NCAA roundup: Portland upsets No. 11 BYU, 500th win for Hilbert

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Major upsets, it appears, are not limited only to the Big Ten and Pac-12.

Hello, West Coast Conference.

Portland stunned visiting BYU by handing the 11th-ranked Cougars an 25-22, 25-27, 25-22, 17-27, 15-9 defeat on Thursday night, a major milestone for the Pilots.

“Look, a few years ago, we didn’t win a game,” said Portland coach Brent Crouch, who got the job in 2014 and inherited a team that was 0-27 in 2013.

“To beat No. 11 at home, there are no words. It means a ton and I don’t want to understate it. It’s a huge deal.”

A coach who’s had much more success was in the spotlight Thursday when Colorado State swept visiting Nevada to give coach Tom Hilbert his 500th victory at CSU. The Rams’ fans held up signs commemorating the achievement.

“That was quite touching however,” Hilbert admitted. “I say this all the time. I have won 500 matches and I have not served the ball yet. I have not hit one, I have not passed one. That is all done by players. I should be bowing to them to be quite honest.”

There were plenty of other results from Thursday, including the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders winning their 25th consecutive Southland Conference regular-season match.

But first, a look at Friday’s busy NCAA schedule:

In the Big Ten, you start with the rematch, where No. 2 Nebraska goes to No. 19 Ohio State hoping to repay the favor, because Ohio State dealt the Huskers their only defeat on Oct. 1 in Lincoln. No. 10 Penn State, the lone unbeaten team in league play, goes to No. 22 Purdue, which, at 1-5 desperately needs a Big Ten victory. Iowa is at Maryland and Rutgers goes to Indiana.

There’s an interesting mix of matches in the Pac-12, where Colorado tries to bounce back at No. 13 Washington State. No. 21 Utah goes to No. 7 Washington, No. 20 UCLA plays at Oregon State, USC is at No. 9 Oregon and red-hot Arizona plays at No. 12 Stanford. Also, Arizona State is at Cal.

There’s a big one in the ACC between the only two teams left unbeaten in league play. Notre Dame, not ranked but knocking on the door, plays host to No. 8 North Carolina. The ACC’s other ranked team, No. 15 Florida State, entertains Virginia Tech. Also, Virginia is at Wake Forest, Syracuse goes to Clemson, Pittsburgh plays at Miami and Boston College goes to Georgia Tech.

The SEC’s top-ranked team, No. 9 Florida, goes to LSU, while No. 23 Kentucky entertains Arkansas. Also, Ole Miss goes to Tennessee and South Carolina plays at Texas A&M.

The Big 12 has the night off and No. 4 Texas doesn’t play again until Wednesday, but No. 6 Kansas goes to TCU on Saturday.

Among the matches to watch Friday, No. 17 Hawai’i plays host to UC Irvine in the Big West; Big South-leading Radford takes its seven-match winning streak to Charleston Southern; 18-1 Dayton, featured here on Thursday, goes to VCU in the Atlantic-10;

Cleveland State, the Horizon League leader, goes to Wright State; and Missouri State takes its five-match winning streak to Missouri Valley Conference foe Illinois State.

Last week, after the Bears swept Loyola, VBM’s Greg Echlin caught up with Missouri State standout Lily Johnson. Johnson, a junior outside hitter from Wildwood, Mo., was last year’s MVC player of the year and a two-time AVCA honorable-mention All-American. Twice this season she’s been the MVC player of the week.

Huge win for Portland

Reghan Pukis was huge as the sophomore outside led with 27 kills and hit .306.

“The sky’s the limit for the rest of the season,” said Pukis, who also had four blocks.

Junior outside Hannah Troutman added 22 kills, hit .206, and had 22 digs.

The Pilots improved to 11-8 overall and 4-3 in the WCC. BYU dropped to 16-3, 5-2.

The Pilots celebrate their big victory
The Pilots celebrate their big victory

“That’s the ultimate reward for hard work and you saw what we’ve been putting in the past few months,” said Pukis, who transferred after last season from UNLV. “I think for the seniors and how far this program has come is just amazing for everyone involved.”

Portland was 7-23 in 2014, 1-17 in the WCC. Last year the Pilots were 16-15, 6-12.

“(The victory) is not shocking to me, I mean I’ve seen us play like this, we just haven’t strung it together for long enough periods of time,” Crouch said. “BYU’s a good team. I told our team before and during the match that we’re good, too. It’s just going to be during the match who’s more relaxed and who executes when we need to.

“It just great that we did.”

Next up is No. 5 San Diego, the only other team to beat BYU, which comes to Portland on Saturday.

McKenna Miller led BYU with 23 kills. Amy Boswell had 16 and Lacy Haddock 13.

“I thought we fought hard, but we weren’t quite as disciplined as we need to be,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “We can learn from this and get better for Saturday.”

That would be Saturday at Gonzaga, which was swept on Thursday by San Diego 26-24, 25-19, 25-16.

USD is 16-2 and remained atop the WCC at 7-0, while the Zags fell to 11-6, 4-3. Lisa Kramer and Lauren Fuller had 10 kills each for the Toreros.

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500 for Colorado State’s Hilbert

Hilbert’s team improved to 12-5 and 6-0 in the Mountain West as junior Alexandra Poletto hit .722 in the Rams’ 25-17, 25-21, 25-15 sweep. Poletto, a junior middle from Toronto, had 13 kills in 18 swings without an error. Sanja Cizmic added 10 kills and hit .444.

“It is awesome, honestly,” Poletto said of her coach’s 500th win. “When I saw those signs, it is really cool and I mean you know the legacy Tom has coming here, a lot of people have heard his name, coaches back home knew who he was and being able to like keep that legacy up for him and just for everyone else on the team, it is an awesome thing itself.”

Hilbert is now 500-118 at CSU and is the 14th active coach to reach the milestone.

“It was very touching. I am proud of what my career has been like here,” Hilbert said. “I think I have 500 wins because I focus on them one win at a time. That’s why it’s so weird to me. This place is a great place to be a volleyball coach.

“People were thanking me after the game for being here as long as I have. I am the one that’s blessed. This job, this city, this university, and everybody surrounding the program, this is one of the best places to coach in the country. I am happy I’ve been here this long.”

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Morgan Carlson gets one of her 13 kills for Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Islanders riding high in the Southland

Texas A&M Corpus Christi went into Thursday night a game ahead of Houston Baptist but its 25-20, 18-25, 25-20, 25-22 win gives the Islanders some breathing room. They’re now 12-7 overall and 7-0 in the SLC, while HBU fell to 14-9, 5-2.

“HBU played really well against us,” coach Steve Greene said. “They really came out, challenged our block and I thought we never really got our block together. I thought our defense picked it up a bit but that was a tough offense to play against.

“Our girls responded really well. We really competed and that’s something that has been missing these past few games, that competitive drive. We had been missing a little competitiveness and we brought it tonight.”

Morgan Carlson, the team’s only senior, had 13 kills and 15 digs. Junior Brittany Gilpin led with 18 kills, while sophomore Madison Fitzsimmons — one of three Madisons on the team — had 13 kills and three blocks.

Also Thursday

In the ACC, NC State got over .500 in the league by sweeping Louisville 25-23, 25-20, 25-23 to improve to 11-8, 4-3, while Louisville dropped to 5-11, 1-6.

Junior Julia Brown led the Wolfpack with 16 kills.

“Overall, we’re thrilled to start this road trip off with a sweep,” NC State coach Linda Hampton-Keith said. “It’s always tough playing on the road in this conference but more importantly we focused on being our best so that we would put ourselves in the best position for success against the defending conference champions. I’m proud of our ability to keep pushing forward even when things weren’t going well and finding ways to continue fighting and scoring.”

Cincinnati swept Houston to improve to 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference,

Northern Arizona went four to beat Portland State and move to 6-1 in the Big Sky and kept pace with North Dakota, which swept Montana State.

And in the Sun Belt, Texas State improved to 6-1 in the league with a four-set victory over Texas Arlington. Four Bobcats had double-figure kills, led by Kelsey’s Weynand’s 13.

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