NCAA volleyball round of 16 set as Stanford survives, seven others also advance
December 3, 2023
December 7, 2022
The NCAA Tournament round of 16 is Thursday. Here’s a look at the eight matches with a little something on each team, plus some other NCAA news, notes and nuggets.
Nebraska is hitting .246, while opponents are hitting a nation-low .123. The Huskers rank sixth nationally at 2.76 blocks per set.Â Yin-yang? Oregon ranks fourth nationally in team hitting percentage (.298). But opponents are hitting .202, which is No. 149. Nebraska had lost three of five to end the Bi g Ten season but swept Delaware State and beat Kansas in four to open the tournament. Nebraska took a big hit when it lost veteran DS Kenzie Knuckles. Oregon might have the best outside hitter combination in the country in veteran Brooke Nuneviller, who does it all, and freshman sensation Mimi Colyer. If you haven’t seen the Ducks because they play on the West Coast, you’re in for a treat … Louisville led the ACC in hitting percentage (.293) and opponent hitting percentage (.145) and was first in blocks 3.01/set). The Cardinals played in last year’s national semifinals and are every bit as tough, talented and ready to go. Louisville does everything well at every position. Baylor is remarkable because coach Ryan McGuyre rebuilt his coaching staff and most of the roster. The Bears will have to play their best match to win.
Ohio State swept at Minnesota on October 12 in a match when the Buckeyes won with only 43 kills, both teams had 10 blocks, and Minnesota hit .097. Then Minnesota won in four at Ohio State on November 25 behind 25 kills from Taylor Landfair, who had nine digs and four blocks. Ohio State had four players with 13 or more kills … Texas has been the frontrunner all season and is making its 17th round-of-16 appearance in a row, the longest streak in the field. You want hitting percentages? Texas leads the nation at .343 and Asjia O’Neal leads all individuals at .467. She had 167 with only 22 errros in 334 attacks. Logan Eggleston has been the frontrunner all season to be national player of the year. Unless you had subscription-based FloSports you might not have seen Marquette much this season. The Golden Eagles beat Kentucky in five and lost to Wisconsin in four in the pre-conference, and their other two losses were in the Big East to Creighton. They swept Ball State and Georgia Tech in the first two rounds. Do not be surprised to see Marquette give Texas all it can handle.
Florida took two of its losses early, back to back to Stanford and Minnesota. The Gators lost three times in the SEC, in five to South Carolina, and then they were swept by Georgia and Kentucky. Florida serves tough is strong on the pins and got a big lift this season from freshman setter Alexis Stucky. Pitt went to the national semifinals a year ago and re-tooled for another run, buoyed by Iowa transfer Courtney Buzzerio. The 6-5 outside has lit it up foor the Panthers with 411 kills, 80 more than her closest teammate. She also is second in aces. Pitt’s Dan Fisher coached the USA Volleyball U21 team this past summer and it included Florida’s Stucky, Bre Kelley and Merritt Beason …
No team is hotter or playing better than Wisconsin. The Big Ten champions have won 20 in a row and come at you in waves of tall, athletic players. Wisconsin swept Penn State in Madison on September 30 as the Nittany Lions hit .136. But in State College on November 19, Wisconsin escaped with a five-set win in which five Penn State players had 10 or more kills. Wisconsin held a 15-6 blocks advantage.
After all the debate about whether or not San Diego should have been a top-four seed, the answer should come against Kentucky. San Diego, the WCC champion, has won 26 in a row and its only loss came to Louisville. SEC co-champion Kentucky also lost to Louisville 12 days later. Yeah, we want you to read the story, but we profiled San Diego just before the tournament … Houston is lowest RPI team left in the tournament. All of the top 14 are in and No. 15 Creighton and No. 17 Rice were knocked out. The Cougars got more publicity that anyone in volleyball last week when libero Kate Georgiades made a diving save and went over a table while doing it, but the Cougars are the real, balanced deal. They only lost to Rice to open the season and then to Texas and lost to UCF in the American Athletic Conference but had to go five both times to beat South Dakota and Auburn. Stanford, the Pac-12 champ will have its hands full, but the Cardinal, when hitting on all cylinders, have to be considered in the same breath as Texas and Wisconsin. Stanford has won 20 in a row and is going for its 10th national title. Stanford has the best right side (Kendall Kipp), maybe the best setter (Kami Miner), and when playing her best, the best outside (Caitie Baird) and libero Elena Oglivie is among the most underrated players in the nation.
— Houston Volleyball (@UHCougarVB) December 5, 2022
NCAA STATS LEADERS: Players in the round of 16 are leading some of the NCAA statistical categories, while some are decided regardless.
For example, the top five for kills per set are already done for the season, UCF’s McKenna Melville (5.51), South Dakota’s Elizabeth Juhnke (5.33), Youngstown State’s Paula Gursching (5.24), Georgia Tech’s Julia Bergmann (5.22) and USC’s Skylar Fields (5.11). Hope Matschner of Iona is the runaway digs per set (7.16) leader.Â
But Asjia O’Neal of Texas has a chance to pad her lead in overall hitting percentage (.467). She’s comfortably ahead of UCF’s Claudia Dillon (.447). Nebraska’s Kaitlyn Hord holds the slimmest of margins in blocks per set (1.60) over Maryland’s Rainelle Jones (1.59). And Kentucky’s Emma Grome leads in assists per set (12.15) over Princeton’s Lindsey Kelly (12.10).
Georgia’s Sophie Fisher finished with 183 blocks. Baylor’s Kara McGhee the closest one left with 172.
Andrea Tsvetanova of Coppin State had 114 aces. The next closest was Alabama’s Abby Marjema and Mia Wesley of Southern Miss, who barely had half that many with 65.
The player in the tournament with the most aces is Houston’s Abbie Jackson with 56.
WAVERLY, NEBRASKA: Our friend Brent Wagner had a really nice story in the Lincoln Journal-Star about the three Huskers from the same high school team. Read about Anni Evans, Whitney Lauenstein and Bekka Allick here of Waverly High School here.
EGGLESTON FEATURE: Sadly, ESPN does no extra coverage of volleyball except for showing matches. Finally it has a story and this one on Logan Eggleston of Texas is outstanding.
NIVC: The National Invitational Volleyball Championship is down to the quarterfinals.Â
Wednesday, Southern Miss (20-11) is at Western Carolina (20-12) and Xavier (21-11) is at Boston College (21-13).
Thursday, Pacific (18-13) plays at Drake (28-7) and UTRGV (27-6) goes to Davidson (22-10).
Southern Miss advanced with wins over Alabama State and UT Martin. WCU beat Liberty and Toledo. Xavier ousted Central Michigan and Ohio, and BC swept Buffalo and St. John’s.
Pacific defeated Omaha and Santa Clara, Drake beat Weber State and Grand Canyon, UTRGV beat Houston Christian and South Dakota State, and Davidson beat North Dakota State and Wake Forest, 17-15 in the fifth.
Get all the NIVC info here.
BIG TEN BREAKDOWN: There are five Big Ten teams remaining. Our colleague Emily Ehman offered this on the Big Ten Network on Wednesday. Her segment starts at 21:45: