News, notes about Friday’s 8 NCAA tourney matches, coaching carousel, NIVC

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NCAA volleyball 12/13/2019-Dana Rettke-Wisconsin
During Wisconsin's open pre-NCAA Tournament practice Thursday, Dana Rettke swings as her teammates look on/Bianca Micelli

With a little luck, a TV and another ESPN-capable device might just do it, but, then again, you can certainly expect that some of Friday’s eight NCAA Tournament matches to go long. 

Really long.

So have a third device ready just in case.

At stake is a bid in Saturday’s four regional finals with national-semifinals bids at stake.

By all accounts, it should be a great day of NCAA Division I women’s volleyball (all times Eastern):

At Baylor
No. 16 Purdue (23-7) vs. No. 1 Baylor (26-1), noon, ESPNU
No. 9 Kentucky (24-6) vs. No. 8 Washington (25-6), 2:30 p.m., ESPN3
Saturday, December 14
Friday’s winners, 4 p.m., ESPNU
At Wisconsin
No. 13 Texas A&M (23-7) vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (24-6), 2 p.m., ESPNU
No. 12 Hawai’i (26-3) vs. No. 5 Nebraska (27-4), 4:30 p.m. ESPN3
Saturday, December 14
Friday’s winners, 6 p.m., ESPNU
At Texas
Louisville (20-9) vs. No. 2 Texas (22-3), 4 p.m., ESPNU
No. 10 Florida (26-4) vs. No. 7 Minnesota (24-5), 6:30 p.m., ESPN3
Saturday, December 14
Friday’s winners, 8 p.m., ESPNU
At Stanford
Cincinnati (26-6) vs. No. 11 Penn State (25-5), 8 p.m., ESPN3
Utah (23-9) vs. No. 3 Stanford (25-4), 11 p.m., ESPNU
Saturday, December 14
Friday’s winners, 10 p.m., ESPNU

Rematches: The big one is Utah at Stanford. 

They played twice this season in the Pac-12. Stanford won in five on October 20 in Palo Alto, 17-15 in the fifth. Kathryn Plummer didn’t play for Stanford and Audriana Fitzmorris led with 18 kills and eight blocks. Dani Drews had 21 kills for Utah and 14 digs.

In the second conference meeting in Salt Lake City, Stanford won in four on November 22 as Plummer had 24 kills, hit .313, and had two blocks and 15 digs. Drews had 26 kills, three assists, two blocks and 11 digs for Utah.

In the other match, Penn State and Cincinnati will play for the first time since 2003 …

There’s also a 2019 rematch ahead for Minnesota and Florida. 

Minnesota swept the visiting Gators on September 7 as Stephanie Samedy had 16 kills, hit .343, and had two blocks and 12 digs. Florida hit .137. The teams last met in the NCAA Tournament in 2006 when Minnesota won in four.

Louisville last played Texas in 2012 when the Longhorns won in five …

Kentucky and Washington last played in 2016 when Washington won in the second round of the NCAA tourney, while Baylor and Purdue have split their only two meetings. Baylor won in 2009 and Purdue in 2011 …

The two storied programs of Hawai’i and Nebraska haven’t played since 2007. Texas A&M faces Wisconsin for the first time since the Badgers won in a sweep in 2017. Wisconsin is 5-2 all time against the Aggies.

Bring the heat: There are three unseeded teams left, Utah, Cincinnati and Louisville, and two of them are right up there with the most powerful offenses in the nation.

Utah is No. 2 in total team kills with 1,850, and Cincinnati is No. 3 with 1,827. Not surprisingly, their respective stars are right up there, too. 

Cincinnati’s Jordan Thompson leads the nation with 768 kills and Utah’s Drews is second with 625. The next closest player from the 16 teams left is Washington’s Kara Bajema, No. 8 with 553 kills. Hollann Hans of Texas A&M is 19th with 514.

Texas leads the nation in kills percentage, .325, Wisconsin is fourth at .295, and Stanford is No. 6 at .293. The next three in the national list are Cincinnati (.292), Florida (.289) and Baylor (.287).

Offense obviously rules, since the top-ranked team left with the best opponent hitting percentage is Nebraska, which ranked No. 7. Opponents hit .150 against the Huskers this season.

You have to serve tough, but do you need aces? The highest ranked team is Cincinnati, which is 11th in total aces with 206. Next closest among the teams remaining is Purdue, tied for 47th with 182.

Family ties: There remain in the tournament one set of sisters and one wife-husband coaching team.

Lauren Stivrins, a junior middle for Nebraska, is in Madison, Wisconsin, while her sister, freshman outside Amber, is in Austin with her Louisville team. They’re from Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I think she’s just excited to be where she is and as she should be,” Lauren Stivrins said. “I told her to just take it in because it’s a really cool experience and it goes by super-fast. I’m very proud of her and I’m excited for her and I can’t wait to see what they do.

“As far as my parents, last week my mom was in Louisville so now she’s coming here and my dad’s going to Texas.”

The married coaches? Cincinnati’s Molly Alvey and her associate head coach Phillip White. Alvey didn’t change her name when they married in 2015.

Smart and athletic: Stanford senior libero Morgan Hentz is the Pac-12 scholar-athlete of the year, while Baylor senior middle Shelly Stafford is the Big 12 scholar-athlete of the year.

Hentz, a psychology major with emphasis in health and development, has a 3.596 grade point average. Stafford won the same award last season, making her the first volleyball player to win it twice. She is a sports management master’s student and has a 3.80 GPA. 

Women coaches: There are six left — the second-most ever in a round of 16 — but two each in three of the four regionals. 

None will emerge from Baylor, and the truth is none of the remaining women are coaching teams that are favored.

They are Texas A&M’s Bird Kuhn, Hawai’i’s Robyn Ah Mow, Louisville’s Dani Busboom Kelly, Florida’s Mary Wise, Cincinnati’s Molly Alvey, and Utah’s Beth Launiere.

Among their accomplishments, Kuhn, who played at Georgia Tech, was a longtime assistant at Kansas, including 2015 when the Jayhawks went to their only national semifinals; Ah Mow played in the 1996 NCAA title match for Hawai’i; Busboom Kelly won a national title in 2006 playing for Nebraska and then was an assistant when the Huskers won in 2015; Wise got Florida to the 2017 national-title match; Alvey last went this far when she was an assistant with Temple in 2002; and Launiere, in her 30th year, is the dean of coaches in the Pac-12 and hopes to make the final four for the first time as a head coach. She was an assistant on the Illinois team that went to the 1988 NCAA final four.

In 1997 there were seven women coaches in the round of 16, Wise, Kathy Gregory of UC Santa Barbara, Elaine Michaelis of BYU, Debbie Brown of Notre Dame, Laurie Corbelli of Texas A&M, Cindy Fredrick of Washington State and Lisa Love of USC. There were four in 2011 and 2017.

Hawai’i pride: Ah Mow gets the quote of the day.

“I mean, I grew up there, I was born there, raised there, played there and now I’m coaching there. There’s a lot of pride coming all the way here. Obviously this is the farthest we’ve made it in the last three years since I’ve been coaching. I’m proud of them, proud of my staff. They’ve all done an awesome job and I just wish I could take all those 10,000 fans and bring them here. Maybe if somebody had some money, I don’t know. They’re like a sixth man, I mean seventh for volleyball.”

Coaching carousel: Add Jacksonville of the ASUN to the list. Coach Evan Muys resigned Thursday after two seasons. Jacksonville improved to 10-21 this season, 5-11 in the ASUN, after going 5-24, 3-13 in 2018.

Texas State, rather, promoted longtime assistant Sean Huiet to head coach after Karen Chisum resigned after 40 years at the helm. Huiet has been at the San Marcos, Texas, school under Chisum for 14 years before being promoted to associate head coach this season.

Muys’ resignation but Huiet’s promotion leaves at 18 the number of Division I coaching openings, including power-five jobs at Ohio State, Ole Miss and Auburn.

Talking heads: Sam Gore and former Louisville All-American Katie George are in Waco, Paul Sunderland and USA Olympic coach Karch Kiraly are at Wisconsin, Courtney Lyle and Salima Rockwell (who visited with us on Wednesday) are in Texas, and Tiffany Greene and Missy Whittemore have the matches at Stanford.

NIVC: The semifinals are set for 7 p.m. Eastern Saturday when TCU goes to Georgia Tech and Tulsa plays at South Dakota.

That’s because TCU beat Colgate in one Thursday semifinal, while Tulsa beat Weber State in the other.

TCU of the Big 12 (12-17) won the first set easily, worked harder in the second, and then went overtime to win the third in a 25-17, 25-23, 30-28 victory over Colgate of the Patriot League. Julia Adams led the Horned Frogs with 17 kills, hit .467, and had three digs and three blocks, one solo. Katie Clark had 12 kills, three blocks and a dig, and Audrey Nalls had 11 kills, two solo blocks and six digs. Alex Stein led Colgate with 12 kills …

Tulsa of the American Athletic Conference (18-15) beat visiting Weber State of the Big Sky (25-9) 25-22, 25-20, 24-26, 20-25, 15-10.

Callie Cook had 16 kills for Tulsa and hit .483. She had two aces, three digs and six blocks, one solo. Maddie Rhoder and Kayley Cassaday had 12 kills each. Rhoder had four digs and five blocks, one solo. Hannah Overmyer had 10 kills, a solo block and and 10 digs.

Megan Gneiting and Dani Nay had 18 kills each to lead Weber State. Gneiting had 17 digs and two blocks, one solo.

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