NCAA: Pitt knocks out Utah, WKU ousts WSU, BYU tops UCLA, Penn State cruises

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NCAA volleyball round 4 4/15/2021
BYU's Leilani Dodson and her teammates celebrate a point against UCLA/Mark Kuhlmann, NCAA Photos

On paper, they were upsets, because Utah was seeded No. 14 and Washington State No. 15.

But Pitt, which knocked off Utah, was the hottest Power 5 team in the country this spring.

And WKU, well, the unbeaten Hilltoppers certainly should have been seeded.

The end result Thursday night in the late matches was that Pitt — which has won 14 in a row — swept Utah, and WKU — now 23-0 — won in epic style in five over Washington State.

Not to be lost in all that was BYU’s sweep of UCLA that was quite a thriller itself, and that Penn State cruised past North Carolina A&T.

It sets up the following NCAA round-of-16 schedule (all times Eastern), noting that BYU, because of religious reasons, gets an exception not to play on Sunday:

Saturday
BYU vs. Wisconsin, 8 p.m., ESPN3
Sunday
Pitt vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m., ESPN3
Baylor vs. Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., ESPNU
Louisville vs. Washington, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3
Penn State vs. Texas, 5 p.m., ESPNU
Ohio State vs. Florida, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Oregon vs. Purdue, 8:30 p.m., ESPNU
Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky, 10 p.m., ESPN2

Earlier Thursday in the first set of four matches, Baylor beat Pepperdine, Louisville beat San Diego, Ohio State beat Missouri, and Oregon beat Notre Dame.

Then in the second session, Purdue beat High Point, Nebraska beat Texas State, Florida beat Morehead State, and Washington beat Dayton.

In the third set of matches, the top four seeds all won as Wisconsin swept Weber State, Kentucky swept UNLV, Minnesota swept Georgia Tech, and Texas swept Wright State.

WKU’s Page Briggs hits against Washington State’s Hannah Pukis/Mark Kuhlmann, NCAA Photos

WKU TOPPLES WSU — Western Kentucky (23-0), the Conference USA champion, won a wild one 25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 17-25, 15-10 to make it to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time.

“I’m almost at a loss for words, I’m just so crazy proud of these kids,” WKU coach Travis Hudson said. “That was one roller coaster of a match. To be in control and up 14-8 in the third set and for Washington State to come roaring back and to have to just find a way in that fifth set. 

“I was much more concerned about mentality in that fifth set than I was about actual volleyball, and we were able to come out and find our aggressiveness and we had just enough to win this thing.”

WKU, which lost in five in the second round in both 2017 and 2019, broke a 10-10 tie in the fifth set. Three of those points came on kills by Lauren Matthews, who led the Toppers with 20 kills. She hit .357, and had an assist and four blocks, one solo. 

“I don’t even know how to feel,” Matthews said. “When the ball dropped I was kind of in shock, like: ‘We just did that.’ I don’t know how to feel right now, yeah, that’s where I’m at.”

Paige Briggs had 17 kills, an assist, an ace, two solo blocks, and 14 digs. Kayland Jackson had 10 killls, hit .350, and had five blocks. Katie Isenbarger had nine kills with one error in 18 attacks to hit .444 and had four blocks and three digs.

Nadia Dieudonne had three kills in six errorless tries, 55 assists, two blocks, and four digs. Her team hit .300. Hallie Shelton had 14 digs and three aces, and Logan Kael had 13 digs and an ace.

Washington State, an at-large from the Pac-12, ended its season 11-5 as four players had 10 or more kills. Magda Jehlarova had 14 while hitting .462 and she had five blocks and two digs. Julianna Dalton had 14 kills, four blocks, and a dig. Pia Timmer had 13 kills, an ace, a block, and 10 digs, and Kalyah Williams had 10 kills, hit .364, and had an block and a dig.

Hannah Pukis had 52 assists as her team hit .245. She also had an ace and 10 digs. Aria McComber had 14 digs and an ace. Julia Norville had five aces and eight digs.

PITT THUMPS UTAH — The Panthers (18-4), an at-large from the ACC, completely overpowered Utah (13-5), an at-large from the Pac-12 25-16, 25-18, 25-19, as they hit .369.

Chinaza Ndee led Pitt with 17 kills as she hit .412 after having three errors in 34 attacks. She had three blocks and two digs. Kayla Lund had 15 kills with one error in 30 attacks to hit .467 and added two aces, two blocks, and 16 digs. Valeria Vazquez Gomez had eight kills, hit .333, and had an assist, an ace, a block, and six digs. 

Kyle Levers and Lexis Akeo combined for 40 assists and 14 digs.

Utah’s Dani Drews, as she did all season, led the Utes with 20 kills while hitting .341. She had a block and seven digs. Kenzie Koerber had 10 kills, an assist, two blocks, and nine digs. But their teammates combined for 11 kills as Utah hit .203. Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had 35 assists and nine digs. 

BYU SWEEPS UCLA — West Coast Conference-champion BYU, the No. 16 seed, won two thrilling sets and then pulled away in the third for a 26-24, 31-29, 25-17 victory over UCLA.

BYU (17-1) is back in the round of 16 for the eighth time in nine seasons. 

“I want to congratulate UCLA on a great season. They were a great opponent,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “We’re excited to be advancing and we’re grateful for the NCAA changing up the tournament a little bit for us by moving our match to Saturday.”

Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the Cougars with 13 kills, an assist, five blocks, and nine digs. Erin Livingston had 12 kills, three blocks, and a dig. Kennedy Eschenberg had 11 kills, hit .421, and had a dig and eight blocks, two solo. BYU had 16 blocks, its most in a three-set match since 2015.

Whitney Bower had a kill, 38 assists, three blocks, and 11 digs, as her team hit .256. Madi Allen had 13 digs. Abby Datyon had three aces, four digs, and an assist.

UCLA (15-7) hit .115. Mac May, tremendous all season, led with 18 kills and seven digs. Iman Ndiaye had eight kills and a block, and élan McCall had seven kills, two aces, four blocks, and eight digs. Audrey Pak and Kate Lane combined for 35 assists and 13 digs.

PENN STATE SWEEPS NC A&T — The 13th-seeded Nittany Lions (10-5), an at-large from the Big Ten, hit .352 and blasted MEAC-champion North Carolina A&T 25-11, 25-19, 25-15.

Jonni Parker, Kaitlyn Hord, and Annie Cate Fitzpatrick had nine kills each and Serena Gray had seven. They combined for nine blocks and Fitzpatrick had four aces. Gabby Blossom had two kills in three errorless attempts, and had 29 assists, an ace, and three digs. 

A&T (9-2), which advanced when Rice had to forfeit its first-round match, hit .133. Courteney Pitt led with seen kills. Edie Brewer had six, 11 assists, a block, and two digs.

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