NCAA roundup: 5 ranked teams fall on wild volleyball Sunday

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Paige Tapp of Minnesota hits through the Northwestern block/Minnesota photo

Down goes No. 7!

Down goes No. 10!

Down goes No. 14!

Down goes No. 18!

Down goes No. 19!

The saying was about football, but on any given Sunday in NCAA volleyball any team can lose. The casualties were No. 7 Stanford falling to unranked Utah, No. 10 Washington State getting hammered at No. 20 Oregon, No. 14 Ohio State falling to No. 23 Michigan, No. 18 UCLA losing to Arizona, and No. 19 Colorado getting beat by Cal, which hadn’t won a Pac-12 match since October 29 last year, breaking a 14-match losing streak in the league.

There are just five matches on the NCAA Division I schedule Monday. That includes two teams ranked in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll, No.17 Southern Illinois at No. 8 Wichita State in a key Missouri Valley battle. Also, Delaware goes to Northeastern and who’s coaching? More on that later.

Ivana Vanjak swings against Utah/Stanford photo
Ivana Vanjak swings against Utah/Stanford photo

Cal, Arizona, Utah score big Pac-12 victories

Start with Cal, which was 5-35 the past two years in the Pac-12 and was 0-5 entering Sunday’s match against visiting Colorado.

The Bears improved to 7-9, 1-5 with their 25-22, 25-23, 18-25, 25-21 victory, two days after experiencing both the high of having the return of liver-recipient Savannah Rennie but losing in three to Utah.

Sophomore middle blocker Belen Castillo had a career-high 16 kills and matched her career-best with six blocks. Junior Christine Alftin tied a career-high with 16 digs to go along with 13 kills. And Cal registered 14 blocks as a team – its highest total since Oct. 31, 2014 against Oregon.

“There were such mixed emotions Friday, between the high of Savannah and the low of playing maybe our worst match of the season,” Cal coach Rich Feller said. “Our locker room talk after or match on Friday was very low. We were happy Savannah was back on the court, but we were very disappointed. They were hard on themselves and the coaches were hard on the players.”

Colorado, rather, fell to 10-6, 2-4, as the Buffs fell to 0-4 on the road this season.

Sophomore Alexa Smith had 14 kills, while junior Gabby Simpson had 12  Simpson also recorded 20 assists and eight digs while Smith tied a team-best 14 digs.

“This was a disappointing loss. Cal played well, but we helped them along with our share of unforced errors and missed opportunities. Everyone in our league defends their home floor well and we have to find a way to break through on the road.”

They get the chance again next weekend with a tough trip to Washington and WSU.

Speaking of WSU, the Cougars are off to their best start in 18 years, but Sunday they were no match for Oregon. The 25-21, 25-10, 25-14 sweep took just 1 hour, 16 minutes as Oregon bounced back from getting swept two days earlier by visiting Washington.

“The loss was really tough, we came out really aggressive,” said Oregon junior Taylor Agost, who led the Ducks with nine kills. “We were all over them, we just really wanted this win. The energy was high and the focus was really good and we came out and were successful.”

It left Oregon (12-3) and WSU (15-3) tied atop the Pac-12 standings at 5-1. Washington, Utah, Stanford and Arizona are all 4-2.

Agost hit .409 and Jolie Rasmussen, who also had nine kills, hit .438. Lauren Page had seven kills and hit .700 and also had six blocks.

“There was a different feeling before this game,” Oregon coach Jim Moore said. “We felt like we were protecting something. We have to learn to be the top team. We have to stop wanting to be the underdog. We have to start accepting the fact that we’re good and people expect you to win.”

WSU hit just .056.

“We got out-played in every single category today,” Cougars coach Jen Greeny said. “We have to be tougher mentally and be able to respond. We aren’t sneaking up on anyone. When the pressure is getting put on us from another team we need to be able to respond and I don’t think well did that very well today.

“Oregon is a fantastic team and expected their strong offense but I’m disappointed that we didn’t respond in those situations and especially our side-out percentage was atrocious. We have to be able to put the ball away especially against a good offensive team because they are going to fire right back at you. That is definitely something that we have to get back in the gym and get better at.”

Kyra Holt led WSU with nine kills.

Arizona coach Dave Rubio, in his 27th year, had never won both matches in the Los Angeles road swing. Well, after upsetting USC on Friday, the Wildcats came back from being down 0-2 at UCLA to win 18-25, 17-25, 25-16, 25-21, 15-12.

“We had to dig deep for this one,” Rubio said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in a match like that. I am extremely proud of how we fought back against a really good UCLA team.”

Arizona, once 0-3, is now 12-6, 4-2. UCLA is 12-4, 3-4.

Penina Snuka (45 assists, 25 digs), Kalei Mau (18 kills, 17 digs) and Kendra Dahlke (12 kills, 17 digs) led Arizona. And  Tyler Spriggs did not have an attack in the first two sets, but inn the final three had 12 kills on 24 error-free swings, three digs and three blocks.

“Tyler Spriggs played lights out,” Rubio said. “She subbed in the third set and came up huge for us.”
UCLA freshman Torrey Van Winden had a team- and career-best 16 kills, also setting a personal high with seven digs and tying a season best with four blocks. Junior Reily Buechler added 14 kills and seven digs, while senior Jordan Anderson posted 12 kills and five digs. Senior Taylor Formico had 36 digs and eight assists.

Utah beat Stanford for only the second time in school history and the first time since 2000. The 26-24, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19 victory marks the first time the Utes have won three straight matches on the road against AVCA top-25 ranked opponents. Previous Utah beat then-No. 9 BYU and then-No. 16 Colorado.

Utah is 13-4, while Stanford is 10-4.

Adora Anae led with 20 kills, four aces and a couple of blocks, while Carly Trueman added 13 kills and Tawnee Luafalemana 11 kills and four blocks.

Merete Lutz led the Stanford with 13 kills on .345 hitting and nine blocks. Inky Ajanaku added 11 kills, hitting .474, nine blocks, three digs and an ace, while Audriana Fitzmorris had 12 kills and three blocks.

Washington had to go four to win at Oregon State 26-24, 17-25, 26-24, 25-12 to improve to 14-2, 4-2, while OSU fell to 8-9, 1-5.

Two days earlier Washington swept Oregon, but lost freshman middle Kara Bajema, who had 12 kills, to a foot injury.

Crissy Jones moved to middle and had 12 kills, hitting .324, and served three aces, including two in a row that came when UW went from down 22-24 in the first set.  Courtney Schwan led all players with 21 kills and added 17 digs, while hitting .421 with four assists.

Amber Rolfzen of Nebraska gets the ball over the Purdue block/Nebraska photo
Amber Rolfzen of Nebraska gets the ball over the Purdue block/Nebraska photo

Ohio State reeling in Big Ten

A week earlier, Ohio State knocked off then unbeaten and No. 1 Nebraska. But Friday, the Buckeyes got swept at Michigan State and then Sunday lost at Michigan 25-20, 25-23, 16-25, 27-25. It was Michigan’s first win over a ranked team this season as the Wolverines improved to 15-3, 4-2 in the Big Ten. Ohio State is 12-6, 2-4.

Senior Abby Cole led Michigan with 16 kills and no errors to hit .667. Junior Adeja Lambert had 15 kills, while junior Katherine Mahlke had a season-high 12 and hit .375.

Taylor Sandebothe, who had five blocks, had 17 kills and hit .333. Luisa Schirmer also had 17 kills and hit .359.

Purdue was one of those ranked teams that lost, but it was at No. 3 Nebraska, where the Huskers are awfully tough in the Devaney Center. The 25-17, 25-13, 25-17 sweep left Nebraska 14-1, 5-1, while Purdue dropped to 11-6, 1-5.

Purdue hit a season-low .031.

The Huskers hit .273 as Kadie Rolfzen had 11 kills and nine digs while hitting .350. Mikaela Foecke had eight kills and hit .368. Briana Holman and Andie Malloy each had seven kills. Amber Rolfzen had five to go with her season-high-tying nine blocks.

Danielle Cuttino led Purdue with 12 kills.

Also in the Big Ten on Sunday, No. 1 Minnesota made short work of Northwestern 25-17, 25-21, 25-17. The Gophers are 13-2, 5-1, while Northwestern is 7-11, 0-6.

Minnesota was led by Sarah Wilhite with 14 kills, nine digs, and three aces. Hannah Tapp followed with six blocks and 13 kills, hitting .417. Molly Lohman hit .462, adding five blocks. Sophie Beckley had seven digs, while Alyssa Goehner had five. Dalianliz Rosado and Samantha Seliger-Swenson both had 11 digs.

Symone Abbott had nine kills for Northwestern

Kentucky, Mizzou stay atop SEC

No. 11 Florida is still a game and half back of the SEC leaders after sweeping South Carolina 25-14, 25-19, 25-19. Florida, which got 10 kills and six blocks from Rhamat Alhassan, is 14-2, 4-1. Freshman middle Rachael Kramer had eight kills and hit .636. She also had five blocks.

No. 25 Kentucky swept Tennessee 25-16, 25-18, 25-16 and is 13-4, 6-0.

The Wildcats, who have won 10 in a row, were led by junior Darian Mack, who had nine kills and hit. 571. Freshman Leah Edmond had a match-high 14 kills and hit . 407.

“I really like our focus and it shows on game day,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “In practice we’ve been doing a good job of really trying to improve and work on specific things. I was a little worried today that coming out of the break after being up 2-0 that we might let down a little bit, but having the lead didn’t seem to phase them. That type of competitive maturity is very important.”

Missouri is 15-3, 6-0, and likely to appear in Monday’s AVCA rankings after sweeping Arkansas 25-19, 31-29, 25-12 for its 10th consecutive victory. Alyssa Munlyn led with eight kills while hitting .667. Kira Larson had six kills and hit .417.

Texas A&M won its fourth consecutive match and improved to 13-0 in the all-time series against Ole Miss with a 25-12, 21-25, 25-20, 25-18 victory. The Aggies are 10-6 and tied with Florida in the SEC at 4-1. Ole Miss is 12-6, 1-4.

Also in the SEC on Sunday, Auburn swept visiting Alabama and LSU did the same at Georgia.

UNC stays unbeaten in the ACC

North Carolina swept visiting Miami 25-20, 25-10, 25-18 to improve to 14-2, 6-0 in the ACC.

“I thought we played well in the first two sets and played in such a dominant fashion,” UNC coach Joe Sagula said. “I think we really stayed with our game plan, and we got better as the match went on. I also like the overall emotion our team expressed throughout the match today. Real excitement, appreciation for all the good plays from each teammate, and I think that’s something that will help us a lot.”

Freshman Julia Scoles led with 12 kills, eight in the third set alone. She did not have an error, hitting .480 with three service aces, six digs and two solo blocks.

“She’s a very smart player, even for being so young,” sophomore teammate Casey Jacobs said. “It’s really cool, because you see her making smart plays when the set’s off, or just really going after it. A lot of times, players might go softer or give a free ball, but she goes after it all the time. It’s just raw athleticism.”

Florida State had to earn it at NC State 25-22, 25-19, 23-25, 27-25 as the No. 16 Seminoles improved to 12-3, 5-1. NC State is 10-8, 3-3.

Katie Horton had 15 kills for FSU. Mara Green had 12 and Melanie Keil had seven blocks.

Another team that is making a run at the rankings is Notre Dame. The Irish won their seventh in a row by sweeping Boston College 25-18, 25-21, 25-12 to go 6-0 in the ACC for the first time in school history.

Jemma Yeadon led the Irish with 14 kills and hit .419. Rebecca Nunge added 10 kills as Notre Dame improved to 15-3, the program’s best start since 2005.

Wake Forest, 7-10 is 3-3 in the ACC after beating visiting Pittsburgh. The Deacons won four ACC matches total last year.

Pitt is 13-5, 4-2 after losing 25-21, 25-22, 21-25, 25-11.

“After this road trip, we learned a lot about ourselves,” Pitt coach Dan Fisher said. “It’s time to hit the reset button, work really hard and gain some confidence back in practice.”

Also in the ACC, Duke beat Virginia Tech in four and Syracuse beat Louisville in five.

Temple wins in five

Temple forged a tie atop the American Athletic Conference standings by going to SMU and beating the Mustangs 25-19, 25-23, 21-25, 19-25, 15-9. It left both teams 5-1 in the league and tied with Cincinnati for first place.

“Going into the match, we knew we’d have to defend really well,” Temple coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “SMU is a really good hitting team and they are a great blocking team, so we knew it was going to be a battle at the net. Today, we kept battling, and we got the kills when we needed them, and if we play like a team like this, we’ll have a shot to beat anyone.”

Temple, 12-4 overall, got 19 kills and 17 digs from junior Irem Asci.

SMU, 12-6, got 17 kills from Brittany Adams and 15 from Katie Hegarty.

Four teams are tied for second in the AAC at 4-2, UConn, UCF and Tulane.

In Conference USA, Rice won for the eighth time in a row to improve to 12-7 and maintain first place at 4-0 after sweeping FIU. UTSA fell a game off the pace when it lost at Marshall in five.

Delaware coach suspended

A story in the newspaper The News Journal reports that:

NEWARK – University of Delaware volleyball coach Bonnie Kenny and associate head coach Cindy Gregory have been put on administrative leave by UD, The News Journal learned on Sunday.

When asked, UD athletics spokesman Scott Selheimer confirmed the coaches were “placed on leave until further notice. The leave began this past Friday.”

Selheimer would not provide reasons for UD’s decision, such as the nature of any disciplinary action or if it may have been something the coaches requested. It’s also not known what the leave entails, including prohibitions on contact with the team.

On the school’s website, Kenny and Gregory are still shown as coaches. To read the entire news story, click here.

Delaware, 8-12 overall and 0-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association, plays at Northeastern on Monday.

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