11 a.m. Thursday first serve in Pittsburgh as NCAA Tournament round of 16 gets underway

There’s an early start in Pittsburgh followed by a full day of high-level volleyball as the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 gets underway Thursday with eight matches at four sites.

We also tell you about the seemingly never-ending NCAA coaching carousel, have an item that will really space you out, and catch up on the NIVC.

NCAA Tournament

AT PITTSBURGH
11 a.m. Eastern, No. 6 Purdue (25-6) vs. No. 11 BYU (30-1)
1 p.m., No. 3 Pittsburgh (28-3) vs. Kansas (18-11)
The Purdue-BYU match is on ESPNU, but the Pitt-Kansas match is on ESPN+ with Alex Loeb and Missy Whittemore.

AT LOUISVILLE
1 p.m., No. 1 Louisville (30-0) vs. No. 16 Florida (22-8)
3 p.m., No. 8 Georgia Tech (25-5) vs. No. 9 Ohio State (27-5)
The Louisville-UF match is on ESPNU, and the GT-Ohio State match is on ESPN+ with Eric Frede and Katie George.

AT TEXAS
7:30 p.m., No. 2 Texas (26-1) vs. No. 15 Washington (26-4)
9:30 p.m., No. 10 Nebraska (23-7) vs. Illinois (22-11)
Both matches are on ESPNU with Paul Sunderland and Salima Rockwell.

AT WISCONSIN
3 p.m., No. 5 Baylor (22-5) vs. No. 12 Minnesota (22-8)
5 p.m., No. 4 Wisconsin (27-3) vs. No. 13 UCLA (25-5)
Both matches are on ESPNU with Courtney Lyle and Karch Kiraly.

Friday is an off day.  Saturday’s matches start at 4 p.m. and they’re all on ESPNU, starting with the regional final at Pittsburgh and followed, in order, by finals at Louisville, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Coaching carousel

NOTRE DAME –– Mike Johnson is out after four seasons in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame went to the 2019 and spring 2021 NCAA Tournaments but was left out this year after finishing 13-15 overall and 10-8 in the ACC. In Johnson’s four seasons, Notre Dame was 63-41. It’s the first ACC opening this season.

NORTH TEXAS — Andrew Palileo resigned after nine seasons in Denton, Texas. His team finished 15-12 this season, 7-5 in Conference USA. Palileo was 162-11 at UNT. 

SIENA — Vilis Ozols is out after four seasons in Loudonville, New York. Siena finished 7-23, 7-11 in the MAAC, this season. 

Flying high

AIR FORCE TO ASTRONAUT — Former Air Force volleyball player Nichole (Stilwell) Ayers was named one of NASA’s 10 new astronaut candidates Monday, the school reported. She played at Air Force from 2007 to 2010 and was the team MVP in 2009. 

In a news release, Air Force said that Ayers was selected from a field of more than 12,000 applicants.

According to Air Force, Ayers, who is from Divide, Colorado, graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in Russian, then added a master’s degree in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University, where she focused on computational fluid dynamics and, specifically, modeling incompressible fluid flow. 

An experienced combat aviator, Ayers has more than 1,150 hours in total flight time in the T-38 and F-22 Raptor, and more than 200 combat hours in the F-22 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield. One of the few women currently flying the F-22, Ayers led the first-ever all-female formation of the aircraft in combat in 2019.

Penny Lucas-White, now the coach at Alabama State, was her coach at Air Force.

“Nichole was a joy to coach,” Lucas-White told us. “She was a very coachable athlete. She work hard everyday and was always willing to give more for her team.”

NIVC

SEMIS SET — On one side of the bracket, UNLV will play a semifinal match at UTEP on Thursday. On the other side, Valparaiso will be at home Friday night against UConn, which defeated North Florida in four on Wednesday.

Click here for the NIVC recaps, bracket, and more.

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