There were just nine matches Friday as the fall NCAA Division I volleyball season comes down the home stretch, but there was also plenty of drama.
— Troy was down 23-19 in the fourth set, facing elimination regardless of the match outcome, before storming back to win 26-24 and clinch a berth in Saturday’s Sun Belt tournament seminfinals;
— Georgia went to Florida and not only beat the Gators for the first time since 2008, came away with a victory filled with storylines;
— And Kansas State gave Baylor all it could handle until the Bears ultimately won in four.
The recaps follow, but first a look at Saturday’s schedule, including the Sun Belt semis in Foley, Alabama, where Coastal Carolina plays Little Rock at 4 p.m. Central and Texas State then plays Troy. Both matches can be seen on ESPN+.
The SEC has more of the same, with Georgia back at Florida and Missouri returning to Ole Miss.
SUN BELT — Troy (11-7), which won 25-18, 25-15, 20-25, 26-24, was all but out of it when Texas-Arlington went ahead 23-19 in the fourth. UTA (11-7) could actually lose the match, but by winning two sets would take the tiebreaker and move into the semis.
But UTA was no match for Cheyenne Hayes, who finished with 23 kills, when it mattered.
Her kill gave Troy a sideout to make it 23-20. Caitlin Cooper got a kill, Alyssa Duran a service ace, and then Hayes had back-to-back kills as Troy took a 24-23 lead.
Brianna Ford kept UTA in it with her 15th, but Troy closed it out on two more kills by Hayes.
Hayes hit .348 and had an assist, an ace, a block, and eight digs. Hiller Halston and Cooper had nine kills each. Halston had three blocks and two digs, while Cooper had five blocks, one solo. Natalie Hummel had four of her team’s seven aces and Amara Anderson had four kills in seven attempts with one error, 53 assists, two aces, three blocks, and nine digs.
“So proud of our team tonight,” Troy coach Josh Lauer said. “They showed tremendous composure when it mattered most.
“Natalie was clutch from the service line all night and Cheyenne showed why she is one of the top players in our conference. I thought our defensive effort tonight was great and Amara did a very good job keeping our offense balanced and in tempo. It was a great team victory.”
Ford’s line for UTA included 10 digs and six blocks, two solo. Briana Brown had 12 kills and hit .579. Michaela Wright had four kills and five blocks, and Payton Simar had four kills and seen blocks, one solo.
Texas State and Troy did not play this fall, but Texas State beat the Trojans in last year’s SBC semifinals.
Texas State (22-2) advanced with a sweep of South Alabama (8-14). Janell Fitzgerald led with 14 kills and hit .591 in the 25-13, 25-20, 25-18 victory. She had one error in 22 attacks and added two blocks and a dig. Five other players had four or more kills. South Alabama hit .099.
Also Friday, Georgia State (9-11) beat Louisiana (17-7) 10-25, 25-19, 17-25, 25-20, 15-10. Erin Wyatt had 19 kills, two assists, eight digs, and three blocks, one solo. Leah Wilcox had 17 kills and Meisheia Griffin 12, four aces, two blocks, and three digs. Jordan Shoemaker had three kills in six errorless attempts, 50 assists, seven digs, and two blocks, one solo.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, playing without two starters and several reserves, got 15 kills from Hali Wisnoskie, who also had an assist, three aces, five blocks, and nine digs. Kelsey Bennett had 13 kills, two assists, two aces, 13 digs, and five blocks, one solo.
SEC — Georgia (4-3) won at Florida (5-2) 25-21, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23 to break a 19-match losing streak to Florida and also win in Gainesville for the first time since 1986.
Georgia, which hit just .184, got 16 kills from Amber Stivrins and 15 from Kacie Evans. Stivrins, who hit .100, had an assist, an ace, a block, and eight digs. Evans hit .324 and added an assist, 14 digs, and two blocks, one solo. Phoebe Awoleye had five kills and seven blocks.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the ladies tonight and how they fought,” Georgia coach Tom Black said.
“Florida has been at the top of the league for decades now and it was awesome to watch the toughness our team showed throughout the match. We’ll enjoy this for a couple hours and get right back to work for another challenge tomorrow.”
Florida, which hadn’t lost a set in its first five matches, was coming off a five-set defeat at South Carolina. Against Georgia, the Gators hit .152. Thayer Hall led with 14 kills but hit .065. She had three assists, an ace, two blocks, and eight digs. T’ara Ceasar, who transferred from Georgia and was playing against her old program for the first time since sitting out last season, had 13 kills, an assist, three blocks, and seven digs. Holly Carlton had nine kills, three assists, two aces, four blocks, and two digs. Nnedi Okammor had five kills and six blocks, one solo, and Lauren Dooley had five kills and eight blocks, one solo.
Missouri (5-2) grinded to a 25-13, 23-25, 25-13, 19-25, 15-4 victory at Ole Miss (0-5). Anna Dixon led Mizzou with 17 kills while hitting .394 and had an assist and two digs. Kylie Deberg had 16 kills, an assist, two aces, two blocks, and eight digs. Dariana Hollingsworth had 13 kills with one error in 22 swings to hit .545 and had two assists, two aces, 11 digs, and four blocks, one solo. Anna Bair led Ole Miss with 13 kills, three assists, an ace, and 12 digs. GG Carvacho had 10 kills and Samantha Schnitta eight.
BIG 12 — Baylor (12-3) wrapped up second place in the league with a 25-15, 24-26, 27-25, 25-19 victory over visiting Kansas State (10-5).
Yossiana Pressley led with 17 kills despite hitting .105. She had two assists, an ace, four blocks, and six digs. Marieke van der Mark had 11 kills and six blocks, and Kara McGhee not only had 12 blocks, one solo, she had 10 kills with one error in 21 attacks to hit .429. McGhee also had three digs.
Texas has already clinched the league title and the automatic bid that goes with it for the spring NCAA Tournament.
Winning for Baylor “is important, because I feel the Big 12 will be guaranteed one at-large bid for the postseason,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said.
“We want to be the highest seed possible and that means finishing strong with a win tomorrow. K-State is more than deserving to be considered in that top-48. We always say the better team always wins on the second night. You want to at least get the split to finish second, but I want to make sure we are the best team on the second day.”
Aliyah Carter had 18 kills and hit .125 for K-State, which hit .124. She also had five blocks and three blocks, one solo. Abigail Archibong had 12 kills and hit .500 to go with an assist and five blocks.
“Offensive kill production is what I think it came down to,” K-State coach Suzie Fritz said. “One of the things Baylor does a really nice job of is serve and pass. I thought they were a little bit better in that area than we were tonight, but mostly, it was kill production.”
Iowa State (4-9) hit .346 as the Cyclones won at TCU (1-8) 25-14, 22-25, 25-15, 25-17. Eleanor Holthaus had 14 kills and hit .444 to go with three assists, two blocks, and 14 digs. Brooke Andersen had 13 kills, hit .324, and had two assists, three aces, two blocks, and 11 digs. Candelaria Herrera had 12 kills, hit .409, and had an ace, eight blocks, and five digs. And Annie Hatch had 11 kills, hit .375, and had three blocks, and a dig. Setter Piper Mauck had five kills, 49 assists, five blocks, and 13 digs, and Izzy Enna had 24 digs. TCU hit .079. Katie Clark led with 10 kills and five blocks.
Visiting West Virginia (8-8) won at Oklahoma (3-9) in the fall season finale for both teams as the Mountaineers won the most Big 12 matches in program history.
Natali Petrova led the Mountaineers in the 25-21, 25-20, 25-27, 25-20 victory with 15 kills, an assist, two aces, and nine digs. Audrey Adams and Emmy Ogogor had 11 kills each and Ogogor had five blocks.
“Tonight’s win was huge,” West Virginia coach Reed Sunahara said. “We finished 8-8, and that is a program best for us. It’s a big step in the right direction. We also played all 16 matches this fall, and I thought that was huge. I’m proud of our players for being able to do that.
“Everyone stepped up their game tonight. They were committed to getting better and making it happen. They met this morning after practice and said ‘Hey, we are going to finish strong. We are going to do this.’ Hats off to them. It was great to see them execute at a high level, and they didn’t let anything stop them.”
Guewe Diouf had another career high as the Oklahoma freshman had 28 kills — an OU four-set record — and hit .339 to go with an assist, an ace, a block, and 12 digs. Sanaá Dotson added 14 kills and Sarah Maras had 10.
And Kansas (5-9) defeated visiting Texas Tech (5-11) as they also ended their fall seasons. Jenny Mosser led Kansas with 17 kills in the 25-17, 27-29, 25-17, 25-20 win. Mosser had an assist, two aces, 11 digs, and four blocks, one solo. Caroline Crawford had 12 kills and hit .391 to go with an ace, two digs, and five blocks, one solo. Anezka Szabo had 10 kills and two blocks. Elise McGhie had five kills in 15 errorless tries, 44 assists, and six digs. Kennedy Farris had 31 digs to go with five assists.
Caitlin Dugan had 12 kills and three blocks, one solo, for Texas Tech. Samantha Sanders had 11 kills and 11 digs, and Reagan Cooper had 10 kills and two blocks.