NCAA intrigue begins as the definites and wannabes await the tournament selection show

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NCAA volleyball 12/1/2019-Northern Colorado volleyball-Kailey Jo Ince
Kailey Jo Ince of Northern Colorado hits against the Weber State block of Ashlyn Power, left, and Hannah DeYoung/Bob Solorio photo

Now we wait.

The NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament bracket will be announced at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU and the selection committee was given plenty more to ponder on Saturday.

Did Washington State’s upset of No. 9 Washington put the No. 25 Cougars into the field? Or will they be left wanting?

Speaking of being on the outside looking in, No. 24 Illinois was upset by Northwestern and that Big Ten loss might have knocked the Illini out.

St. John’s, which had no chance of getting in otherwise, upset No. 12 Marquette in the Big East Championship, which means that conference will get three teams in after the Red Storm also knocked off No. 9 Creighton in the semis.

There was an upset, too, in the Missouri Valley Conference, when Illinois State beat Northern Iowa. More than likely that league will get an extra team, since Illinois State had no chance without winning the MVC’s automatic bid, while UNI is likely going to get an at-large.

Eighth-ranked Minnesota went to Penn State and beat the No. 7 Nittany Lions, who were coming off that big victory the night before over No. 5 Wisconsin. Wisconsin won at Rutgers and in turn won the Big Ten title outright. Which produces two questions: Can the tournament not have the Big Ten champion as one of the top four seeds? And will Penn State move into the top 16 and get to be a first- and second-round host?

We break it down, conference by conference, with not only Saturday’s results but also who’s in and who might be. Or might not.

Big Ten: When the dust cleared, Wisconsin (22-6, 18-2) celebrated in New Brunswick, New Jersey, after beating Rutgers (8-23, 2-18) 25-14, 25-12, 25-21. The Badgers won before the end of the Minnesota-Penn State match, but they knew they had at least a share of the title, Wisconsin’s first since 2014.

“It’s one of our two goals every single year so it feels good to have accomplished this during my time here,” Wisconsin senior right side Madison Duello said. “Preseason was obviously not how we wanted to start off the season, but our growth from those games and what we learned has helped us through those tough matches and playing all the top teams twice.”

Molly Haggerty led Wisconsin with 11 kills and hit .524 after having no errors in 21 attacks. She had three digs. Grace Loberg also had 11 kills, hit .400, and had a block and three digs. Duello had six kills, hit .364, and had four blocks and a digs.

Dana Rettke had three kills with no errors in 10 attacks, two of the team’s 10 aces, a dig and three blocks, one solo.

“I think this is just going to propel us forward into the tournament,” Rettke said. “We’ve learned a lot — we learned a lot even just last night — so to come back and win the way we did tonight was awesome and I was really proud of our team. 

“Every single night in the Big Ten is a grind, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net. We’ve had to be mentally and physically tough, so to come out on top this year is awesome.”

Sydney Hilley added a kill, 31 assists, an ace, a block and five digs.

“Beyond the match tonight, I’m just happy for our players,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “It’s not a one or two night thing — winning a Big Ten title is 20 matches, it’s a collection of everything. Having to play Minnesota twice, Nebraska twice and Penn State twice and going 5-1 in those matches — a few of them sweeps — and winning six of seven on the road in the middle of the season … it was a title that was well earned and there’s a lot of excitement in that locker room right now as there should be.”

Jasmine Stackhouse had 10 kills with no errors in 13 swings for Rutgers and hit .769 to go with an assist and three blocks, one solo …

Penn State (24-5, 17-3), Minnesota (24-5, 17-3) and Nebraska (25-4, 17-3) ended in a tie for second place.

Minnesota’s 19-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23 victory at Penn State marked the first time the Gophers had won in Rec Hall since 2004. Stephanie Samedy had 21 kills, hit .475 after having two errors in 40 attacks, and added an ace, a block and 12 digs. Alexis Hart had 12 kills, five blocks and three digs. Adanna Rollins had 11 kills, an assist, three blocks and seven digs, and Regan Pittman had six kills, hit .333, and had an ace, seven blocks and two digs. Setter Kylie Miller had 49 assists, an ace, five blocks and 10 digs.

Tori Gorrell led a balanced Penn State attack with a career-high 17 kills, a block and a dig. Serena Gray had 13 kills, hit .435 and had three blocks and three digs. Kaitlyn Hord had 13 kills, hit .522 and had six blocks. Jonni Parker added 11 kills, an assist, two aces, four blocks and three digs. Setter Gabby Blossom had four kills in six errorless attempts, 50 assists, an ace, a block and nine digs …

Illinois (16-13, 11-9), which had a ranking of 43 in last week’s NCAA RPI, could ill have afforded getting beaten by Northwestern (14-18, 5-15) 25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20. 

Northwestern, which beat Illinois for the first time since 2014, hit .415 and Nia Robinson had 22 kills, hitting .409. She also had 13 digs. Temi Thomas-Ailara had 17 kills, hit .471, and had two digs and two solo blocks. Desiree Becker had 12 kills, hit .429, and had two digs and three blocks, one solo. Payton Chang had two kills, 53 assists, an ace and nine digs.

Jacqueline Quade had 18 kills for Illinois and had 12 digs and two blocks. Ashlyn Fleming had 10 kills, hit .471, and had two aces, a dig and two blocks. Diana Brown had three kills in eight errorless attempts, 43 assists, an ace and six digs … 

Nebraska swept Ohio State (15-17, 8-12) as Lexi Sun led with 12 kills, hitting .310 in the 25-15, 25-16, 25-19 victory. Sun had five digs and a block. Callie Schwarzenbach seven kills in 11 errorless swings to hit .636 and had four digs and three blocks. Nicklin Hames had a kill, 24 assists, 12 digs and two blocks. Gabby Gonzalez had 10 kills for Ohio State, which hit .086 …

Michigan State (15-15, 6-14) beat visiting Indiana (14-19, 3-17) 25-18, 25-20 20-25, 25-22. Biamba Kabengele had 11 kills, a solo block and three digs. Molly Johnson had 10 kills, hit .333 and Lauren Swartz had nine kills, five blocks and four digs. Hayden Huybers had 13 kills for Indiana and Deyshia Lofton had 11 …

Iowa (10-21, 4-16) beat visiting Maryland (13-18, 5-14) 17-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-19. Kyndra Hansen had 12 kills and hit .407. Griere Hughes, back from an injury, led with 14 kills and Amiya Jones had 11, hitting .500, to go with three digs and three blocks, one solo. Erika Pritchard led Maryland with 14 kills, an assist, four aces, 10 digs and three blocks, one solo. Rainelle Jones had 10 kills, hit .529, and had six blocks …

So who’s in? 

Wisconsin, hoping for a top-four seed, Nebraska and Minnesota will definitely be three of the top 16 who play at home for the first and second rounds. Penn State hopes to be in that number, too. Also in are Purdue and Michigan. Illinois, which went to last year’s final four, should be very nervous. 

Pac-12: No. 17 Utah took care of business, sweeping at Colorado, Arizona gave itself some NCAA hope with a five-set win at Arizona, and Washington State can only hope for the best.

Washington State (23-9, 12-8), which stood No. 56 in the last NCAA RPI despite its AVCA ranking, won at Washington 24-6, 15-5) 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 15-25, 15-13. It was the first time WSU beat its in-state rival twice in the same season since 2001.

The Cougars won despite hitting .131. Magda Jehlarova led with 12 kills and hit .333 to go with 10 blocks, one solo. Pia Timmer had 11 kills but hit .000. She had an ace, two blocks and two digs. Jocelyn Urias had 10 kills, an ace, three blocks and two digs. Hannah Pukis had six kills, 41 assists, an ace, 17 digs and five blocks, one solo.

Kara Bajema led Washington, which hit .194, with 24 kills and she had four blocks and nine digs. Samantha Drechsel had 13 kills, an ace, two block and for digs. Setter Ella May Powell had five kills in six errorless attempts, 49 assists, three aces, nine digs and four blocks, one solo.

Utah (22-9, 14-6) won 25-20, 25-18, 25-19 at Colorado (13-17, 5-15) as Dani Drews led with 21 kills while hitting .302. She had four digs and three blocks, one solo. Kenzie Koerber had nine kills, hit .333, and had an ace, five blocks and 10 digs. Setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had three kills in five errorless attempts, 35 assists, three blocks and 13 digs. Justine Spann had nine kills for the Buffs, who hit .051 …

Arizona State (17-14,9-11), which was ranked 50th in the RPI, grinded out a 25-18, 11-25, 26-24, 20-25, 17-15 victory at Arizona (15-17, 5-15) for the Sun Devils’ first win in Tucson since 2007. Andrea Mitrovic led ASU with 19 kills and had two blocks and seven digs. Jada Burse had 16 kills, two blocks and a dig, and Claire Kovensky had 10 kills and six digs. ASU hit .187.

Paige Whipple led Arizona with 24 kills and added an assist, an ace, two blocks and 13 digs. Katie Smoot had 14 kills, three blocks and two digs, and Devyn Cross had 11 kills and six blocks, one solo.

So who’s in?

Stanford and Washington will be top-16 hosts. Utah could get a top-16 spot, but probably not. Also in are UCLA and USC. Cal, Arizona State and Washington State can plead their cases but all three could either be in or out.

Baylor celebrates its Big 12 title

Big 12: Two teams that will be home for the first four rounds —provided they keep on winning — No. 1 Baylor swept visiting TCU and No. 4 Texas won in four at Iowa State. They finished in a tie for the conference title after splitting their two matches this season. 

Baylor (25-1, 15-1) won its ninth in a row, 25-19, 25-18, 25-14 over visiting TCU  (9-17, 4-12). Yossiana Pressley led with 10 kills, an ace and eight digs. Shelly Stafford had nine kills, hit .353, and had four assists, two blocks and a dig. TCU hit .065 …

Micaya White had 18 kills, hit .304, and had two aces, three blocks and 19 digs as visiting Texas (21-3, 15-1) beat Iowa State (17-11, 8-8) 23-25, 25-9, 25-19, 25-22. Brionne Butler had 11 kills with no errors in 17 attacks to hit .647 and had seven blocks, one solo. Asjia O’Neal had eight kills, hit .429, and had an ace, three digs and six blocks. Logan Eggleston had eight kills, four blocks and six digs, Skylar Fields had seven kills and six blocks, and Jhenna Gabriel had 44 assists and 11 digs. Iowa State’s Michal Schuler had 15 kills, two assists, a solo block and four digs. Annie Hatch added 10 kills, a block and five digs, and Candelaria Herrera had nine kills, a block and nine digs …

Kansas State (9-19, 4-12) swept at Texas Tech (17-13, 7-9) as Holly Bonde led with 12 kills, hitting .417, to go with an assist, an ace, four blocks and nine digs … West Virginia (12-17, 3-13) won in five against visiting Kansas (9-17, 5-11). Audrey Adams led with 19 kills and hit .333 to go with an assist, a solo block and three digs. Katelyn Evans had 17 kills, three blocks and 11 digs. Morgan Christon led Kansas with 19 kills, two block and 22 digs.

So who’s in?

Baylor and Texas will be top-four seeds. Oklahoma is in. Iowa State, 37 in the RPI, should be in but it’s hardly a lock.

SEC: No. 14 Kentucky and No. 15 Florida tied for the league title and both hope to be in the top 16. And Auburn finally got a conference win.

Kentucky (23-6, 16-2) swept visiting Ole Miss (14-15, 6-12), which once was atop the league at 6-0 but went 0-12 since. Leah Edmond had 13 kills in the 25-21, 25-20, 25-13 victory, hit .300, and had an ace, 10 digs and a block. Allie Stumler had 11 kills and hit .321 and had an assist, an ace, five digs and a solo block. Setter Madison Lilley had four kills in five errorless attempts and had 38 assists, three aces, five digs and five blocks, one solo. Emily Stroup led Ole Miss with eight kills … 

Florida (25-4, 16-2) had to go the distance to beat visiting Texas A&M (21-7, 13-5) 25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-13. Thayer Hall led with 16 kills, three assists, two aces, six digs and two blocks. Rachael Kramer had 13 kills, hit .370, and had three digs and three blocks, one solo. Lauren Dooley had 10 kills and hit .417 and had five blocks and setter Marlie Monserez had five kills in 12 errorless tries, 40 assists, an ace, 10 digs and solo block.

A&M had four players with 11 or more kills. Treyaunna Rush had 12 and six blocks, and Makena Patterson had 12 kills, hit .385, and had seven blocks. Camila Gomez had a career-high 32 digs …

Missouri 21-7, 13-5) swept visiting LSU (15-13, 9-9) as the Tigers hit .357. Kyle Deberg led with 13 kills, two aces and two digs. Dariana Hollingsworth had 12 kills and hit .526 and had an assist and two digs. Taylor Bannister led LSU with 10 kills, an ace, two digs and four blocks …

Tennessee (15-13, 9-9) swept Mississippi State (13-17, 2-16). Addisyn Rowe had nine kills, hit .533, and had seven blocks, one solo. Lily Felts had nine kills, four aces, two blocks and five digs. State hit .068 …

And Auburn (7-22, 1-17) finished with its lone SEC victory, a 29-27, 25-13, 25-17 victory at Alabama (12-17, 4-14). Tatum Shipes led with 15 kills, two assists, two blocks and eight digs. Hayley McSparin led Alabama with 15 kills.

So who’s in?

Kentucky and Florida will host. Texas A&M hopes to and likely will be in the top 16. Missouri is in and so is Georgia. South Carolina, 41 in the RPI, is on the edge. It’s hard to imagine the SEC getting more teams in than the Pac-12, but it could happen.

ACC: Boston College (20-11, 11-7) won the last ACC match of the season, a 25-18, 18-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-13 victory over visiting NC State (11-19, 6-12). 

Cat Balido led BC with 16 kills and had an assist, three blocks and eight digs. Jill Strockis had 15 kills and hit .382 and had two assists, an ace, a block and 12 digs. Jewel Strawberry had 15 kills, an assist and five digs. 

Melissa Evans led NC State with 23 kills, hit .339, and had an assist, an ace, four blocks and eight digs. Jessica Kemp had 14 kills, hit .324, and had six blocks.

So who’s in?

Second-ranked Pittsburgh should be one of the top four seeds. Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida State are in. Georgia Tech can hope, but the Yellow Jackets are likely going to be left out.

St. John’s wins the 2019 Big East tournament

Big East: St. John’s (22-11) is the first No. 4 seed to win the Big East tournament, but after the Red Storm upset Marquette (27-5) 25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21, they are back in the NCAA tourney for the first time in 12 years.

Efrosini Alexakou led with 19 kills and had an ace, six digs and a solo block. Rachele Rastelli had 15 kills, hit .314, and had two aces, three digs and four blocks, one solo. Klara Mikelova had 11 kills, two assists and 18 digs.

“I think we had great team chemistry over the last few weeks, which was really great,” St. John’s coach Joanne Persico said. “We’ve always had good team chemistry, but I thought in tough moments, we stayed composed. I told the team before that I usually bring a check-in bag, but I brought a big suitcase. I said, ‘We have to bring something home,’ so I’m really proud of this team and it will be a memorable day for us forever.”

Marquette, playing at home, got 23 kills from Allie Barber, who hit .400 and had an assist and three blocks. Hope Werch had 17 kills, hit .333, and had an ace, 13 digs and two blocks, one solo. 

So who’s in?

Marquette should still be a top-16 team. Creighton is in, and, so is St. John’s.

Missouri Valley: Third-seeded Illinois State (22-11) won the rubber match with top-seeded Northern Iowa (24-10). After splitting during the regular season, Illinois State, which became the first No. 3 seed to win the Valley tourney, beat the Panthers 25-21, 25-16, 25-19.

Kaylee Martin led with 17 kills, hit .517, and had three blocks and five digs. Sydney Holt had 10 kills, hit .615, and had four blocks and three digs. Sarah Kushner had seven kills, four digs and three blocks, one solo. Setter Stef Jankiewicz had a kill, 41 assists, her team’s only ace, five blocks and 10 digs. Emmy Ogogor had four kills and six blocks. 

Karlie Taylor had 19 kills and hit .325 for UNI to go with a block and  eight digs. 

So who’s in?

Illinois State, of course. Northern Iowa, ranked 40 in the RPI, is likely getting an at-large bid.

Big Sky: Northern Colorado (26-7) cruised through the conference schedule, but had to pull out all the stops to beat Weber State (24-8) in the tourney final 23-25, 25-22, 26-24, 15-25, 15-13. UNC won the Big Sky’s automatic for the fifth time, the last in 2014.

Jo Ince Kailey led with 24 kills and hit .353 and had an assist, four digs and three blocks, two solo. Taylor Muff had 17 kills, four assists, a block and 21 digs. Makenzie Harris had 12 kills and two blocks, and Lauren Hinrichs had 11 kills, hit .357, and had four blocks and a dig. Setter Daisy Schultz had three kills, 68 assists, two blocks and five digs.

Dani Nay had 18 kills for Weber State and added an assist, four blocks and three digs. Megan Gneiting had 14 kills and hit .341, six blocks and six digs. Rylin Roberts had 13 kills, an assist, three blocks and 19 assists.

Only Northern Colorado will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Mountain West/Summit League: Colorado State (29-1) won for the 28th time in a row when it beat the Summit League’s Denver (23-8) in a match between two teams headed to the NCAA Tournament. Jessica Jackson had 21 kills and hit .400 in the 25-19, 23-25, 25-11, 25-27, 15-11 road victory. 

Jackson had a dig and three blocks, one solo. Breanna Runnels had 19 kills, an ace and 13 digs, and Kirstie Hillyer had 16 kills, hit .448, and had five blocks and two digs. Katie Oleksak had three kills in as many attempts, 61 assists, two blocks and 12 digs. 

Amanda Green had 16 kills for Denver to go with a block and five digs. Lydia Bartalo had 12 kills, two assists, three aces, three blocks and 17 digs.

Colorado State is the only Mountain West team that will be in the tournament, while the Summit will get two because Denver upset South Dakota, which should get an at-large bid.

The rest of the field had already finished regular-season and/or conference tournaments. Here’s how things stand.

American Athletic: UCF won the league tournament and the automatic bid. Cincinnati will get an at-large.

America East: Albany won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

ASUN: Kennesaw State won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

Atlantic 10: Dayton won the league tournament and the automatic bid. VCU, at 49 in the RPI, is hopeful for an at-large.

Big South: Winthrop won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

Big West: Hawai’i won the conference title. Both UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly should get at-large bids.

Colonial: Towson won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

Conference USA: Western Kentucky won the league tournament and the automatic bid, but Rice will also get in. For that matter, both teams could break into the top 16 and be hosts.

Horizon League: Northern Kentucky pulled the upset and won the league tournament and the automatic bid. But two other teams, Wright State and Green Bay, could get bids.

Ivy League: Princeton won the league title and the automatic bid.

Metro Atlantic: Fairfield won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Mid-American: Ball State won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

MEAC: Howard won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

Northeast: Sacred Heart won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

Ohio Valley: Southeast Missouri won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Patriot League: American won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Southern Conference: Samford won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Southland: Stephen F. Austin won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Sun Belt: Texas State won the league tournament and the automatic bid, while Coastal Carolina holds out slim hopes for an at-large bid.

SWAC: Alabama State won the league tournament and the automatic bid. 

Western Athletic: NM State won the league tournament and the automatic bid.

West Coast: Last year the league got five teams in, but this year only BYU and San Diego will get in. BYU holds out hope to be in the top 16.

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