It happened all season.
So it just stood to reason that the NCAA Tournament would be filled with upsets and surprises.
Or, as Nebraska’s Jazz Sweet said, “This is the tournament. It only takes a couple mistakes and you’re out.”
Saturday night was a perfect example, as Cincinnati knocked off sixth-seeded Pittsburgh and Utah demolished No. 14 BYU.
And there were scares for the favorites, too.
Creighton had two match points in the fourth before losing in five at Minnesota.
Towson took the first set from Penn State. Marquette did the same at Purdue, and Missouri won the first at Nebraska, which had to rally to win the third 32-30.
But when the last ball hit the floor in Hawai’i and the 12 matches were in the books, here’s what the round of 16 looks like for next Friday:
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Purdue
No. 2 Texas vs. Louisville
No. 3 Stanford vs. Utah
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Texas A&M
No. 5 Nebraska vs. No. 12 Hawai’i
No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 10 Florida
No. 8 Washington vs. No. 9 Kentucky
No. 11 Penn State vs. Cincinnati
Click here to view the NCAA bracket.
There was also NIVC action Saturday and we have those results, too.
Baylor sweeps USC: Baylor (27-1), which tied with Texas for the Big 12 title, won its 11th match in a row as the Bears dispatched visiting USC (18-14) 25-23, 25-17, 25-22. It put Baylor into the third round for the first time in 10 years.
“I’m excited to get to move into the (NCAA regional). We’ve tasted this round a few times before, so I’m glad for these seniors who really put the work in,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said. “USC came ready to play. So much fire power.”
But Baylor had more.
The Bears hit .323 as 6-foot-6 Dutch sophomore Marieke Van der Mark led a balanced attack with 13 kills. She had one error in 17 attacks, hit .706, and had three blocks and a dig. The other middle, Shelly Stafford, had 12 kills with one error in 15 attacks and hit .733 to go with an assist, an ace, two blocks and a dig.
“Always a team effort, but Marieke van der Mark grew up tonight,” McGuyre said. “She’s the MVP for the past two matches we’ve had this weekend. I loved how she played, and that consistency was the difference maker in the match.”
Yossiana Pressley had 12 kills, two aces, a block and two digs. Kara McGhee had three kills and six blocks, one solo. Setter Hannah Lockin had a kill, 36 assists, three blocks and eight digs.
Khalia Lanier led USC — an at-large from the Pac 12 that held a 17-12 first-set lead — with 14 kills and seven digs. Brooke Botkin had 11 kills, an ace and three digs. Raquel Lazaro had a kill, 33 assists, three blocks and two digs.
Stanford sweeps Cal Poly: The Cardinal (26-4) won its 13th in a row as the Pac-12 champs overpowered the Big West’s Cal Poly (21-9) 25-13, 25-16, 25-17. Stanford hit .393, while the Mustangs hit .152.
Kathryn Plummer led with 17 kills as she hit .371, had an assist, four blocks and 10 digs. Audriana Fitzmorris had 13 kills, hit .440, and had three blocks and a dig. Madeleine Gates had seven kills in 11 errorless attacks to hit .636 and had two blocks. Holly Campbell had four kills, an assist and six blocks, and setter Jenna Gray had five kills in six errorless attempts, 32 assists, two ace and five digs.
“I like when we side out at 83 percent and score at 28 percent. I like those numbers a lot,” Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said. “I like when we get our middles involved. A lot has to do with our passing and I thought we passed really, really well.
“Other stuff I enjoy looking at is Holly had an assist, Kate Formico had four assists, Morgan three, Plummer one. One of the things that we work a lot on is communication, there were a lot of plays where we were scrambling, and we created good swings on those.”
Maia Dvoracek led Cal Poly with 15 kills and she had seven digs. Madilyn Mercer had nine kills and hit .500 to go with three blocks and a dig.
Wisconsin sweeps UCLA: The Big Ten champions (24-6) made short work of visiting UCLA of the Pac-12 (19-12) 25-18, 25-21, 25-14 as the Badgers moved into the third round for the seventh year in a row.
Molly Haggerty led with 14 kills, hit .370, and had an ace, a block and seven digs. Dana Rettke got 10 kills, hit .360, and had four digs and four blocks, one solo. Grace Loberg had nine kills with no errors in 17 swings to hit .529 and Madison Duello had six kills, two digs and seven blocks. Sydney Hilley had two kills, 38 assists, an ace, two blocks and four digs.
Wisconsin hit .366, while UCLA hit .194.
Mac May led the Bruins with 15 kills, an ace, two blocks and nine digs. Savvy Simo had nine kills, an assist, a block and eight digs.
“UCLA can give you a whole lot of issues. They’ve got some servers back there that just make the ball dance and groove,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Mac May is as good of an outside hitter as there is in the country and Simo can really give you some issues as well.
“On our side of the net, I thought we put a lot of pressure on them from behind the service line. We were steady all the way through. I didn’t think there were incredible high or lows, we just played really solid volleyball.”
Nebraska holds off Missouri: The Big Ten’s Huskers (27-4) got all they could handle from the SEC’s Missouri (22-8) as Nebraska held on for a 20-25, 25-20, 32-30, 25-18 victory.
“Great match. Our fans got their money worth. They were awesome tonight,” said Nebraska coach John Cook, whose program will play in its 35th regional. “Missouri is a great team, they played their hearts out. We had to go as deep as we had to go to win this match tonight. What a great two teams, a battle tonight.
“I thought our team winning that third game was huge. I think for either team, whoever won that, that was the key. A lot of great volleyball tonight, and again, Missouri is one heck of a team.”
It especially showed in both the first and third sets. Nebraska hit .000 in the first set and in the third led 22-17 and had one set point at 28-27.
“They competed great,’ Cook said of his team. “We talked about, in the tournament, you’re going to have to win some ugly games and matches. It’s not going to be perfect all the time. “Tonight, was a slug fest for both teams. Both teams were making great plays and willing balls up and taking huge swings. There were some great rallies. I think we got in better shape tonight. Last three matches, I don’t think we’ve had many rallies. Again, Missouri is a great team and this was a great effort by our team to win this tonight.”
Jazz Sweet led Nebraska with 17 kills, hit .438, had four digs and tied her career high with six blocks, one solo. Lexi Sun had 13 kills, four blocks and eight digs. Madi Kubik had 11 kills, an ace, two blocks and 10 digs and Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills and three blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach had two kills and eight blocks, and setter Nicklin Hames had a kill, 42 assists, three aces and 12 digs.
Leketor Member-Meneh had 19 kills for Missouri and added a block and 10 digs. Dariana Hollingsworth had 15 kills, hit .400, and had an ace and three digs. Kylie Deberg had 14 kills, an ace, a block and seven digs. Andrea Fuentes had two kills in as many tries, 51 assists, 13 digs and two blocks, one solo.
“Obviously, winning that first set and keeping them to a zero hitting percentage, I was really pleased with and next season is a long ways away and we’re going to mourn this loss for a bit and kind of reset tomorrow when we hop on the bus,” first-year Missouri coach Josh Taylor said.
“Coming out and winning the set like that is something we’ve been trying to improve on all season. We got really good at it and to take a set off Nebraska here is pretty impressive.”
Minnesota escapes Creighton: The Gophers of the Big Ten (25-5) won the first set, but were then up against it throughout their 25-13, 19-25, 15-25, 26-24, 15-10 victory over the Big East’s Creighton (25-6).
“Certainly happy with the result and our respect goes to Creighton,” Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “It was a great volleyball match, which is what you’d expect from this time of year in this tournament.”
Minnesota, into the third round for the fifth year in a row, hit .141, including .025 in the second. Alexis Hart and Adanna Rollins had 14 kills each for Minnesota. Hart had three blocks and four digs, and Rollins had an assist, an ace and 11 digs. Stephanie Samedy had four kills in the first set and three in the fifth and none in between. She had an assist, an ace, five blocks and 19 digs. Taylor Morgan had four kills, an assist and nine blocks. Airi Miyabe had four kills and five blocks, and Regan Pittman had three kills and six blocks, two solo, including the match ender. Kylie Miller had 38 assists, two aces and 11 digs.
Keeley Davis led Creighton with 18 kills and hit .127. Her team hit .111. She had an assist, an ace, two block and 18 digs.
Jaela Zimmerman, who had 17 kills, also had 14 errors and one came with her team up 24-23 in the fourth. Zimmerman had two assists and 13 blocks. Madelyn Col had five kills, 44 assists, two aces, three blocks and 15 digs.
Creighton had another shot in the fourth, but Megan Ballenger, who had seven kills and four blocks, one solo, hit out. That opened the door for a service ace by C.C. McGraw and a block of Zimmerman by Samedy and Pittman to end the set.
“The first set was pretty good for us and it kind of ends up being an expectation for us,” McCutcheon said. “That’s the temptation you can get sucked into. And as much as you want to talk about ‘Hey, look, Creighton has the right to respond to this,’ and they did, right, particularly well. All of a sudden it’s not all rainbows and unicorns anymore. Every touch isn’t going down and we’re having to grind.
“We really had to shift our approach from we’re kind of golden gods to all of a sudden we’re in the trenches and we’re fighting for our lives. And that’s exactly what it was. It was a battle.”
Cincinnati knocks off Pittsburgh: The greatest season in ACC-champion Pitt history (30-2) ended at the hands of the American Athletic Conference’s Cincinnati 24-26, 25-21, 16-25, 25-21, 15-13.
Cincinnati (27-6), conversely, recorded its biggest victory ever and moves into the regional for the first time. The Bearcats fell behind 4-0 in the fifth, still trailed 12-9, before breaking a 13-13 tie when Pittsburgh had an error and Maria Mallon ended it with a kill.
“What can you say? For both teams, an amazing match,” Cincinnati coach Molly Alvey said.
The Bearcats were led by NCAA kills leader Jordan Thompson, who had 27 kills, an assist, two blocks and six digs.
Mallon had 19 kills and had three aces, nine digs and two blocks, one solo. Adria Oliver had 14 kills, hit .462, a solo block and two digs. Karoline Fauske had five kills, an ace, six blocks and 11 digs. Armania Heckenmueller had 58 assists, two blocks and six digs.
Pittsburgh, which had won 20 matches in a row, lost in the second round for the fourth consecutive year. The NCAA Championships are in Pittsburgh and certainly the Panthers were hoping to be there.
Kayla Lund led Pittsburgh with 20 kills, an assist, an ace, three blocks and 14 digs. Chinaza Ndee had 16 kills, hit .324, and had a block and four digs. Stephanie Williams had 14 kills, two assists, an ace, a block and seven digs. Layne Van Buskirk had 13 kills, three blocks and a dig and Sabrina Starks had five kills and five blocks. Lexis Akeo had a kill, 58 assists, four blocks and 11 digs.
Washington sweeps South Carolina: The Pac-12’s Huskies (26-6) got everything the SEC’s South Carolina (20-12) could throw at them for two sets before coming away with a 25-23, 26-24, 25-8 victory.
“I certainly liked our response at the end of sets,” said Washington coach Keegan Cook, whose Huskies trailed 20-15 in the first set and were still down 22-19 before rallying. “You’re going to be playing two-point games in the tournament somewhere. I don’t like how we got there, but I liked how we finished when we were there.
“Then in the last set, reminding us what we’re capable of when we play clean and serve the way we know how to serve. Thrilled to be taking this team to the next round of the tournament. Certainly not satisfied until we’re playing final four-caliber volleyball.”
Kara Bajema led Washington with 18 kills — four in the last five points of the first set hit .429, and had an ace, three blocks and three digs. Lauren Sanders had six kills with no errors in eight attacks to hit .750 and had two blocks. Samantha Drechsel had five kills, an assists, an ace, four blocks and two digs. Avie Niece had six blocks, one solo, and Ella May Powell had 30 assists, four aces, a block and eight digs.
South Carolina, which hit .084, got 11 kills from Mikayla Shields. Mikayla Robinson and Brittany McLean had seven kills each.
Kentucky sweeps Michigan: Kentucky (25-6), which tied with Florida for the SEC title, won its 10th match in a row and moved into the round of 16 for the third year in a row with a 25-19, 25-10, 25-20 victory over the Big Ten’s Michigan (21-11).
Kentucky, which hit .323, was led by Leah Edmond, who had 15 kills, hit .375, and had seven digs and three blocks, one solo. Alli Stumler had 11 kills, an assist, three aces, two blocks and two digs. Leah Meyer had six kills, hit .556, and had seven blocks and a dig. Madison Lilley had two kills, 31 assists, two blocks and six digs.
Michigan’s Paige Jones had 16 kills and six digs. The Wolverines hit .146. Sydney Wetterstrom had nine kills, an assist, an ace and five digs.
Penn State rallies against Towson: The Colonial Athletic Association-champion Tigers (29-3), who had won 23 in a row, won the first set, but Penn State of the Big Ten (26-5) rallied for a 22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-20 home victory.
“I thought it was really competitive, it’s always tough no matter who you’re playing,” said Penn State coach Russ Rose, whose team is headed to the third round for the 17th year in a row. “Even if sometimes you’re playing yourself and dealing with your emotions, and for the older players, the emotional scenario of having to play your last match in Rec Hall, there’s just a lot of factors that come into play.
“But I thought the players competed really hard. We didn’t play great in the first game, I called a time out right at the end, just to try and talk about the remaining part of the match. I thought we came out and played much better, more balanced match.”
Jonni Parker continued to sparkle for Penn State and led with 19 kills, hitting .447. She had an assist, two aces, five digs and four blocks, one solo. Kaitlyn Hord had 13 kills with one error in 22 attacks and hit .545. She had two blocks and a dig. Tori Gorrell had 12 kills, hit .385 and had three blocks, one solo. Gabby Blossom had a kill and 47 assists as the Nittany Lions hit .336. She added an ace, two blocks and 11 digs. Libero Kendall White had four assists and 14 digs as she broke the program’s digs record.
Emily Jarome led Towson with 19 kills and she had an assist and seven digs. Silvia Grassini and Olivia Finckel had 11 kills each and Lydia Weirs had 10.
“Us being here for the first time in 14 years and Penn State being here on the regular, I think maybe took its toll just because of being a little bit more mentally strong and composed throughout some of the tight balls, but, you know, this match doesn’t define the season that we had,” Towson coach Don Metil said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of (the team) and if anything comes from this match it’s going to be an understanding of who Towson is, the proper pronunciation of Towson, finally, and hopefully the program moves forward in the right direction.”
Hawai’i sweeps San Diego: Big West-champion Hawai’i (26-3) loves playing at home and before a crowd of 8,058 the Rainbow Wahine beat San Diego of the West Coast Conference (25-6) 25-23, 25-21, 25-21.
Hawai’i, back in the third round for the first time since 2015, had a balanced attack that saw Hanna Hellvig lead with 12 kills. She had a dig and four blocks, one solo. McKenna Ross had 10 kills, six digs and three blocks, one solo, and Amber Igiede had nine kills, hit .304, and had two blocks and two digs. Brooke Van Sickle had seven kills, hit .316, and had an assist, a solo block and five digs. Jolie Rasmussen returned to the lineup and played one set and had four kills in five errorless swings.
Katie Lukes and Grace Frohling had 10 kills each for San Diego and Megan Jacobsen had eight as she hit .389.
Utah upsets BYU: It would be hard to imagine the Pac-12’s Utes (24-9) playing a better match. They went roughly 45 miles down I-15 and demolished 14th-seeded BYU of the West Coast Conference (26-5) 25-15, 25-15, 25-15.
“We played a very complete match tonight and couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Utah coach Beth Launiere said. “We have had big goals all season and so far this is another one of them. I just thought we came out ready to go and never looked back.
“For a team that’s played a lot of five setters, that was for sure the most complete match we’ve played. We were just on the offense all night, played aggressively and kept our errors down. Congrats to BYU on a good season, and we’re really pleased to be moving on.”
Utah’s Dani Drews, third in the nation in kills, had 17 more as she hit .457 and added an assist, a block and six digs. Kenzie Koerber had 11 kills, hit .400, and had two assists, two aces, five blocks and eight digs. Berkeley Oblad had eight kills, hit .467, and had five blocks and three digs. Zoe Weatherington had seven kills, a block and a dig, and setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had four kills in six attempts, 38 assists, five blocks and 10 digs.
While Utah was hitting .394, BYU hit .109. McKenna Miller and Kennedy Eschenberg led with seven kills each.
BYU won at Utah in four when they met in September.
“This has been a full season of getting better and growing and playing in some really big matches,” Launiere said. “We’ve gone on the road and won some big matches and at least been in some big matches. This is a culmination of a lot of growth, determination and improvement.”
Purdue beats Marquette: The Boilermakers of the Big Ten (24-7) won their eighth in a row and are back in an NCAA regional for the first time since 2013. Purdue beat Marquette of the Big East (28-6) 22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-13 as Caitlyn Newton had 23 kills, hit .346, and had a block and three digs.
Grace Cleveland had 15 kills, hit .500, and had an ace, six blocks and six digs. Blake Mohler had 10 kills, four blocks and a dig. Emma Ellis added eight kills, five blocks and two digs and Hayley Bush had a kill, 51 assists, two blocks and five digs.
Purdue hit .341 while holding Marquette to a .146 hitting percentage. Allie Barber led the Eagles with 15 kills and six digs. Hope Werch and Gwyn Jones had seven kills each.
NIVC: Liberty (20-11) beat La Salle (15-14) in five and will host High Point on Sunday. High Point (21-12) beat Morehead State (23-10) in four.
Colgate (24-7) beat visiting Tulane (22-11) in four and Georgia Tech (23-8) beat Troy (23-10) in four. Colgate plays TCU on Thursday, while Georgia Tech plays the winner of the Liberty-High Point match next week.
Anna Gragg had 19 kills for Liberty, hit .382, and had two blocks. Amelia Johnson had 13 kills, two assists, 12 digs and two blocks, one solo. Samantha Graver had 22 kills for La Salle to go with three assists, an ace, 17 digs and one block. Elizabeth Osborn had 18 kills, an assist, four aces, 12 digs and five blocks …
Annie Sullivan led High Point with 14 kills, hit .387, and had two blocks and two digs. Megan Kratzer had 12 kills, three aces and nine digs. Olivia Lohmeier and Lauren Rokey had 12 kills each for Morehead State.
Colgate’s Alli Lowe had 21 kills, an assist, two aces, 10 digs and two blocks, one solo. Alex Stein had 10 kills, an assist, 11 digs and a block. Lexie Douglas had 16 kills for Tulane to go with a solo block and 11 digs. Lauryn Green added 12 kills, a dig and five blocks.
Georgia Tech was led by Mariana Brambillla, who had 19 kills, an ace, eight digs and five blocks, one solo. Kodie Comby and Julia Bergmann had 10 kills each. Comby had two digs and four blocks, one solo. Bergmann had an assist, eight digs and five blocks, one solo.
Click here for the NIVC bracket.