NCAA volleyball: As No. 2 Stanford beats No. 1 Nebraska, Rice knocks off No. 3 Texas

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NCAA volleyball 9/19/2019-Jazz Sweet-Callie Schwarzenbach-Nebraska volleyball
Jazz Sweet, left, and Callie Schwarzenbach put up the block on Stanford's Kathryn Plummer/Nebraska Athletic Communications photo

While the focus of the NCAA Division I volleyball world was understandably on No. 2 Stanford at No. 1 Nebraska, as the Cardinal made claim to its position as the best team in the country, Rice — yes, Rice! — was upsetting No. 3 Texas.

Defending national-champion Stanford, coming off its first loss in more than a year, bounced back with a 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-16 victory that ensured that previously unbeaten Nebraska’s time at the top of the AVCA Poll will only last this week.

But Rice, a member of Conference USA, not only is off to a 10-1 start, the Houston school beat its in-state opponent for the first time in 37 tries in a series that began in 1982. What’s more, the 25-22, 25-18, 13-25, 14-25, 15-13 victory came in front of a record home crowd of 3,012 as the Owls beat a top-10 team for the first time.

And there was another upset, as well, as No. 21 Purdue knocked off visiting No 16 Kentucky in five.

Wednesday’s recaps follow, but first a look at Thursday’s schedule. Click here for Wednesday’s results and the Thursday schedule at NCAA.com. And to watch any NCAA match that is being broadcast or streamed, go to the daily VolleyballMag.com TV listings.

Thursday’s slate: In the Big Ten, No. 7 Minnesota, coming off its upset of Stanford, plays host to Clemson of the ACC. There’s a big one at Wisconsin, where the No. 9 Badgers are home for No. 10 Washington of the Pac-12. And Ohio State is home for Miami, Ohio.

The Beehive State (that’s the state of Utah’s nickname) is where No. 18 Utah of the Pac-12 is home for No. 12 BYU of the West Coast Conference. Also in the Pac-12, No. 14 Oregon continues its East Coast trip at the Big East’s St. John’s, No. 20 USC is at San Diego, unbeaten No. 24 Cal is home for Saint Mary’s, Arizona State is at UNLV, and Oregon State goes to Northern Colorado of the Big Sky. 

There are two ACC-SEC matches as Georgia Tech goes to Arkansas and NC State is at Georgia.

Two Big 12 teams are in action as Iowa State plays host to Lipscomb and Kansas State goes to North Texas. 

The SEC’s Mississippi State is home for two matches, against Jackson State and North Florida. 

No. 22 Colorado State of the Mountain West is home against the Big West’s Cal Poly, and No.15 Creighton of the Big East is home for Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference.

Stanford wins at Nebraska: Stanford (6-1) heads back to Palo Alto to finally start school. While most of the other teams in the nation have been studying and playing volleyball, the Cardinal has primarily been on the road. There was a trip to Charleston, S.C., with victories over Charleston and Duke, a win at Florida, back home to beat Texas, and this trip, that included a win at Penn State and the loss to Minnesota, that broke a 37-match winning streak.

The last leg of the trip pitted the two teams that played for the 2018 NCAA title, a five-set epic.

Not surprisingly, the go-to player Wednesday before 8,632 in the Devaney Center was the reigning national player of the year, Kathryn Plummer, who rocked Nebraska time after time, finishing with a match-high 19 kills. 

She added four of Stanford’s seven aces, four blocks and three digs. Freshman Kendall Kipp continued to serve notice that she’s a force as she added 11 kills while hitting .310 and had three blocks and a dig. Madeleine Gates had 10 kills, hit .346, and had seven blocks, one solo. Audriana Fitzmorris had eight kills and two blocks and Holly Campbell had six kills and five blocks as Stanford out-blocked Nebraska 12-7. And Jenna Gray had four kills in eight errorless attempts as her setter dump was lethal and also had 50 assists, two blocks and 11 digs. Libero Morgan Hentz had 22 digs, four assists and an ace.

The Cardinal hit .294, but Nebraska (7-1) finished at .150. Freshman Madi Kubik led with 14 kills but hit .087. Lexi Sun, Jazz Sweet and Lauren Stivrins had nine kills each but none hit better than .200. Sun had three blocks, one solo, and 14 digs, and Stivrins had three blocks and two digs. Setter Nicklin Hames had three kills in 10 errorless attempts, 40 assists and 16 digs. Libero Kenzie Knuckles had 15 digs and three assists. Megan Miller had Nebraska’s only two aces and 13 digs.

Also, thanks to a story in the Lincoln Journal Star by Brent Wagner, Stanford did a community service activity at Hartley Elementary School in central Lincoln on Tuesday. You may recall that  Stanford was criticized after the NCAA title match last season after a photo of an insensitive drawing that was in the Stanford locker room made its rounds on social media. Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said that his team’s mea culpa would include community service when it visited Nebraska.

Lindsey Ruddins reaches high for UCSB as she attacks against UCLA/UCSB photo

Rice knocks off Texas: The Owls news release claimed it was a “program-defining win.” That remains to be seen — especially since Rice was coming off a five-set loss Saturday to the Southland Conference’s Stephen F. Austin — but for now, Rice is riding high, winning despite hitting .174.

Nicole Lennon led with 23 kills and had 13 digs and three blocks, one solo. Lennon, who had the match-winning kill, is now averaging 5.03 kills/set this season.

Grace Morgan had nine kills and five blocks, one solo, and Ellie Bichelmeyer had eight kills, two digs and two blocks. Tabitha Brown had 28 digs and three blocks. 

“We tried to approach this match like we do many others, just focus on the process and doing our jobs and trusting that we have the talent and experience to go toe-to-toe with Texas,” veteran Rice coach Genny Volpe said. “We believe we can compete at the highest level. Sometimes we forget that. 

“We lost a match over the weekend that hurt our confidence a little bit. But we came out today and remembered who we are and the work we’ve put in. To me it was a quality win against a quality team and it means that we’re taking steps forward as a program.”

Texas, which hit .248 and led 11-9 in the fifth, got 16 kills apiece from Micaya White and Logan Eggleston. White had an assist, an ace, and 14 digs, and Eggleston had five digs and three blocks. Skylar Fields had 12 kills and four blocks and Asjia O’Neal had nine kills, hit .500, and had an ace and four blocks, one solo.

Rice out-blocked Texas 9-8.

Around the nation: Purdue (6-4) came out of Lexington with a 25-21, 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-8 win over Kentucky (6-4) as Caitlyn Newton led with 24 kills, nine digs, an assist and three blocks, one solo. Grace Cleveland had 15 kills, six digs, an assist, and seven blocks. Shavona Cuttino had eight blocks, one solo, and Blake Mohler had six, one solo, as Purdue out-blocked the Wildcats 17-10.

Leah Edmond had a career-high 27 kills for Kentucky and added an ace, four blocks and 12 digs. Caitlyn Cooper had 11 kills, an assist, four digs and two blocks, one solo. UK hit .180 …

No. 22 Colorado State (8-1) of the Mountain West beat neighboring Northern Colorado of the Big Sky (5-5) 25-20, 25-14, 25-15. Breana Runnels led with 10 kills, eight digs and four blocks … 

Lindsey Ruddins had 17 kills, hit .333, and had an assist, seven digs and four blocks as UC Santa Barbara of the Big West (9-1) thumped visiting UCLA of the Pac-12 (5-4) 25-16, 25-16, 28-26. UCSB, which hit .394, got 15 kills from Tallulah Froley, who had one error in 21 swings and hit .667. Denis Wilson added nine kills, hitting .571, to go with four blocks.

UCLA’s Savvy Simo had 13 kills and hit .387 to go with five digs and two blocks, one solo. 

Boston College of the ACC (7-3) had to go a tough five — 15-25, 25-12, 25-17, 23-25, 20-18 — to win at the Ivy League’s Harvard (2-5). Jewel Strawberry led BC with 16 kills, two assists, three blocks, an ace and 16 digs, and Clare Naughton had 14 kills, four digs and three blocks, one solo. Mindie Mabry led Harvard with 15 kills, an ace, 12 digs and a block, and Grace Roberts Burbank had 14 kills, eight digs, a block and an ace … 

The ACC’s Notre Dame (7-2) knocked off visiting Michigan of the Big Ten (6-3) 25-23, 27-29, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13. Charley Niegro led with 19 kills, 12 digs, and four aces and Sydney Bent had 17 kills, seven digs and four blocks. Paige Jones had 21 kills for Michigan to go with 14 digs and an ace …

SMU of the American Athletic Conference (7-2) swept Dallas Metroplex neighbor TCU of the Big 12 (5-4). Rachel Woulfe led the Mustangs with 14 kills, hit .345, and had three blocks … Also in the AAC, Tulane improved to 9-3 with a four-set win over visiting Southern Miss of Conference USA (0-11) as Kayla Dinkins had 10 blocks to go with 12 kills and two digs … 

Pepperdine of the WCC (4-6) swept UC Irvine of the Big West (2-8) behind 14 kills from Shannon Scully, who had two aces, 17 digs and three blocks … Fordham of the Atlantic 10 is 7-3 after beating Manhattan of the Metro Atlantic (2-8) in five. Olivia Fairchild led a balanced attack with 15 kills, hitting .414, to go with an assist, an ace and 11 digs. 

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