NCAA roundup: Gophers smash No. 1 UW, while Illini, UCLA, Longhorns, KU all win

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Kelsie Payne, left, and Taylor Soucie put up a Kansas block. The Jayhawks play Samford on Thursday/KU photo

Another night of NCAA volleyball and another night of surprises.

But then again, you could argue why would we be surprised that No. 1 lost again?

This time it was Wisconsin, getting absolutely crushed by visiting No. 3 Minnesota 25-20, 25-18, 25-14.

Also losing?

No. 14 Michigan State at No. 24 Illinois and No. 16 Oregon to visiting No. 20 UCLA.

For the record, both No. 4 Texas and No. 6 Kansas were winners.

First, Thursday’s matches of note.

The Big Ten has the night off, but Friday’s four matches include No. 2 Nebraska at No. 19 Ohio State in the rematch of Nebraska’s only defeat, and No 10 Penn State, the lone unbeaten team in league play, at No. 22 Purdue.

There is just one ACC match when NC State goes to Louisville.

The Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 have the night off.

Also: In the West Coast Conference, No. 5 San Diego goes to Gonzaga and No. 11 BYU plays at Portland. North Dakota tries to maintain first in the Big Sky Conference when the Fighting Hawks play host to Montana State, Texas State tries to do the same in the Sun Belt Conference West Division when the Bobcats go to UT Arlington, and San Diego State plays the first of three Mountain West matches in five days as the Aztecs go to Wyoming trying to stay in striking distance of Colorado State and UNLV.

No one could argue with the analysis from Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield, whose team’s first appearance in the top spot of the AVCA poll probably will only last one week.

“I think you move up to No. 1 for the first time and then you get your butt kicked by anybody and you can sit there and think it’s the easy thing to say ‘Hey we were full of ourselves’ or whatever,” Sheffield said.

“But that had nothing to do with this particular match. It certainly can happen, but that wasn’t what tonight was. … that would be unfair to Minnesota to say that that was the reason, but also because I know my team and we just got outplayed tonight, period.”

Minnesota, a former No. 1, is 14-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin fell to 14-2 — as its nine-match win streak ended — and to 6-1 in the Big Ten, leaving only Penn State (6-0) unbeaten in league play. It was also Wisconsin’s first Big Ten defeat in nearly two years, an 18-match streak.

Minnesota was led by Sarah Wilhite with 12 kills and eight digs. Hannah Tapp and Paige Tapp both added five blocks. Hannah Tapp had 11 kills and hit .429) and Paige Tapp had nine kills and hit .438.

Molly Lohman hit .625, adding a season-best nine blocks. Alexis Hart had seven kills and two blocks. Dalianliz Rosado had 11 digs, and setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson had 41 assists, five digs and two blocks.

“We were certainly happy with our performance last night, but, as you can imagine with nine Big Ten teams in the top 25, it’s very quickly on to the next one,” said Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon, whose team goes to Michigan State on Saturday.

Wisconsin hit a season-low .050 percent (37 kills, 27 errors in101 attempts) as Minnesota held the Badgers to a negative hitting percentage in both the first and third sets.

Conversely, Minnesota and had just 13 errors in 99 attempts and out-blocked the Badgers 14-3.

Junior Kelli Bates led Wisconsin with 10 kills, sophomore Tionna Williams added six, and senior Haleigh Nelson had five kills and UW’s only service ace.

“I thought Kelli [Bates] did a great job,” Sheffield said. “Her hitting numbers were a little lower because she got blocked there a little bit at the end but I thought she was great, her whole game tonight was really solid. I thought our passers did a really good job. I thought Lauren (Carlini) was making the most of the choices that she wanted to make.

“They beat us at the net and part of that was due to our serving, but that wasn’t a match that shows the separation of two teams. That was a match that shows the separation of two teams in that particular match, so we’ll get back to work.”

Illinois likewise made short work of visiting Michigan State 25-21, 32-30, 25-19, although the second set was something else.

Illinois is 12-6, 5-2, while MSU is 15-4, 4-3.

Illinois coach Kevin Hambly, whose team was coming off a four-set loss to Wisconsin, was glad his team didn’t get wrapped in the score.

“They did a really nice job tonight, the best job we have done all night of being moment-to-moment,” Hambly said.

Senior Naya Crittenden had a match-high 12 kills on 20 swings and only three errors for a .450 hitting percentage, while sophomore Ali Bastianelli had 11 kills on 17 attacks and only two errors to hit .529. Freshman Jacqueline Quade added 10 kills on 23 swings and only three errors to hit .304.

“We really just fought and went after it,” Crittenden said. “It was, I agree, comparable to that (second set at Wisconsin). We were up a little bit and they came back but we really grinded that out and I think everyone did a really great job with just putting it all on the court.”

“Something we talked about before the match was not making the same mistake twice,” sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter said. “I think there was a lot of regret after the Wisconsin match about executing when we were up, so we had every intention on every pass and every detail was there.”

Michigan State’s  Autumn Bailey and Brooke Kranda each had 11 kills, while Alyssa Garvelink had eight kills without an error and added a season-best seven blocks for the second straight match.

“We had that comeback in the second set, and coming out on the short end of that in the end I think took some wind out of our sails,” MSU coach Cathy George said. “We committed far, far too many errors to allow ourselves to have much success. We know that we’ll need a much, much better effort come Saturday when we are at home against Minnesota. We have two days of practice to get our heads back on straight and clean up the things that hurt us tonight.”

Also in the Big Ten, No. 18 Michigan blasted Northwestern 25-17, 25-18, 25-13 to improve to 16-3, 5-2. The Wildcats are 7-12, 0-7.

Senior Kelly Murphy led Michigan with nine kills.

UCLA wins at Oregon in five

Freshman Torrey Van Winden had the best match of her career, with 19 kills and 12 digs while hitting .341 in UCLA’s 26-28, 25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 15-9 victory.

“I’m not very happy with the result,” Oregon coach Jim Moore said. “You have to win that [second] set. You have to put people away – we’re not responding well to pressure. UCLA did a great job, they came out even in the first set and put a lot of pressure on us.”

UCLA is 13-4, 4-3 in the Pac-12, while Oregon dropped to 12-5, 5-2.

Freshman Jolie Rasmussen led the Ducks with 18 kills and Taylor Agost added 16 kills while recording a career-high seven blocks. Lindsey Vander Weide had 12 kills and 11 digs. Amanda Benson led the Ducks with 24 digs. Sumeet Gill came off the bench and had a season-high six blocks.

“It’s a heartbreaker. It really felt like a rollercoaster,” Benson said. “We’d be up, then we’d be down, and then we’d be tied and we’d let them slip, then we’d slip. That’s what you get with a young team and you just have to learn how to be mature and grow from that.”

Volleybll vs. Kansas State
Madison Rigdon of Kansas hits over the Kansas State triple block/KU photo

Longhorns, Jayhawks win in Big 12

Texas won at Baylor 21-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 in a key Big 12 match that left the Longhorns 14-2, 6-0.

Sophomore Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani, who is adjusting to a move to the middle, had a monster night. She had nine blocks, three solo, and 10 kills on 12 swings with no errors for a career-best .833 hitting percentage.

“I feel better with more practice. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be,” Bedart-Ghani said. “I have a little bit more to worry about on the blocking front and don’t have as much time to hit … the vision and angles are a little different, but I’m really enjoying it.

Junior Ebony Nwanebu and freshman Micaya White led Texas in kills with 16 each, Nwanebu hit .483 and added six digs, three blocks and one ace.

White hit .273 and had eight digs and two blocks.

Senior Paulina Prieto Cerame had 12 kills, hit .250, and had three digs and a season-high five blocks.

Baylor, 15-6, 3-2, got 25 kills and 10 digs from Katie Staiger, who is having a tremendous season.

“They have a lot of firepower. We knew we had to play great defense to slow them down,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said.

“I thought it was going to be more a matter of if our offense could keep up. In all four sets, in the first 75 percent we’d get side-outs and trade points back and forth. In the first, we took a late push and managed to pull it out in the end. In the next three, we’d go back and forth, but they managed to pull it out in the end.”

Kansas stayed a game back of Texas with its 25-15, 25-20, 25-23 sweep of Kansas State to improve to 16-2, 5-1, while the Wildcats fell to 14-5, 3-3.

Senior middle blocker Tayler Soucie set the tone early during the season’s first volleyball edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown by recording four blocks during an early 9-0 run in the first set.

“That blocking display was pretty impressive. It obviously set the tone,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said. “When you block for points like that, that can really get your team going. That was a really great way to start it. That’s a very good K-State team. We were pretty motivated to play well tonight.”

Junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon led the Jayhawks with 14 kills, while junior right side Kelsie Payne and Soucie each had 11. Soucie finished with six block assists. Freshman outside hitter Jada Burse added eight kills, as those four accounted for all but three of KU’s 47 kills. 

K-State got 14 kills from Alyssa Schultejans and nine from Katie Reininger.

Also in the Big 12, visiting Oklahoma worked hard to win the first two sets and then cruised in the third to beat Texas Tech 28-26, 25-23, 25-17. Oklahoma is 12-7, 3-3, while the Red Raiders fell to 10-11, 0-6.

And West Virginia had a rare mid-season non-conference match, winning at Robert Morris 5-22, 26-24, 25-15.

Caroline Rassenfoss of Wake Forest attacks against Duke/WFU photo
Caroline Rassenfoss of Wake Forest attacks against Duke/WFU photo

Duke over the Deacons in five

In the only ACC match of the night, visiting Duke was down 6-2 in the fifth before rallying for a 20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 15-12 victory. The key was Anna Kropf, who had all four of her kills in the fifth as her team won its fourth five-set match of the season to improve to 12-5 overall and 6-1 in the league.

“We dug a big hole for ourselves in that fifth set, which you never want to do,” Duke  coach Jolene Nagel said. “We did a good job of moving on to the next point. That first touch was really important. Anna stayed very in tune with the match. She came in and just did a great job to light us up at a crucial time.”

Jordan Tucker led the Blue Devils with 16 kills and four blocks. Freshman right-side Samantha Amos had a career-high 14 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Leah Meyer added 13 and those three combined to hit .376.

Wake Forest is 7-11, 3-4.

Caroline Rassenfoss led Wake with 21 kills and Kylie Long had 16. Katie Moore had a career-high 14 kills and hit .367. Caitlyn Della also had a career-high with 13 kills. She hit .333.

Auburn, Alabama win in SEC

Auburn swept Georgia 25-11, 25-16, 25-19 as the Tigers improved to 10-10 but got over .500 in the SEC at 4-3. Georgia, which was SEC winless last season, is 13-7, 0-6. Gwyn Jones led Auburn with 12 kills and hit .474.

Both teams are 3-3 in the league after Alabama beat visiting Mississippi State 21-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-21. Bama is 14-5, while State is 11-9.

Cleveland State atop Horizon

In a battle of what were two teams tied for first, Cleveland State won for the sixth straight time to improve to 15-4 overall and 6-1 in the Horizon League with its 25-22, 25-23, 25-11 sweep of visiting Green Bay (13-6, 5-2).

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