For the second time in six days No. 5 Wisconsin has a Big Ten match with seemingly everything riding on the outcome.
This time the first-place Badgers play at second-place and No. 7 Penn State, which is a game off the lead. Wisconsin (21-5, 17-1), ranked No. 2 in the NCAA RPI) wants to secure one of the highly sought-after top-four NCAA Tournament seeds. Penn State (23-4, 16-2, 18 RPI), rather, likely needs to win to ensure it’s one of the top 16 teams and gets to be a first- and second-round NCAA host. In their previous meeting, October 2 in Madison, Wisconsin came away with a 23-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-13 victory.
Sixth-ranked Nebraska is home for Maryland, No. 8 Minnesota is at Rutgers, No. 16 Purdue is at Michigan State, No. 22 Michigan is home for Indiana, and Ohio State is at Iowa. There are four more B1G matches Saturday, including Minnesota at Penn State.
There are four ACC matches, including Notre Dame playing host to Duke. Notre Dame is No. 34 in the NCAA RPI, so the Fighting Irish are playing for NCAA Tournament seeding.
Georgia Tech, which has a very remote chance of getting a bid, is at Miami. Clemson goes to Syracuse and North Carolina is at Virginia Tech. The ACC has one game Saturday when NC State plays at Boston College.
The Big 12 wraps up its season with four matches Saturday, including No. 1 Baylor home for TCU and No. 4 Texas at Iowa State.
The only SEC match Friday has Arkansas at South Carolina, which has an RPI of 41 but is coming off a loss to Texas A&M.
The Big East semifinals get under way with third-seeded Villanova (22-8, 13-5) playing No. 2 Marquette (26-4, 16-2) and No. 1 Creighton (24-4, 17-1) facing St. John’s (20-11, 12-6). Creighton and Marquette are in regardless. During the regular season, Marquette beat Villanova twice and Creighton swept St. John’s twice.
The Big Sky and Missouri Valley tournaments continue Friday with semifinals.
In the Valley, top-seeded Northern Iowa plays Valparaiso and second-seeded Loyola gets Illinois State.
And in the Big Sky, top-seeded Northern Colorado faces Montana State, while second-seeded Northern Arizona plays Weber State.
There’s a non-conference match when North Texas of Conference USA goes to SMU of the American Athletic Conference.
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Missouri Valley: Fifth-seeded Valparaiso (14-19) opened play with a five-set win over fourth-seeded Bradley (15-15). Valpo had four players with 11 kills or more but hit .149 in the 25-15, 23-25, 25-21, 15-25, 15-11 victory.
Jaclyn Bulmahn led with 14 kills and had four blocks and three digs. Jillie Grant had 13 kills, an assist and 18 digs. Maddy Boyer had 12 kills, hit .357, and had a block and a dig. Peyton McCarthy had 11 kills, four block and five digs.
Hannah Thompson and Sara Maddox had 18 kills each for Bradley, which hit .133. Thompson had 28 digs and four blocks, one solo, and Maddox hit .395, had a dig and three blocks, one solo. Bradley had two aces and 10 service errors, and ended the first and third sets on service errors.
Valpo was swept twice this season by UNI.
Third-seeded Illinois State (18-11) swept sixth-seeded Evansville (16-12) 25-15, 25-22, 25-20. Illinois State, which lost in four twice to Loyola this season, got 14 kills from Kaylee Martin. She had two assists, five digs and three blocks, one solo. Monica Hiller had nine kills, hit .333 and had three blocks and three digs. Setter Steff Jakiewicz had four kills in nine attempts and hit .333, had four assists, two aces and three digs.
Rachel Tam and Alondra Vazquez had 12 kills apiece for Evansville, which hit .089.
Big Sky: The tournament opened with four quarterfinal matches.
Weber State (23-7) swept seventh-seeded Southern Utah (15-16) 25-13, 25-18, 25-21 as it pursues its first tournament title since 2008. Megan Gneiting led with 13 kills, hit .370, and had six of her team’s seven aces, six blocks and 11 digs. Rylin Roberts had 12 kills, an assist, three blocks and 11 digs. Dani Nay had 10 kills and three digs, and Aubrey Adams had nine kills, hit .412, and had four digs and five blocks, one solo. Shannon Webb led Southern Utah with seven kills and 10 digs …
Northern Arizona (21-10), which split with Weber State this season, advanced to the semifinals the hard way in beating Idaho 19-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-20, 15-8.
NAU, which hit .353, was led by Heaven Harris, who had 21 kills, hit .375, and had a block and four digs. Taylor Jacobsen had 19 kills, hit .415, and had two assists, a block and 11 digs. Abby Akin had 14 kills with no errors in 21 swings and hit .667. She had three aces, five blocks and eight digs. Ryann Davis had 10 kills, two digs and five blocks, one solo. Sydney Lema had eight kills, three assists, four aces, 11 digs and two blocks, one solo.
Idaho, which ended its season 13-18, got 18 kills from Nicole Ball, who hit .455 and had two blocks. Kyra Palmbush had 12 kills with no errors in 20 attacks and hit .600 and had six blocks and a digs. Paige Rupiper had 11 kills, an ace, a block and 11 digs. Setter Donée Janzen had two kills, 54 assists, an ace, a block and eight digs …
Northern (24-7) Colorado beat Montana (7-23) in four, hitting .403 in the 25-16, 22-25, 25-16, 25-10 victory. Kailey Jo Ince led with 18 kills, hit .441, and had a block and four digs. Taylor Muff had 14 kills, hit .429, and had two assists, four aces, a block and six digs. Lauren Hinrichs had eight kills, hit .316, and had two blocks and two digs.
Amethyst Harper led Montana with 13 kills and hit .478 to go with an assist, a block and eight digs. Missy Huddleston had 12 kills, three blocks and 11 digs …
Fourth-seeded Montana State (15-13), which was swept by UNC in their first meeting but battled to a five-set loss in their second, advanced with a 25-20, 24-26, 25-19, 25-8 win over fifth-seeded Sacramento State (14-18), the host team.
Kira Thomsen led Montana State with 12 kills, two assists, six aces — her team had 15 — a block and seven digs. Evi Wilson had 11 kills, hit .370, and had an assist and 12 digs. Hannah Scott had 10 kills, an ace, five dlobkd and four digs. Emma Pence had nine blocks, one solo, and Alyssa Rizzo had four aces to go with four aces and 20 digs.
Sarah Davis led Sacramento State with 16 kills, four blocks and 17 digs.