NCAA: Navy, Fordham start hot; K-State takes on Wisconsin

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Rutgers' Sahbria McLetchie, who had nine kills, eight digs and two blocks, attacks against Siena/Rutgers photo

Navy is 4-0, its best start since going 5-0 in 2008.

Fordham is 4-0 for the first time since 2010.

And Rutgers is 3-1.

All of Wednesday’s results in a bit in this NCAA roundup, but first a look at Thursday’s schedule, which includes quite a gathering in Manhattan, Kansas.

That’s where Kansas State of the Big 12 is playing host to eighth-ranked Wisconsin of the Big Ten, Arkansas of the Southeastern Conference and Syracuse of the Big East.

K-State plays Arkansas at 7 p.m. Central Thursday, followed by a Friday that has Wisconsin facing Syracuse, Wisconsin playing Arkansas and then K-State taking on Syracuse. Things wrap up Saturday with Syracuse vs. Arkansas and then Wisconsin against the home team.

“A lot of preseason scheduling is based on RPI and I think this is an attractive RPI situation,” said 17th-year K-State coach Suzie Fritz, whose Wildcats finished 21-10 last season after losing to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“And a lot of it is based on returns, agreements that you have and you try to line them up, with a lot of ‘OK, we’re coming to you and we need you to come to us. Let’s try to get this weekend off the ground and how do you feel about playing over three days.’ Just trying to get three or four programs on the same page.”

Fritz and Arkansas coach Jason Watson were K-State assistants together and he stayed on as her assistant when she got the head-coaching job.

Her team has a new setter in sophomore Sarah Dickson, who redshirted last year. Fritz said she’s been especially pleased with junior outside Kylee Zumach, junior outside Alyssa Schultejeans and freshman Brynn Carlson. Lone senior Bryna Vogel is having a strong start after labrum surgery after last season.

“We have a lot of women on our team that are significantly better than they’ve ever been,” Fritz said. “As a coach, that’s a nice feeling.

K-State opened with victories over Pacific and Idaho before getting swept by Oregon State, a team Fritz is probably better than a lot of people think.

Two power-five conference teams meet when Washington State opens its Cougar Challenge against Baylor of the Big 12. Also in Pullman are Quinnipiac, Incarnate Word and College of Charleston.

Other matchups of note on Thursday include BYU, the No. 2 team in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll, playing the host in the Boise State Classic; Oregon, ranked 14th in the AVCA poll, playing at home against Texas-Rio Grande Valley; ninth-ranked Kansas facing host Utah Valley in the Wolverine Classic; No. 22 Utah playing South Dakota; Hawai’i (No. 11 VBM) faces Western Carolina; North Dakota (tied for 15th in the VBM Poll) faces New Mexico State; and Long Beach State plays Montana.

In a battle of New York City teams, Fordham beat Manhattan 25-22, 25-16, 25-19, as sophomore right side Olivia Fairchild had 11 kills and 01 digs. Sophomore middle Elise Benjamin had nine kills.

“We served pretty tough tonight and were smart with our attacks,” Fordham coach Gini Ullery-Shrift said. ”We still need to focus on being more disciplined in our movement and continue to move at our fastest pace. We continue to grow each day. I thought Manhattan battled until the last point and challenged us throughout.”

Her team plays host to Cleveland State on Friday with an eye on becoming the first Fordham team to ever go 5-0.

Navy beat visiting Air Force 25-18, 23-25, 25-13, 28-26. Junior middle Katie Patrick ended the match with two blocks.

“I think Katie put this team on her shoulders in a big way,” Navy coach Larry Bock said. “It was really important that we had somebody who just said `I own this match, I want this match, I’m going to compete like crazy.’ Katie did just that for us tonight.”

Patrick had 12 kills and hit .579, had eight blocks, three solo.

“I think we came into this season ready to play,” Patrick said. “I think we were all very ready to have our effort finally pay off. Getting together before the season began and working hard in practice every day have definitely helped. Even tonight, with not everyone playing at the top of their game, we still were able to grind out a win. I think that shows the effort is paying off.”
Teammates Maddi Sgattoni and Maggie Phillips had 11 kills each and Dorothy Murray had 10.

Rutgers, which struggled so terribly in 2016, is off to a good start that the Scarlet Knights hope to carry over into Big Ten play. They beat visiting Siena on Thursday 25-18, 25-20, 25-6, the most lopsided set victory for Rutgers since rally scoring began in  2008.

Junior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie and freshman opposite hitter Kamila Cieslik led Rutgers with nine kills apiece, while sophomore setter Megan Sharkey had three aces and four blocks.

Katy Keenan, left, and Missy Owens of Texas Tech try to block UTEP’s Cheyenne Jon/Michael Reese photo

UTEP almost pulled off the upset in El Paso, but visiting Texas Tech rallied for a 23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 18-16 victory to improve to 2-0.

Junior setter Missy Owens had a career-high 13 kills while hitting .750, the ninth-best single-game percentage in school history. Sophomore Chandler Atwood had a career-high 15 kills, sophomore Emily Hill had 14 and junior Katy Keenan tied a career-high with 12.

“When push came to shove, we learned we had a little left to give and that was good to see,” Texas Tech coach Tony Graystone said. “The sets we lost we were right there. We have to learn how to close a little bit better. Every time UTEP made a run, they really made us work. I really saw a lot of good things about us, how hard we were able to fight back and scrap in another team’s gym.”

Macey Austin led UTEP with 15 kills, Cheyenne Jones had 13 and Mallory Yost and Briana Arellano had 10 each.

Also Wednesday, Pacific beat Sacramento State in four, Southern Miss improved to 4-1 by beating Louisiana-Lafayette and North Florida swept Savannah State.

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