. 22 Creighton, 10th in the VBM poll, fell to 2-3 as USC got even at 3-3 with a 25-27, 25-23, 25-22, 19-25, 15-10 victory. Taryn Kloth had a career-high 23 kills for the Bluejays, who opened with a tough schedule and it continues as they play host to Kansas on Thursday. USC, which lost its first three match this season, was led by freshman outside hitter Khalia Lanier. She had her third straight double-double with 21 kills and 17 digs to go with two service aces and two blocks as she was named the tournament’s MVP.
This has been a tough start to the season for No. 23 Kentucky, which got swept by Northern Iowa on Saturday. UNI, the 18th-ranked team in the VBM poll,
UNI (3-3) scored its first win over a ranked foe since a 3-0 win over No. 17 Louisville on Sept. 7, 2013.
No. 24 Purdue moved to 5-1 as Danielle Cuttino has a career-best 22 kills, hit .425 clip and added five blocks as the Boilermakers beat Notre Dame 25-21, 24-26, 25-16, 25-16.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have to get better at. The kids understand that,” second-year Notre Dame coach Jim McLaughlin said. “As we get better at those things, the process of improving continues.
“Number one, we played hard. That’s the most important thing we can do. Now we have to settle down and see the game better. Stay focused on the things that tell us what to do to stay in better spots. Gameday is different. We have to learn how to think the right thoughts and clear our minds so we can play the next play. We got a little bit better at that, but we’ve got a ways to go.”
The No. 25 team in the AVCA poll, Colorado State, was knocked off by Pittsburgh 12-25, 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 15-11.
Colorado State, No. 7 in the VBM poll, also lost to host Santa Barbara on Saturday. And things don’t get easier, since Wichita State comes to CSU on Thursday and No. 3 Texas plays the Rams on Friday.
Pitt also won the 1,000th match in program history. Later the Panthers beat CSU Bakerfield and Sunday play Santa Barbara.
Our teams of note are Santa Clara, Arizona and Lipscomb.
Santa Clara, the No. 3 team in the VBM poll, is off to its best start since 2005 at 6-0 after winning two matches Saturday to claim the Louisville tournament. Saturday, the Broncos defeated Auburn 29-31, 25-16, 25-23, 25-19 in the early match and swept Stony Brook 25-22, 25-20, 25-18.
“Today was tough with two matches in one day, especially starting off against a really good Auburn team after beating Louisville at home,” Santa Clara coach Jon Wallace said. “We got off to a bit of a slow start, but the girls found their rhythm and a good into a good state of mind that allowed them to play at a high level. I’m really proud of them for facing adversity and ultimately playing really good volleyball.”
Arizona swept Pepperdine 25-14, 25-12, 25-17 to win its home tournament and get to .500. Arizona needed the minimum nine sets to dispatch its three opponents, Alabama State, SMU and Pepperdine
Lipscomb, ranked 14th in the VBM poll, lost in four to Texas, did not respond well and lost to Army in four but bounced back with a four-set victory over Miami to improve to 4-2.
“It seems really weird talking about it and saying we wish we had done more here,” coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “Beating Miami is a great win. And it will be a great win at the end of the year.
“We have to put things in perspective. When you look at our schedule from an RPI standpoint I have no doubt this weekend is going to help us. It has been a good experience for us.”
1,000 victories for Catanach
University of Tampa coach Chris Catanach notched a milestone win when his team swept Franklin Pierce University on Friday.
He becomes just the third Division II coach to reach his millennial win and he is only the second coach in the division to accomplish the feat with one program.
Catanach joins Central Missouri great Peggy Martin and current Rockhurst coach Tracy Rietzke as the lone Division II head volleyball coaches to reach 1,000 wins.
Among all of the NCAA divisions, Catanach is the eighth to reach the milestone, joining among others Larry Bock (Juniata/Navy), Russ Rose (Penn State), David Shoji (Hawaii) and Andy Banachowski (UCLA).