NCAA volleyball: Upsets by Syracuse, Kansas, big numbers, COVID postponements

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NCAA volleyball 9/27/2020-Shelby Martin-K-State volleyball
K-State's Shelby Martin competes against Iowa State/Scott D. Weaver, K-State Athletics

The NCAA Division I women’s volleyball schedule might be light, but it hasn’t been boring.

There have been upsets, strong individual performances, COVID cancelations, and, well, pretty much what we might have expected from this season.

To wit:

Pittsburgh, which went 18-0 in the ACC last season, is 0-2 after being knocked off twice by Syracuse. 

Kansas stunned Baylor in their Big 12 opener, but the Bears came back with a vengeance the next night.

Texas is Texas after winning twice at Oklahoma.

Notre Dame swept Louisville but then their Saturday match was canceled.

Louisiana is 9-0.

And Miami’s Elizaveta Lukianova had 51 kills in her first two matches. 

The recaps from Friday and Saturday follow with an eye on the next round of matches, which is Thursday, when the calendar flips to October and Texas plays host to Kansas, Kansas State goes to West Virginia, and Clemson plays at Florida State — oops, not so fast. That match was postponed. No makeup dates have been decided.

Per the Clemson release: “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution after a small number of individuals within the program tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks. All Clemson fall sports are presently being tested three times per week for COVID-19, per ACC protocol.”

That makes Clemson oh-fer this season, since the Tigers were supposed to play Wake Forest on Saturday and Sunday as well. Same line: “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution after a small number of individuals within the program tested positive for COVID-19 last week.” Those matches have been rescheduled for October 29-30. 

Louisville and Notre Dame abruptly postponed their Saturday match. Friday night, Notre Dame tweeted that “A total of 85 COVID-19 tests were administered to members of the Notre Dame volleyball program in the past week and yielded zero positive results. This includes results from testing as recently as Thursday, Sept. 24.”

There was no mention of the postponement on either the Louisville website or the program’s Twitter.

Also, UT-Arlington had to cancel its home matches against Arkansas State because of positive tests within the Mavericks’ program. 

Matches involving the Sun Belt’s South Alabama and Coastal Carolina have also been canceled this season.

Big 12 — Let’s start with Kansas (which went 9-17 last season, 5-11 in the conference) and visiting Baylor (which went 29-2 last season, 15-1 in the Big 12 and lost in the national semifinals).

On Friday, Kansas stunned the Bears 19-25, 25-13, 25-22, 19-25, 15-9 as the Jayhawks hit .365 and had four players with 10 or more kills.

But on Saturday, Baylor was having none of it, bouncing back with a 25-14, 25-19, 25-15 victory as the Bears hit .400 and left KU wanting after hitting .112.

Said Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre, “Very pleased with our response in a lot of areas. We did a great job managing our swings and cutting way down on errors.”

In the Kansas victory, UCLA grad-transfer Jenny Mosser had 14 kills as the outside hit .379 and had an assist, four of her team’s five service aces, and seven digs. Egyptian freshman outside Ayah Elnady led with 16 kills, hit .343, and added an assist and five digs. Caroline Crawford and Anezka Szabo had 10 kills each. Crawford didn’t make an error in 15 attacks and Szabo had four blocks, one solo. Setter Sara Nielsen had two kills, 44 assists, an ace, three digs and two blocks. 

Baylor, which hit .278, got 15 kills from Lauren Harrison, who hit .323 and had four digs and a block, and 14 kills form Marieke van der Mark, who hit .320 and had four digs and a block. Kara McGhee had 12 kills and hit .550 to go with two blocks, one solo. Andressa Parise had six blocks, three solo, to go with four kills in as many swings. Setter Callie Williams, filling for injured Hannah Sedwick, had four kills in six attacks, 47 assists, and three digs. Worth noting is that star senior outside Yossiana Pressley had nine kills but hit minus .061. She had two aces, a block, and nine digs.

Things were different Saturday, most on the KU side.

Harrison had 14 more kills and hit .500 to go with a dig and three blocks, one solo. McGhee had 11 kills with one error in 20 swings to hit .500 (giving her 23 kills for the two matches with a .535 hitting percentage) and two assists, four digs and a block. Pressley had 10 kills, an ace, five digs and four blocks, three solo. Williams had three kills in seven errorless attempts and had four aces and seven digs.

Kansas got 11 kills from Mosser, who had just one error in 25 attacks to hit .400. She had an ace, five digs, and a block. Her teammates combined to have 14 kills in 55 attacks.

On Thursday in the Big 12, Texas swept Oklahoma (read our account here) and Texas Tech did the same to West Virginia (read the Friday recaps here). 

On Friday, Texas grinded out a 25-14, 25-20, 27-29, 25-13 as Logan Eggleston, who had 17 kills in the opener, followed up with 18 more to go with two digs and a block. Skylar Fields had 16 kills, hit .342 as she had two blocks and three digs, and Brionne Butler and Molly Phillips had 12 kills each. Butler had no errors in 16 attacks to go with five blocks, and Phillips hit .429 and had three blocks. Asjia O’Neal added 11 kills with one error in 14 swings, and had an assist, and five blocks, one solo. Jhenna Gabriel had 58 assists, an ace, three blocks and nine digs. Texas hit .390.

After two matches, Phillips has 25 kills and is hitting .515 and Butler has 21 kills and is hitting .600.

Undersized OU got 18 kills from Guewe Diouf, who had an assist, an ace, five digs, and a block. Sarah Sanders had 11 kills and hit .320 to go with six blocks, one solo. Transfer setter Grace Talpash had a much strong second match for the Sooners with five kills in as many tries, 34 assists, a block and seven digs.

West Virginia came back to even things up at Texas Tech with a 19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 27-25 victory in which Brianna Lunch had 15 kills and hit .462 to go with a dig and five blocks, one solo. Emmy Ogogor had 14 kills and also hit .462 and had a block and a dig, Kristin Lux had 12 kills and three blocks, and Natali Petrova and Audrey Adams had 10 kills each. 

Allison Bloss had 12 kills and hit .611 for Texas Tech to go with an assist, a dig, and six blocks, one solo. Setter Alex Kirby not only had 11 kills in 18 errorless attacks, but 48 assists and four digs. Reagan Cooper had 10 kills and three blocks, and Brooke Kanas had nine kills, hitting .417.

Iowa State won in five at Kansas State on Friday, but then K-State came back to win in four on Saturday.

In Iowa State’s 25-22, 25-20, 19-25, 15-25, 16-14 victory, Eleanor Holthaus led with 17 kills and hit .316 to go with a block and 15 digs. Brooke Anderson had 13 kills, three aces, 14 digs and two blocks, one solo, and Candelaria Herrera had 10 kills and four blocks, one solo. Jenna Brandt had two kills in eight errorless attempts, 47 assists, three blocks and nine digs. 

Brynn Carlson led K-State with 19 kills as she hit .300 and had two blocks and three digs. Aliyah Carter had 14 kills, Holly Bonde 13, and Abigail Archibong 11 as she hit .563 and had five blocks and two digs. Shelby Martin had three kills, 60 assists, and 12 digs.

Saturday, Kansas State came away with a 25-16, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23 victory as Carlson and Carter had 15 kills each. Bonde had nine kills and Martin five, 41 assists, an ace, a block and seven digs. 

Anderson and Annie Hatch had 12 kills each to lead ISU, Holthaus had 10 and Avery Rhodes nine. Anderson had an ace and three blocks, one solo, and Holthaus had three assists, seven digs and four blocks, one solo.

“The discussion after the match was that a small adjustment in a few different areas would be a very big deal,” K-State coach Susie Fritz said. “That was essentially the message last night. I thought our serving was significantly better [tonight]. I thought we were pretty conservative last night; therefore, we’re defending in-system offense a lot more. Tonight, I think our serving was far more effective and, frankly, in more often.

“I think it was the cumulative effect of a lot of small details.”

NCAA volleyball 9/27/2020-Marina Markova-Syracuse volleyball
Marina Markova of Syracuse gets in a tough position against Pittsburgh Saturday/Michael J. Okoniewski, Syracuse athletics

ACC — Pittsburgh won its last six league matches in 2018 and then all 18 last season before falling at Syracuse 25-21, 17-25, 26-24, 25-27, 15-9.

Polina Shemanova led the Orange with 20 kills, an ace, 18 digs, and five blocks, three solo. Ella Saada had 13 kills, an ace, a block, eight digs, and Abby Casiano had 12 kills and hit .550 to go with six blocks, two solo. Marina Markova had 11 kills and four blocks, and Elena Karakasi had three kills, 51 assists, two blocks and nine digs.

It was Syracuse’s first win against the Panthers since Nov. 22, 2015, at Fitzgerald Field House in Pittsburgh.

Pitt’s Chinaza Ndee (featured here last week) led the Panthers with 21 kills and hit .392 to go with four assists, three blocks, and three digs. Kayla Lund added 16 kills, four assists, an ace, two blocks, and 16 digs. Zoi Faki had 10 kills, two assists, an ace, a block, and 13 digs, and Sabrina Starks had 10 kills, hit .348, and had three assists, two digs, and two blocks, one solo. 

“Tonight’s win was a team effort. I am tired, but extremely happy,” Syracuse coach Leonid Yelin said.

“We are going to enjoy this win for a couple of hours and then get some sleep, hopefully good sleep, and come back tomorrow. Pittsburgh will not give up. We have to come tomorrow ready to play.”

And he was right.

On Saturday, Syracuse won again, this time sweeping 25-21, 27-25, 25-19. The Orange his .311, buoyed by a balanced attack that saw Saada, Shemonova, and Markova have eight kills each, and Yulia Yastrub and Casiano get six apiece. Shemonova had three blocks and 10 digs, and Markova had four blocks, one solo, to go with an assist and two aces.

“What a great team win,” Yelin said “We had great contributions from everyone who played, especially the new players.”

Lund led Pittsburgh with 19 kills and hit .563 after having one error in 32 attacks. She had an ace and nine digs. Chiamaka Nwokolo had nine kills, hit .444, and had a block and two digs.

Notre Dame won 27-25, 25-22, 26-24 at Louisville despite hitting .205. Charley Niego led with 11 kills, an assist, two aces, a block, and seven digs. Caroline Meuth had 10 kills, two aces, three blocks and four digs. Louisville, which hit .190, got 13 kills from Aiko Jones, who had four blocks, and 12 from Anna Stevenson, who had an assist, an ace, a dig, and a solo blocks. 

There were two other matches Friday as Virginia Tech came back to even the score with North Carolina in a five-set win, and Georgia Tech did the same to Miami.

Virginia Tech, which lost to UNC in four on Friday, came back with a 25-18, 27-25, 21-25, 22-25, 15-10 victory as Kaity Smith had 21 kills and hit .429. She had a block and 14 digs. Marisa Cerchio had 15 kills and hit .433 go to with six blocks, one solo, and a dig. Angel Robinson had 11 kills and five blocks, and Ashley Homan had 10 kills, two blocks, and 17 digs.

Parker Austin had 17 kills for North Carolina to go with two assists, two aces, and 12 digs. Aziah Buckner had 15 kills and Amanda Phegley 11. She hit .350 and had three blocks.

Georgia Tech came away with a 20-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-23, 15-11 victory at Miami as Julia Bergmann had 20 kills, an assist, an ace, 18 digs, and three solo blocks. Marianna Brambilla had 18 kills, hit .400, and had an assist, an ace, 12 digs, and three blocks. Mikaila Dowd added 11 kills and three blocks, one solo, and Erin Moss hit .467 with nine kills and three blocks, one solo.

Miami’s Lukianova followed up her 23-kill performance in the opener with 28, hitting .350, to go with an ace, eight digs and six blocks, three solo. Angela Grieve had 15 kills, eight digs, and a solo block, and Janie Leao had 12 kills and four blocks, one solo. Savannah Vach had 59 assists, 10 digs and two block, one solo.

Also Saturday, Duke beat NC State for the second time last week, this one in four as Payton Schwantz had 14 kills in the 25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21 victory. Schwantz had three blocks and eight digs. Ade Owokoniran had 10 kills and two aces to go with 13 digs and a block, and Gracie Johnson had nine kills, two aces, five block, and 11 digs. Duke hit .178. Melissa Evans had 19 kills for NC State, which hit .099. Evans had an assist, two aces, three blocks and four digs. Jade Parchment had 13 kills and 12 digs.

Sun Belt — Louisiana improved to 9-0 as the Ragin’ Cajuns swept Little Rock on both Friday and Saturday nights. They’ve only lost three sets this season. Kelsey Bennett led with 15 kills on Friday and Hali Wisnoskie had 12. Both had 11 digs. On Saturday, Wisnoskie led with 18 kills and hit .395, while Bennett had 15 kills and 15 digs. Little Rock, which is 0-4, got 14 kills from Laura Jansen on Friday and 16 more from her on Saturday.

Stephen F. Austin of the Southland Conference won its two matches, both times in four, at the Sun Belt’s South Alabama on Saturday. SFA is 6-2 after getting 17 kills from Hannah Maddux in the opener and 13 from Payton Cerny in the second match.

Texas State is 8-1 after sweeping Louisiana-Monroe on Friday and Saturday. Caitlin Buettner and Janell Fitzgerald had 12 kills apiece for the Bobcats on Friday. Fitzgerald led with eight on Saturday as nine Texas State players had kills, including seven each by Tyeranee Scott, Kenedi Rutherford, and Tessa Michell. ULM is 1-5.

And Troy and Cheyenne Hayes improved to 4-0 with three wins over Georgia State. On Friday, Troy swept in the morning as Hayes had 15 kills. Troy won again that day in four as Hayes got 23 more kills. And then on Saturday, Troy swept and Hayes had 18 more kills. Georgia State is 1-5.

Louisville’s Claire Chauseee hits against the Notre Dame block of Hannah Thompson, left, and Zoe Nunez/Louisville photo

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