Two Big Ten showdowns highlight the Thursday NCAA Division I women’s volleyball schedule.
Ninth-ranked Nebraska, tied with Wisconsin for the conference lead, goes to Illinois, which finally cracked the rankings this week at No. 25, and third-place and No. 11 Minnesota goes to No. 7 Ohio State, which is in a four-way tie for fourth with Illinois, Purdue, and Penn State.
All three ranked SEC teams are in action, with No. 22 Tennessee at No. 23 Florida and No. 5 Kentucky at South Carolina. Also, Auburn is at Texas A&M, which is No. 38 in the NCAA RPI and trying to stay in the at-large mix for the NCAA Tournament.
The only Pac-12 match is a big one, with No. 18 Oregon at No. 19 Stanford as both teams hope to become top-16 seeds in the NCAA.
The lone Big 12 match has Kansas at West Virginia in a potentially big NCAA Tournament at-large battle. Kansas is No. 32 in the RPI, and West Virginia, No. 42, needs wins to get into the mix.
There is one ACC match, Virginia Tech at Wake Forest.
The West Coast Conference is down to two ranked teams after Pepperdine swept its only match last week but dropped out of the AVCA Poll. Nonetheless, first-place BYU, up to No. 6 in the rankings but No. 22 in the RPI, goes to Gonzaga. San Diego, ranked No. 20, is at Portland. Pepperdine is home for Saint Mary’s.
There are four Big Sky matches. First-place Weber State is idle after winning Wednesday, but Portland State, a half-game back, is home for Sacramento State.
Horizon League-leader Milwaukee is home for Cleveland State.
Ball State, which leads the West Division, plays the only Mid-American match of the day when Central Michigan visits Muncie.
There are five Mountain West matches, including first-place Colorado State home for Nevada. Utah State is a game back and entertains Air Force, and San Jose State, tied with USU, goes to Wyoming.
In the Southland, first-place Texas A&M-Corpus Christi goes to Southeastern Louisiana, and HBU, a game back, is at New Orleans.
Omaha, which holds a one-game lead in The Summit League standings, is home for North Dakota State. Second-place has a tie between Denver and South Dakota, a game back. Denver is home for North Dakota, and South Dakota is at Western Illinois.
California Baptist, which moved into first place in the WAC West, plays an afternoon match at Chicago State (look for our feature on CBU). Utah Valley, tied with CBU in the loss column, goes to Grand Canyon. Southwest Division-leader Sam Houston goes to Abilene Christian, and SFA, a game back, is at Tarleton State.
America East-leader UMBC goes to Delaware of the CAA.
JAMES MADISON OUT — There is a tie atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings between Towson and James Madison. Six teams make the CAA tournament to compete for the league’s automatic NCAA bid. But JMU, which will announce this week that it will move to the Sun Belt Conference, was told by the CAA that its teams will not be allowed to compete in league championships once the announcement is made.
“As we head into a potentially monumental week for the future of James Madison University and our intercollegiate athletics program, we were extremely disappointed to be informed by the Colonial Athletic Association that, should the university accept an invitation to another conference, JMU student-athletes would not be allowed to compete for postseason conference team championships and, therefore, for the opportunity to earn NCAA automatic team qualification,” the school said in a joint statement from President Jonathan Alger and Athletic Director Jeff Bourne. “In an era when the industry of college athletics stresses student-athlete welfare, this decision is completely contrary to those ideals.”
It’s worth checking out the Twitter feed of JMU coach Lauren Steinbrecher for more: https://twitter.com/JMUVBcoach
WEDNESDAY — The schedule was light but included another victory for Mississippi State, which now stands alone in second place in the SEC, two games behind Kentucky and a half-game up on idle Florida.
State (18-5, 9-2) won its program-record sixth SEC match in a row, a 25-15, 25-21, 25-19 victory over visiting Alabama (10-14, 2-1). Gabby Waden led with 11 kills as she hit .391 and had two blocks and two digs. Shania Cromartie had 10 kills and nine digs, and Deja Robinson and Lauren Myrick had nine kills and three blocks each. Myrick had 16 digs.
Alabama got eight kills each from Kendal Reaugh and Laila Smith, who hit .400 and had three blocks, one solo …
Weber State took over sole possession of the Big Sky by a game in the win column with a sweep at Idaho State. Rylin Adams led with 11 kills, seven digs, and two blocks …
Memphis beat visiting SMU in four in Conference USA, 30-28 in the fourth. Five Tigers had eight or more kills, 16 by Tabytha Toelke, who had an ace, 14 digs, and a block …
Georgetown won its Big East match in five over visiting Villanova. Emma Plutnicki had two kills, 30 assists, two aces, 17 digs, and two blocks. Nova’s Avery Salvador had 26 digs and five assists.