Volleyball’s version of March Madness, which this year literally started in March, had a fantastic Saturday with some gripping finishes with NCAA Tournament bids on the line.
Like Lipscomb winning the ASUN in five, 16-14 in the fifth against FGCU.
And South Dakota not only pulling the reverse sweep against Denver to win the Summit League with the incredible scores of 19-25, 26-28, 27-25, 26-24, 19-17.
And Utah Valley not only upsetting NM State in the WAC but sweeping its way to the program’s first NCAA bid.
And Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which scored back-to-back upsets to win the Southland.
This roundup is about what happened Saturday. We’ll take a look at what’s ahead Sunday in the next story with details about selection Sunday and who’s in and who may be out.
Teams that clinched NCAA Tournament bids on Saturday:
— UCF, which won the American Athletic for the second straight year;
— Lipscomb, which won the ASUN for the seventh time;
— Dayton, which won the Atlantic 10 for the 14th time;
— Creighton, which won the Big East for the sixth time;
— Western Kentucky, which is 21-0 after winning Conference USA;
— Towson, which won the Colonial Athletic Association;
— Wright State, which won the Horizon League;
— Rider, which won its first Metro Atlantic title;
— Bowling Green, which won the MAC for the first time since 2012;
— North Carolina A&T, which won its first MEAC title;
— Illinois State, which won the Missouri Valley for the second straight year;
— Washington, which won the Pac-12 regular-season title;
— Army West Point, which won the Patriot League
— Samford, which won the Southern Conference for the third year in a row;
— Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which won the Southland for the third time;
— South Dakota, which won the Summit League
— Utah Valley, which won the WAC.
ACC — Georgia Tech (13-4) hit .352 and beat Duke (9-13, 7-10) in four. Julia Bergmann had 11 kills, hit .364, and had an assist, two aces, 11 digs, and two blocks, one solo. Mariana Brambilla had 15 kills, two assists, and nine digs. Ade Owokoniran had 13 kills for Duke and Gracie Johnson 12 …
Clemson (12-10, 6-9) beat visiting Virginia Tech (6-11, 5-11) in four behind 20 kills by Camryn Hannah and 17 by Solei Thomas, who had four blocks. Colleen Finney had nine kills and seven blocks, three solo … Miami (11-7,10-7) swept North Carolina (10-8, 9-7) as the Hurricanes hit .318. Elizaveta Lukianova had 14 kills, hit .500, and had an assist, three digs, and three blocks, one solo.
BIG TEN — There were four matches, two involving teams going to the NCAA Tournament, but how about Rutgers? The Scarlet Knights not only beat Michigan State for the second straight day, but finished with four consecutive victories to go 6-14, the best Big Ten finish by far for the program.
Saturday, Rutgers got 10 aces from Beka Kojadinovic and won 25-15, 16-25, 25-22, 26-24 at Michigan State (6-14). Kojadinovic also led with 11 kills, two assists, and nine digs. Kamila Cieslik had 10 kills, hit .320, and had an ace and three digs. Rutgers had 17 aces, three better than the previous team record.
“It’s unreal the amount of firsts and things we crossed off our list of what we wanted to accomplish this season. I’ve talked about how we achieve what we want to achieve, but doing in a way that was reasonable and attainable,” first-year coach Caitlin Schweihofer said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s go get six wins,’ but more ‘Let’s get a player of the week,’ and ‘Let’s go get a win for Michigan State who’ve never beaten,’ and ‘Let’s try to get a set from Nebraska.’
“It was just such a buy in from this group on those little steps. They’re big steps but from the little stuff that just equate to what our record ended up being. I’m just so proud of them.”
Rutgers finished 8-23 in 2019, 2-18 in the Big Ten.
Cecilee Max-Brown had 13 kills for Michigan State, and Alyssa Chronowski, who had five blocks, and Rebecka Poljan had 11 kills each …
In a match that couldn’t have helped Purdue (14-6) in NCAA Tournament seeding but let Illinois (7-11) end the season on high note, the visiting Illini won 15-25, 25-21, 18-25, 27-25, 15-11. Illinois hit .204 but go 23 kills from Bruna Vrankovic, who had two blocks and 11 digs. Raina Terry had 17 kills, three assists, two blocks, and 10 digs, and Megan Cooney had 14 kills, an ace, two blocks, and 12 digs. Taylor Kuper had 26 digs and six assists. Purdue had five players with eight or more kills but hit .212. Jael Johnson led with 16 as she hit .400 and had five blocks and two digs. Caitlyn Newton had 14 kills, two aces, five blocks, and 15 digs, and Grace Cleveland had 13 kills, an assist, two aces, six blocks, and four digs. Taylor Trammel had 10 kills, hit .368, and nine blocks …
Minnesota (15-2) hit .371 and swept visiting Iowa (4-16) 25-18, 25-14, 25-16. Stephanie Samedy had 14 kills, hit .370, and had two assists, an ace, three blocks, and four digs. Adanna Rollins had 11 kills, hit .333, and had two assists, two blocks, and 10 digs …
Northwestern (4-6) won in five at Maryland (5-15) as Abryanna Cannon led with 21 kills. She hit .311 and had an assist, an ace, a block, and 10 digs. Maryland’s Erika Pritchard had 18 kills, two assists, an ace, a block, and nine digs.
BIG 12 — Kansas (12-10) swept visiting Arkansas State (8-10) of the Sun Belt. Jenny Mosser led the Jayhawks with 12 kills, hitting .333, and she had two assists, five digs, and a block.
PAC-12 — Washington (17-3), hoping for one of the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament, swept at Cal (1-21) to wrap up the conference title, its third in six seasons. Five Huskies had five or more kills in the 25-16, 25-19, 25-16 victory.
“Back in March (2020) when we had to say goodbye to each other unexpectedly, their concern was about the legacy of the program and how we could add to that and that’s what we spent most of spring talking about,” Washington coach Keegan Cook said.
“This group should be incredibly proud of themselves for adding to the legacy of the program. It has a lot of meaning based on what we’ve been through.”
Lauren Sanders and Marin Grote each had nine kills with one error in 12 attacks …
Arizona (10-11) finished on a high note with a surprising sweep at Washington State (11-4) that can’t help the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament seeding. Arizona hit just .224 in the 21-25, 22-25, 20-25 victory as Sofia Maldonado Diaz had 13 kills and Paige Whipple 12. Washington State hit .101 …
Oregon (14-4) bounced back with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-17 sweep at Arizona State (6-14) as the Ducks hit .345 and Brooke Nuneviller had 14 kills with no errors in 35 attacks to hit .400. She had an assist, an ace, and 16 digs …
USC (7-8) swept visiting Colorado (8-12) as Brooklyn Schrimer had 14 kills in the 25-20, 25-16, 26-24 victory. USC is 20-1 all time against the Buffs.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC — McKenna Melville had 25 kills and UCF (16-9), which never lost an American Athletic match this spring, battled past Temple (11-6) 25-20, 24-26, 25-13, 25-20. Melville had four errors in 60 attacks and hit .350 and had an ace and 11 digs. Tali Marmen had 14 kills and hit .462 to go with three assists, nine digs, and three blocks, two solo. Anne-Marie Watson had 13 kills, hit .393, and had five blocks.
Gem Grimshaw had 20 kills for Temple.
ASUN — Lipscomb (17-2) and FGCU (14-3) played a title match worthy of the ages as the Bisons pulled it out 25-21, 26-28, 25-19, 21-25, 16-14.
Samantha Rubal led Lipscomb with 14 kills as she hit .423 and had an ace, two digs, and eight blocks, one solo. Megan Kuper had 13 kills, an assist, six blocks, and 13 digs. Alyssa Zwolensky had 23 digs, three assists, and an ace.
Lipscomb, back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, won its seventh ASUN title in program history. Worth noting: Freshman setter Delaney Dilfer, who had five kills, 50 assists, two aces, two blocks, and nine digs, joins her sister in the NCAA Tournament. Tori Dilfer is the setter for Louisville of the ACC, which will get an at-large bid for sure.
FGCU’s Eriin Shomaker was remarkable, finishing with 27 kills, an ace, a block, and 11 digs. Dana Axner had 21 digs.
ATLANTIC 10 — Dayton improved to 13-1 with its 25-15, 26-24, 25-19 victory over VCU (13-5) as the Flyers won the A10 for the 14th time. Jamie Peterson led with 14 kills, five assists, two blocks, and nine digs. Amelia Moore had 10 kills with no errors in 23 attacks, three digs, and eight blocks, one solo. VCU hit .137.
BIG EAST — Creighton (12-3) beat Marquette (10-4), which hopes for an at-large bid, 25-19, 31-29, 25-22. Jaela Zimmerman led with 16 kills, four blocks, and seven digs. Annika Welty had 12 kills and five blocks, and Naomi Hickman had 12 kills with one error in 19 swings and also five blocks. Ellie Bolton had 20 digs and five assists.
Taylor Wolf and Kaitlyn Lines had 13 kills each for Marquette. Wolf had 23 assists, four aces, and nine digs, while Lines hit .345 and had two blocks and a dig. And the incomparable Savannah Rennie — whose career started at Cal where she overcame a liver transplant, cancer, and a knee injury — had nine kills, an assist, five blocks, and four digs.
Creighton has now won six of the last seven conference titles, while Marquette lost in the final for the fourth straight season.
CONFERENCE USA — Western Kentucky (21-0) beat Rice (16-5), which assuredly will get an at-large bid, 25-20, 25-19, 21-25, 25-22. Lauren Matthews led with 20 kills as she hit .500 after having two errors in 36 attacks to go with three digs and three blocks, two solo.
WKU, 63-4 in sets this season, got 11 kills and 15 digs from Paige Briggs, while Katie Isenbarger had 10 kills with one error in 18 attacks and three blocks. Nadia Dieudonne had a kill, 52 assists, a solo block, and eight digs.
“What a day, what a match. Nothing was surprising to me about this match,” WKU coach Travis Hudson said.
“You knew it was going to be an absolute slugfest. I guess maybe the only thing that was surprising is that it didn’t end up in five sets – it seems like it normally does when we play Rice. What courage by our team. We were playing really well early and then Rice raised their level and we had to just find a way to make plays at the end and we did … It was two very complete teams playing against each other today, and when you’re in those situations it just comes down to little things and we pride ourselves on doing those little things really well.”
Rice, which hit .300, got 22 kills from Nicole Lennon, who had eight digs and three blocks. Sahara Maruska had 12 kills, an assist, an ace, and 11 digs. Carly Graham had seven kills in 12 errorless tries, 46 assists, and eight digs.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC — Towson might have played a limited schedule, but at 6-0 the Tigers are the league champs after beating Northeastern (8-3) 26-24, 25-17, 25-22 for their second straight title.
Lydia Wiers led with 13 kills in 21 errorless attacks. Defne Arliel had 15 kills for Northeastern.
HORIZON — Wright State (16-1) never lost a league match as it won its first conference title, a 19-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-15, 15-6 victory over UIC (14-3). Wright State, which went 14-0 in the regular season, had four players with nine or more kills, 15 by Mallory Ladd and 10 from Sam Wolf. UIC’s Paola Santiago had 17 kills and 14 digs.
METRO ATLANTIC — Morgan Romano had 24 kills and Rider (7-4) beat Canisius (9-4) 25-20, 29-27, 22-25, 26-24 for its first championship since 1996 when it won the Northeast Conference.
Romano had six digs and three blocks, one solo. Jillian Chan had 17 kills with one error in 36 attacks, two assists, two blocks, and three digs. Danielle Blanco had 24 digs and four assists, and Anile Sher had 58 assists, six aces, and 15 digs.
“We’re going to have a lot of work to do because we’re going to see a really good program in the first round,” Rider coach Jeff Rotondo said. “The MAAC usually gets a Big Ten school or somebody like that, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us, but I’m just happy for them to get this experience and to be a part of it as we’re still trying to build a program.”
Ella Loussia had 19 kills for Canisius as she hit .475 after having no errors in 40 attacks to go with an assist, two aces, three blocks, and six digs. Bree Long had 27 digs, nine assists, and an ace.
MID-AMERICAN — Bowling Green (22-1) grinded to a 25-17, 16-25, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Western Michigan (18-5) to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. It’s third MAC title for the program.
Petra Indrova led with 17 kills as she hit .359 and had four asists, three aces, four blocks, and 12 digs. Katelyn Meyer had 16 kills, hit .371, and had a block and two digs, and Jacqueline Askin had 15 kills, three blocks, and three digs. Hanna Laube had a kill, 45 assists, three blocks, and three digs.
Rachel Bontrager led WMU with 21 kills, an assist, two blocks, and seven digs. Meredith Phillips had 17 kills, and Logan Case had two kills in four errorless tries, 54 assists, an ace, a block, and 13 digs. Kaley Smith had 24 digs, five assists, and an ace.
MEAC — North Carolina A&T (11-1) beat Coppin State 19-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-9 for the program’s first title and NCAA trip.
Fatimah Shabazz led with 14 kills, four blocks, and three digs.
Coppin State, which also had its best season ever, got 10 kills from Chudear Tut.
MISSOURI VALLEY — Illinois State (16-5) beat Loyola (11-9) 25-14, 25-14, 20-25, 25-22 as the Redbirds won the title for the second straight year.
Kaylee Martin led with 16 kills, three aces, and 10 digs. Sydney Holt had 14 kills with one error in 23 attacks, three digs, and four blocks, two solo. Sarah Kushner had 10 kills, an assist, an ace, 11 digs, and three blocks, two solo.
Loyola’s Taylor Venuto had 11 kills with one error in 29 attacks, three digs, and six blocks, one solo, and Sarah Murczek had nine kills, 16 digs, and two blocks, one solo.
PATRIOT — Army West Point (5-2) may be young and have played just seven matches but the Black Knights won at Colgate (8-2). Two freshmen, Mackenzie Karing and Allanah Cutler, had 16 kills each in the 23-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 victory.
Karing had three errors in 28 attacks to hit .464, an assist, a block, and four digs. Cutler had five errors in 28 swings, three blocks, and five digs. Hannah Presley had six kills, 43 assists, an ace, and seven digs.
Alli Lowe led Colgate with 22 kills as she hit .309 and had an ace, three digs, and three blocks, one solo.
SOUTHERN — Samford (15-3) swept Mercer (15-8) 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 to win the SoCon tournament for the fourth time in five years.
The Bulldogs, who hit .291, were led by Lauren Deaton, who had 15 kills, an assist, two blocks, and 14 digs. Kayle Keshock had three kills in four errorless tries, 31 assists, a block, and nine digs.
Mercer’s Annie Karle had 17 kills, hit .342, and had an assist, a block, and 11 digs.
SOUTHLAND — Fourth-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (14-4) beat both the favorites, first knocking off top-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals before beating second-seeded Sam Houston (11-3) 25-19, 34-36, 25-23, 13-25, 15-12.
Six Islanders had eight or more kills, 17 by Hannah Froeschl, who hit .324 and had four digs and five blocks, one solo. Rachel Young had 16 kills with two errors in 41 attacks, theee blocks, and a dig. Montez Uigaese had 14 kills, three blocks, and a dig. Faith Panhans had eight kills, 62 assists, an ace, and nine digs. Carissa Barnes had 36 digs, seven assists, and an ace.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team and am so happy that they get to enjoy this special time after all their hard work,” TAMUCC coach Steve Greene said.
“The confidence and poise everyone showed today and throughout this season is a testament to how much they truly care about one another and our program.”
Sam Houston’s Ashley Lewis had 20 kills, an assist, three solo blocks, and 13 digs. Breanne Chausse had 14 kills, a solo block, and 12 digs. De’Janae Gilmore had 12 kills, hit .579 after having one error in 19 swings, an assist, an ace, seven digs, and two blocks, one solo. Hannah Baker had 28 digs, three assists, and three aces.
SUMMIT — South Dakota (15-6) not only went down 0-2 to Denver (14-3), but faced match point in the third, down 25-24. Ultimately the Coyotes won 19-25, 26-28, 27-25, 26-24, 19-17 to win the conference’s bid for the second time in three years.
Elizabeth Juhnke led with 23 kills as she hit .288 after having four errors in 66 attacks to go with two assists, 19 digs, and three blocks. Sami Slaughter, who had the match-winning kill, had 20 kills, hit .362, and had an assist, four blocks, and six digs. Interestingly, Slaughter had a bad miss on an attack with the match tied at 16.
“I mean, that was awesome,” Slaughter said.
“I mean I took a swing right before that and it sailed way out. And while I was like, hey, take a big swing and you got it, and I felt like in the back of my mind, that’s all I was thinking about and so I just took a big rip.”
Maddie Wiedenfeld had nine kills, two assists, four blocks, and a dig. Madison Harms had seven kills and nine blocks, two solo, and Lolo Weideman had 24 digs and five assists. Madison Jurgens had three kills, 53 assists, two blocks, and 14 digs.
Denver had 82 kills with six players having 10 or more kills. Katarina Marinkovic led with 17. Brianna Green had 16, hit .393, and had four blocks. Tina Boe had 13 kills, hit .321, and had an assist, two aces, three blocks, and four digs. Lydia Bartalo had 12 kills, an assist, two aces, five blocks, and 19 digs. Macy Carrabine had 32 digs and two assists.
WAC — NM State (16-2) finished the season with just two losses, but both were to Utah Valley (14-5), which came away with a 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 sweep on its home court to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Kazna Tanuvasa led UVU with 13 kills. Kaili Downs had nine and Tori Dorius eight. Their team hit .180. NM State, which hit .157, got 12 kills from Victoria Barrett.
WEST COAST — Pepperdine (16-3, 16-2), all but assured of an at-large bid, won in four at Santa Clara (5-13). Rachel Ahrens led with 19 kills, an assist, four aces, a block, and five digs. Santa Clara’s Julia Sangiacomo had 19 kills, two assists, three blocks, and 10 digs.