NCAA: Texas hangs on, Beach beats Hawai’i, big Sunday on tap

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Annie Mitchem of Hawai'i beats the Long Beach State block/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Texas won, but the No. 4 Longhorns got all they could imagine from visiting Iowa State.

Long Beach State went five to beat visiting Hawai’i, ranked No. 12.

And Iowa keeps rolling, bringing in crowds who want to see the hottest Hawkeyes in 18 years.

It was typical of a week that was anything but boring and Monday will certainly be interesting when the new AVCA Division I poll and NCAA RPI rankings come out.

First, a look at Sunday schedule, loaded with some big matches in the Pac-12.

No. 8 Washington State tries to keep things going when the Cougars go to No. 20 Oregon. Arizona, coming off its three-set victory at USC, goes to No. 18 UCLA. Stanford, ranked No. 7, plays host to Utah, No. 8 Washington plays at Oregon State, and No. 19 Colorado goes to Cal.

In the Big Ten, No. 14 Ohio State goes to No. 23 Michigan, No. 14 Purdue plays at No. 3 Nebraska and Northwestern goes to No. 1 Minnesota.

The SEC is busy Sunday with its highest-ranked team, No. 11 Florida, is at South Carolina. No. 25 Kentucky plays host to Tennessee. Also, LSU goes to Georgia, Alabama plays at Auburn, Arkansas goes to Missouri and Texas A&M travels to Ole Miss.

The ACC has a full slate, too, with No. 9 North Carolina, coming off its big win over No. 16 Florida State, playing host to Miami.

The Big 12 has the day off.

Also:

Keep an eye on Temple at SMU in a battle for the top spot in the Big East, and also in that league Tulane at UCF and UConn at Tulsa.

Rice tries to hold onto first in Conference USA when it goes to FIU and UTSA will be trying to do the same at Marshall, where last week we featured Marshall’s Madison Hill on this site.

Back to Saturday.

Texas holds off Cyclones

There are few tougher places to play in NCAA volleyball than Gregory Gym on the campus of the University of Texas. And Iowa State went down 0-2 before things got interesting. Ultimately, Texas pulled it out 25-21, 27-25, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10 to improve to 13-2, 5-0 in the Big 12.

“For some reason, we didn’t have that urgency from the start,” said UT senior Paulina Prieto Cerame, who had 16 kills. “Obviously, the fourth set was a wake-up call and in the fifth set you have to compete. I think that we need to step it up and compete from the beginning and that should be motivation enough to put our nerves aside and do what we need to do.”

Freshman Micaya White had 17 kills for Texas. Junior Ebony Nwanebu had 13, hitting .303.

Sophomore Yasmeen Bedart-Ghani added seven kills hitting .400, while freshman Blair Westerlund had five hitting .385 in her Texas debut.

Senior Chloe Collins posted 46 assists and 11 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. She also had three aces, three kills and one block.

Junior Cat McCoy had 23 digs, while Nwanebu, Westerlund and sophomore Morgan Johnson all recorded four blocks.

Iowa State, 8-8 and 1-4, got 15 kills from Jess Schaben, while Alexis Conaway had 12 and hit. 455.

“We have a really special team, I think we can be really good,” UT coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We need to figure out their identity and figure out what we want to be a part of. I know that we had some new players in there and I thought they did a nice job. We did some good things offensively, but defensively, it wasn’t as good.

“We just have to be able to play one game at a time and compete for that amount of time and execute at a high level. If we do that, good things will happen and that’s going to be the goal.”

Hawai'i's Tayler Higgins (center) pancakes a ball after losing a shoe during the rally
Hawai’i’s Tayler Higgins, right, pancakes a ball after losing a shoe during the rally/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Beach beats Rainbow Wahine

Long Beach State’s 25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 21-25, 15-13 win over visiting Hawai’i was its first over a team ranked in the top 15 since 2010.

“Tonight was what Long Beach State and Hawai’i have been doing for forever,” LBSU coach Brian Gimmillaro said after a match that took 2, hours, 35 minutes “It was great volleyball. What you saw is what volleyball is supposed to look like.”

His team improved to 12-7, 6-0 in the Big West. Hawai’i dropped to 12-5 and 5-1.

There were 3,212 fans in the Pyramid as Anete Brinke had 12 kills and a career-best 23 digs and libero Hailey Harward had a match-high and career-high 27 digs. It’s the second time the freshman has set a career-best in digs this week after racking up 23 on Wednesday in Riverside.

Neither team led by more than two points in the fifth set, one in which Hawai’i hit .429 and Beach .478. Nele Barber had four of her 20 kills kills in the set, including match point. Barber, who had 66 swings, hit just 0.76.

Nikki Taylor led the Rainbow Wahine with 28 kills and a season-high and match-high 19 digs, while McKenna Granato and Annie Mitchem added 10 kills apiece. The loss snapped UH’s seven-match win streak.

The loss snaps Hawai’i’s 26-Big West match win streak and UH’s 15 BWC road win steak—both streaks started in 2014. UH’s last conference loss and road loss both came at the Pyramid on Nov. 7, 2014 when the 49ers won in five sets.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa

The ninth-largest crowd in school history, 2,144, came out to watch the Hawkeyes sweep Indiana 26-24, 25-19, 25-14 as Iowa won its fourth consecutive Big Ten match.

Iowa is 14-4, 4-2 in the Big Ten, its best start since 1988,

“Nothing is easy in the Big Ten,” said Iowa coach Bond Shymansky, whose team was 2-18 in the conference last year. “A 3-0 victory in or out of conference play is good fortitude by our group to focus all the way through.

“We can’t help but smile right now to be at 4-2 in conference play and 14-4 overall. That’s a really good start for us, but we are still at the beginning of the marathon. I really love what our group is doing right now.”

Meghan Buzzerio and Kasey Reuter led Iowa with eight kills apiece and Reghan Coyle added seven.

Also in the Big Ten on Saturday, No. 2 Wisconsin had to work hard to hold off No. 24 Illinois 25-15, 18-25, 26-24, 25-19. It left the Badgers 14-1, 6-0 in the Big Ten, while Illinois is 11-6, 4-2.

Sophomore Tionna Williams led with a career-high 18 kills and a season-high .708 hitting percentage with one error on 24 attempts, as well as recording five total blocks. Senior Haleigh Nelson added 12 kills, seven digs and two blocks, while senior Romana Kriskova had 10 kills and an ace.

Senior Naya Crittenden led Illinois with a team-high 13 kills on 29 attacks and four errors for a .310 hitting percentage, while classmate Michelle Strizak had 12 kills on 30 swings and no errors to hit .400. Sophomore Ali Bastianelli equaled a career-high with 11 kills on 24 attacks and only three errors for a .333 hitting percentage, while adding five blocks and a service ace.

Michigan State won its third in a row as the No. 21 Spartans beat visiting Maryland 25-16, 22-25, 25-20, 25-17. MSU is 15-3, 4-2, while Maryland

Senior Chloe Reinig led MSU with 14 kills, hit .462 and had five blocks.

“I thought we maybe got away from our game plan a little bit in the second set, and as teams in this league will do, they made us pay for it,” MSU coach Cathy George said. “I thought we got back to it in the third, and I really liked the way we took control about halfway through the fourth set and emphatically closed it out.

“That is a much-improved Maryland team that has a deceiving record, because they can make trouble for you every night. We’re happy with two wins this weekend for sure, and now we get ready to try to tackle a quick turnaround to play at Illinois on Wednesday. Winning on the road in this league is no small feat, so we’re going to have to prepare ourselves well.”

Maryland, 8-10, 0-6, got a career-high 21 kills from freshman Gia Milana.

“I’m happy with the fight this team showed tonight,” Maryland coach Steve Aird said. “Michigan State played pretty physically, and they’re a tough serving team, but I think we were able to hang with them. We’re showing a lot of growth, and this team keeps learning in every match. The Big Ten is unrelenting, but we’ll keep working as we continue.”

Also, Penn State kept visiting Rutgers winless in the league as the No. 15 Nittany Lions cruised 25-13, 25-16, 25-10. Penn State is 14-3, and still atop the Big Ten at 6-0. Penn State hit .425, led by Tori Gorrell and Simone Lee with 11 kills each.

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Kansas blockers Kelsie Payne, left, and Kayla Cheadle stuff Texas Tech/Laura Jacobsen, Kansas Athletics

No. 6 Jayhawks rough on Texas Tech

KU had its “Jayhawks for a Cure” match when it beat Texas Tech 25-8, 25-18, 25-8 and benefitted from 10 aces, six from junior outside Madison Rigdon.

She also had nine kills, while junior All-American right-side hitter Kelsie Payne had 12 kills on a .526 hitting percentage as their team impvoed to 15-2, 4-1 in the Big 12 and dropped Texas Tech to 10-10, 0-5 in a match that lasted an hour, 11 minutes.

Also in the Big 12, Kansas State survived the first set and then beating visiting TCU 33-31, 21-25, 25-18, 25-15. K-State is 14-4, 3-2, while TCU is 10-6, 3-3. On Friday, Oklahoma went to West Virginia and won in a sweep, and then a day later won in four on the same floor 19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22. It left OU 11-7, 2-3, while WVU dropped to 10-9, 2-4.

Wahoo! UVA sweeps Clemson

In the only ACC match of the day, Virginia overpowered visiting Clemson 25-15, 25-21, 25-16. Virginia is 4-14, 1-5, and has been grinding.

“It just feels really good to get a win,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “I thought the girls were very solid tonight. They did a lot of what we asked them to do.

“Clemson has been fighting the same struggle we have been in. I felt like we were very aggressive from the start and for the most part I was pretty happy with what we did tonight.”

Clemson is 5-13, 0-6.

Two other ranked teams were in action Saturday.

No. 13 BYU keeps rolling. The Cougars dismantled visiting Pacific 25-22, 25-11, 25-17 to improve to 16-2, 5-1 in the West Coast Conference. McKenna Miller led with 12 kills.

“I thought our energy was good today,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “I thought we had a really nice balanced offense and a really good defensive effort. Overall, I thought it was one of our most complete volleyball matches this year.”

And No. 25 Western Kentucky improved to 17-2, 5-0 in Conference USA, with a 25-27, 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 win at Southern Miss. Alyssa Cavanaugh led with 21 kills.

Also Saturday, in a key Mountain West match, Colorado State went to UNLV and came away with a 25-16, 25-14, 14-25, 25-21 victory to lay claim to sole possession of first place. CSU is 11-5, 5-0 MW, while UNLV is 16-2, 5-1 …

Fairfield won for the 10th straight time as the Stags swept Quinnipiac to improve to 16.5, 9-0 in the Metro Atlantic … Dayton is 18-1, 5-0 in the Atlantic 10 after sweeping Fordham … Radford rules the Big South, winning in four at Gardner-Webb to improve to 16-3, 7-0 in the BSC … Southern Illinois took over the top spot in the Missouri Valley after the Salukis beat Illinois State to improve to 15-6, 6-1.

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