While the big schools were beating each other up in the regular season, there was huge drama Saturday in the conference tournaments, where it was one and done for almost all concerned.
The first team to claim a spot Saturday in the NCAA bracket was Quinnipiac, the No. 6 seed In the MAAC tournament, a group of Bobcats that includes a 5-foot-4 hitter who had three blocks.
By the time Saturday ended, FGCU had the ASUN bid, Towson won the CAA, Yale was the Ivy League champion, FDU won the NEC, sixth-seeded Tennessee State won the OVC, and Stephen F. Austin was the WAC champion.
Quinnipiac and FCU are in for the first time and Tennessee State is back for the first time since 2007.
TOURNEYS SUNDAY: Eleven more conference titles and the NCAA bids that go with them will be earned.
— Conference USA, top-seeded and 20th-ranked Western Kentucky vs. second-seeded and No. 22 Rice;
— America East, No. 2 UMBC vs. No. 4 New Hampshire
— Atlantic 10, No, 1 Loyola vs. No. Dayton
— Big South, No. 1 Campbell vs. No. 2 High Point
— Horizon League, No. 1 Wright State vs. No. 2 Northern Kentucky
— MEAC, No. 1 Coppin State vs. No. 3 Delaware State
— Patriot League, No. 1 Colgate vs. third-seeded Navy
— SWAC, No. 1 Alabama State vs. No. 2 Florida A&M
— SoCon, No. 2 Samford vs. No. 8 Furman
— Southland, No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana vs. No. 3 Houston Christian
— Sun Belt, No. 1E James Madison vs. No. 1W Texas State
Two more tournaments begin Sunday when the MAC Championship gets under way at Ball State with third-seeded Ohio vs. No. 6 Buffalo and No. 4 Central Michigan playing No. 5 Toledo. Ball State and Bowling Green await the winners for Monday’s semifinals. The Missouri Valley pits No. 5 Evansville vs. No. 8 Bradley and No. 6 Valparaiso vs. No. 7 Murray State. The winners play Southern Illinois and UIC, and those winners advance to Tuesday’s semifinals against UNI and Drake.
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ASUN: Second-seeded FGCU (26-6) beat top-seeded Liberty (23-8) as five players had six or more kills in the 25-18, 25-22, 25-15 victory. Lauren Clark has seven kills and seven blocks.
Defending champion FGCU also went to the NCAA Tournament in 2018, when the Eagles beat Texas Tech.
CAA: Top-seeded Towson (29-1) swept third-seeded Delaware (17-11) for its fourth title in a row. Towson hit .350 in the 25-15, 25-21, 25-22 victory. Victoria Barrett led with 16 kills and hit .500 to go with two blocks and six digs.
IVY LEAGUE: Yale (23-2) battled to a 25-21, 25-21, 25-27, 25-18 win over visiting and defending champion Brown (15-10). Gigi Barr had 17 kills and hit .444 and added six blocks, one solo. Sophie Miller had 22 kills for third-seeded Brown to go with an ace, three assists, a block and 13 digs.
MAAC: Quinnipiac (14-14), likely to have the shortest roster in the field, is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time after the sixth-seeded Bobcats knocked off top-seeded Fairfield (25-7). Quinnipiac got 10 kills or more from five players in the 26-24, 17-25, 25-22, 25-17 vcitory and their heights are in parentheses. Ginevra Giovagnoni (5-8) had 15 kills, an ace, two blocks and 12 digs. Nicole Legg (6-3) had 14 kills and hit .400 to go with an ace, five blocks and three digs. Lexi Morse (6-0) had 13 kills, hit .429 and had four blocks. Yagmur Gunes (5-8) had 11 kills, an ace, two blocks and 18 digs, and Aryanah Diaz (5-4) had 10 kills, three aces, three blocks and nine digs. And Damla Gunes (5-8) had a kill in her only try, 48 assists, two blocks and eight digs. Fairfield, which had won 12 in a row, had won the title 13 times.
NEC: Third-seeded FDU (Fairleigh Dickinson) is in for the first time as the Knights knocked off top-seeded Sacred Heart 21-25, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-9. FDU (17-15) got 14 kills from Sofia Rampazzo, who had an ace, nine digs and three blocks, two solo. Kylie Nott had 13 kills, an ace, four blocks and four digs, and Tatijana Fucka had 12 kills, hit .450 and had a dig and three blocks, one solo. Allegra Rivas had 29 digs and three assists. SHU’s Jasmine Rogers had 15 kills.
OVC: Few teams celebrated with more joy than Tennessee State (19-15), the No. 6 seed, after beating fifth-seeded and defending champion Southeast Missouri (17-16).
Both teams were 10-8 during the regular Ohio Valley season. Tennessee State, which advanced by beating third-seeded Morehead State and seventh-seeded Lindenwood, won 25-21, 16-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-10. Johanna Alcantara had 15 kills, an ace, two blocks and three digs. Gabrielle Johnson had 12 kills, hit .409, and had a dig and seven blocks, two solo. Kennedy Davis had nine kills, hit .300 and had three digs and 12 blocks, three solo. Sofia Garcia-Guerrios had four kills in 11 errorless tries, 35 assists, an ace, 11 digs and five blocks. TSU outblocked SEMO 20-7. Zoey Beasley had 17 kills for Southeast Missouri.
WAC: Second-seeded Stephen F. Austin (26-4), which last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2019 when it won the Southland Conference, beat fourth-seeded Utah Valley (18-11). Ielan Bradley had 17 kills and hit .469 after having two errors in 32 attacks in the 25-12, 25-22, 20-25, 25-23 victory. She added a dig and two solo blocks. Payton Cerny had 11 kills and five blocks. Utah Valley’s Kazna Tauvasa had 16 kills, three blocks, an assist, an ace and six digs.
CONFERENCE USA: In their only meeting, Western Kentucky, which has won 17 in a row, beat visiting Rice in five just 10 days ago. Saturday, the Hilltoppers (28-2) hit an incredible .494 and swept North Texas (16-15) 25-14, 25-16, 25-19. WKU had 49 kills and six errors in 87 attacks. Lauren Matthews led with 22 kills and one error in 27 swings. Katie Isenbarger had 13 kills with no errors in 19 attacks and an ace and five blocks, two solo. Rice (25-3) beat UTEP (17-12) as the Owls hit .447 in the 25-18, 25-12, 25-23 victory. Anota Adekunle had 14 kills with two errors in 18 attacks and two blocks and Sahara Maruska had 13 kills with one error in 28 swings and an assist, an ace, a block and five digs.
AMERICA EAST: UMBC (16-8) beat Bryant (19-12) in four as Kamani Conteh had 14 kills. New Hampshire (19-9), swept top-seeded Binghamton (17-8) as Hannah Serbousek had 13 kills, two blocks and 11 digs, and Kelly Kaufmann had 12 kills with one error in 21 attacks and three blocks. UMBC and UNH split their two regular-season matches.
ATLANTIC 10: Loyola Chicago (24-8) had to go five to get past fourth-seeded George Washington (18-15) as the Ramblers continued their highly successful first season in the A10. Karlie McNabb had a career-high 20 kills in the 25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 24-26, 15-12 victory to go with an assist, three aces, a block and nine digs. Addie Barnes had 16 kills, two assists, an ace and 12 digs. Third-seeded Dayton (20-13) swept second-seeded Davidson (20-10) as Lexie Almodovar led a balanced attack with 11 kills, an ace, two blocks and eight digs.
In their regular-season meetings, Dayton beat Loyola in five to give the Ramblers their only conference loss, but Loyola came back and won in four the next day.
BIG SOUTH: Once again it’s top-seeded Campbell and second-seeded High Point.
Campbell (19-10) hit .321 and swept Charleston Southern (15-16). Chloe Cook had 11 kills with one error in 29 attacks, five blocks and five digs. Melody Paige had nine kills in 16 errorless swings and six blocks. High Point (22-9) beat Winthrop (16-12) in four as the Panthers hit .317. Sydney Palazzolo had 22 kills, hit .315 and had had an ace, a block and 11 digs. Dylan Maberry had 21 kills, hitting .452. Winthrop’s Alayna Jansky had 20 kills, hit .405 and had an ace, two blocks and 18 digs.
In the regular season, Campbell beat High Point in five in both meetings, 21-19 in the fifth on November 3 at High Point.
HORIZON: Wright State (27-3), which has won 22 in a row, beat visiting Cleveland State (14-17) in four as Sam Ott had 17 kills, an ace, four blocks and six digs. Callie Martin had 14 kills, hit .400 and had an assist, an ace, four blocks and 11 digs. Katie Meyer had a kill in her only try, 50 assists, an ace, a block and 14 digs. Northern Kentucky (18-12) knocked out Green Bay (23-11) as Reilly Briggs had 12 kills in 26 errorless kills in the sweep. Anna Brinkman had 10 kills, an assist, an ace, three blocks and 21 digs.
Wright State swept its first meeting at UNK and won in five at home on November 1.
MEAC: Delaware State (23-6) beat Howard (20-10) in four and Coppin State (23-9) had to go the distance and then some as it knocked out UMES (9-18) 26-28, 19-25, 25-11, 25-20, 16-14. Alondra Maldonado had 19 kills with two errors in 26 attacks to hit .654 to go with six blocks for Delaware State. Rya McKinnon had 22 kills and hit .300 for Howard. Miajavon Coleman had 18 kills for Coppin State to go with three aces, two blocks and eight digs.
Delaware State and Coppin State split two five-set matches this season.
PATRIOT: Colgate (23-5) hit .333 and swept Loyola Maryland (11-14) as six players had five or more kills, eight by Julia Kurowski. She had one error in 15 attacks, two aces, 18 assists, three blocks and a dig. Navy (16-11) beat Army West Point (18-9) in a tough five 25-15, 24-26, 20-25, 25-17, 18-16. Jordan Llewellyn had 16 kills and hit .341 to go with an assist, an ace, 11 digs and seven blocks, one solo. Jamie Llewellyn had 15 kills, two aces, 17 digs and two blocks, one solo.
Colgate and Navy split four-set matches this season.
SWAC: Alabama State (20-13) swept Jackson State (13-15) as Kalysia Bates led a balanced attack with nine kills in 14 errorless attacks. She had three aces, two digs and eight blocks, three solo. FAMU (20-12) swept Bethune-Cookman (9-21). Brooke Lynn Watts had 17 kills for the Rattlers, hitting .438. She had a block and 18 digs.
FAMU won its first meeting with ASU in five and the Hornets won the rematch in four.
SOCON: Furman (11-18), the No. 8 seed, continued its most unlikely run on its home floor by beating fourth-seeded Chattanooga (17-16). The Paladins won 18-25, 26-24, 25-23, 24-26, 16-14 as Lauren Haynes had 19 kills, a block and 19 digs. Mary Beth Headley had 18 kills, two assists, an ace, three blocks and 19 digs. Morgan Cobb had 18 kills, hit .344 and had three blocks and two digs. Andrea Aceveda had 24 kills, five assists and three aces. Chattanooga’s Natalie Tyson had the line of the day in NCAA volleyball with 29 kills, three assists, two aces, two blocks and 15 digs. Paige Gellentine had 30 digs and an assist.
Samford (18-12) also went five to beat Western Carolina (18-12). Kenya McQuirter had 18 kills and Gracie Lynn Butler 14. In the regular season, Samford won both meeetings with Furman in four sets.
SOUTHLAND: Southeastern Louisiana (24-7) beat McNeese (18-16) in four as Kaitlin Newsome had 23 kills, hit .327, and had an ace, a block and 21 digs. Cicily Hidalgo had 16 kills, a solo block and 19 digs. HCU (23-9) beat Northwestern State (19-13) in four. Shelby O’Neal had 22 kills, 11 digs and five blocks, one solo.
SLU and HCU traded sweeps on each other’s courts this season.
SUN BELT: The two division leaders will square off, although James Madison might not have its setter.
JMU (23-4) beat Troy (18-12) in five but in the second set setter Caroline Dozier went down with an ankle injury and did not return. She had seven assists at the time and a solo block. Hannah Roberts filled in and had a kill in three errorless attacks, two aces, five blocks and three digs. Sophie Davis had 20 kills with one error in 36 attacks to hit .536 and had an assist, two aces and 10 blocks, three solo. Troy’s Amiah Butler had 22 kills, two blocks and five digs.
Texas State (24-6) beat South Alabama (18-13) also in five, 16-14 in the fifth. The Bobcats were down 14-13 when Janell Fitzgerald had three kills in a row to end it. Fitzgerald had 25 kills, hit .365 and had 21 digs and four blocks, one solo. Jada Gardner had 19 kills, hit .318 and had an ace, three blocks and 16 digs. USA’s Hannah Maddux and Maddie Sobelski had 19 kills each.
In the regular season at Texas State, the Dukes beat the Bobcats in five but Texas State bounced back and won in four the next day.