Houston cancels trip, St. Thomas More loses 10 matches, Wednesday’s NCAA recaps

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Courtney Crable attacks for Auburn in the Tigers' victory over Alabama State/Auburn photo

There are matches every night this week as we head into the second weekend of the NCAA women’s volleyball season, with a whopping 215 matches scheduled for Friday and 243 on Saturday.

First an update on Hurricane Harvey’s continuing effect on volleyball in the Houston area.

The University of Houston will not make its trip to George Mason this weekend. The university president shut down all of its sports teams. That includes the football team’s season opener at UTSA in nearby San Antonio. The volleyball team was to play host George Mason, Penn and Central Michigan.

This is the statement from Houston president Renu Khator:

“Everyone in our university community, including our student-athletes, coaches and their staff, has been impacted by this incredible storm. This is a time for all of us to focus on the wellbeing of our families and neighbors and the recovery of the Houston area. We’ll be excited to resume athletic competition, but right now our student-athletes are anxious to contribute to getting the city we love so much back on its feet again.

Added Houston Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek, “Our focus during the coming days will be on assisting the City of Houston and University of Houston communities in recovery efforts and allowing our coaches, staff and student-athletes to devote the necessary time to ensuring the safety and security of their family, friends and loved ones. We are very appreciative of the UH fan base and supporters, UTSA and their Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey along with our counterparts at LSU, Mississippi State, George Mason and Houston Baptist, in supporting this decision.”

There is a big-time gathering still on at Texas A&M, where No. 1 Stanford and No. 5 Penn State visit College Station. The teams are now flying into Dallas and driving south, since the Houston airports are closed. Stanford and Penn State play at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Texas A&M plays Penn State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and then the Aggies play Stanford at 11 a.m. Sunday. Both A&M matches will be shown on the SEC Network and the Watch ESPN app.

St. Thomas More, an NAIA school located in Houston not far from Rice, has lost a total of 10 matches so far. Coach Keanne Burt reports what the Celts have gone through:

“We drove to San Antonio on Thursday (August 24) for a tournament Friday and Saturday. At breakfast on the 25th I received notification that Saturday’s portion of the tournament had been cancelled and that only Friday’s games would be played.

“After this news I called my A.D. and he advised us to to come back to Houston to get ahead of the storm, so after our arrival to San Antonio around 11:30 Thursday night, we headed back for Houston at 10 a.m. on Friday.

“We safely made it back to Houston ahead of the storm and gave the girls enough time to evacuate campus and get to their houses.”

Burt reported that not only has St. Thomas lost its season home opener Wednesday night when Texas Wesleyan was scheduled to visit, but also its eight-team annual Labor Day Weekend tournament.

Burt, in her fourth season, took in a few inches of water into her home in Huffman, northeast of Houston. She said the school’s gym appears to be OK, but the pool and sand-courts flooded. Three of her players’ homes have taken in a substantial amount of water, Burt said.

There are a couple of power-five conference teams in action Wednesday. Texas Tech of the Big 12 goes to UTEP, while the Bit Ten’s Rutgers plays host to Siena.

Texas Tech is another team affected by the storm. The Red Raiders saw both their season-opening matches, against Northern Kentucky and Houston Baptist, canceled last Friday, and their matches against Texas Southern and South Alabama canceled on Saturday, so they ended up at North Texas north of Dallas and won 3-1.

“This was a crazy week that ended with the best possible outcome,” Texas Tech coach Tony Graystone said. “With so many unknowns and adjusting on the fly, I give the players a lot of credit for being flexible, adapting and taking on this challenge. This was nontraditional to say the least.”

UTEP, located 350 miles south of Lubbock, is 0-2.

Rutgers, which went 4-29 last year, 0-20 in the Big Ten, is 2-1 after winning twice on Saturday at East Carolina, beating William & Mary in three and then ECU in four.

“We’re really excited,” said Rutgers coach CJ Werneke, whose team lost to Georgia State on Friday. “We believe in our team, we believe in our talent, and what a difference a day makes. Not just physically, but mentally. We played with confidence, we played together, and it feels great to be 2-1 and a tournament champion.”

Siena is 0-3. Rutgers, by the way, was 4-1 last season before losing its last 28 matches, taking just one set each off Indiana and Iowa in B1G play.

Speaking of a tough time for a power-five team, Clemson of the ACC got swept at home Tuesday by Kennesaw State 25-21, 25-16, 25-11. Clemson had opened 3-0, while Kennesaw, a team in the Atlantic Sun located just north of Atlanta, is 2-0. Anaiah Boyer led KSU with 12 kills while hitting .310 and another team high with nine digs. Clemson hit minus-010.

Western Kentucky is 4-0. The fourth-ranked team in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll is picking right up where it left off in 2016. The Hilltoppers blasted Tennessee State 25-12, 25-15, 25-15 as Alyssa Cavanaugh had 18 kills in 22 swings to hit .818. Her team hit .448.

Auburn’s Brenna McIlroy attacks against Alabama State/Auburn photo

Auburn of the SEC improved to 3-1 by sweeping visiting Alabama State (2-1). Shaina White and Gwyn Jones had 10 kills apiece for the Tigers.

Dayton, ranked No. 9 in the VBM Polll, dealt visiting Ohio at 28-26, 16-25, 25-8, 25-19 defeat. Both teams are 3-1. Lauren Bruns led with 18 kills.

Colorado State, ranked No. 13 in the VBM Poll, swept visiting Northern Colorado to improve to 2-1. Kirstie Hillyer had nine kills and hit .615, while Breanna Runnels added nine kills and Jasmine Hanna and Sanja Cizmic seven each. The Rams hit .403.

Visiting Miami, Ohio, tied for 18th in the VBM Poll, knocked off Xavier, tied for No. 15, 28-26, 26-24, 21-25, 25-18. Both teams are 3-1. Olivia Rusek, Margaret Payne and Katie Tomasic had 12 kills each for Miami and Stela Kukoc had 11. Kristen Massa had 19 for Xavier and 17 digs.

Carlisa May of Arkansas State

Visiting Arkansas State, No. 23 in the VBM Poll, won at Southern Illinois 25-20, 22-25, 25-13, 25-22. The Red Wolves got 23 kills from Carlisa May, who hit .294 and had nine digs and two solo blocks. Her team is 2-2, while SIU fell to 0-4.

Youngstown State is 4-0 after beating Robert Morris 25-22, 25-23, 18-25, 18-25, 15-11. Sarah Varcolla led the Penguins with 14 kills and seven blocks.

And the Mastodons of Fort Wayne are 3-1 after beating IUPUI 25-22, 25-22, 25-23 behind 16 kills, 14 digs, four blocks and two aces from Nicole Rightnowar.

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