NCAA roundup: 7-way tie for 2nd in Pac-12, Kentucky stays atop SEC

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Texas A&M freshman Hollann Hans attacks against Florida/Texas A&M Athletics

Consider this as we take a look at NCAA volleyball around the country after another eventful weekend:

Washington, ranked No. 7 at 16-2 overall, leads the Pac-12 with a  6-2 conference record.

No less than seven teams are tied for second at 5-3, including No. 20 UCLA (14-4, No. 13 Washington State (15-5), No. 21 Utah (14-5), No. 16 Oregon (12-5), No. 12 Stanford (11-5), USC (13-6) and Arizona (13-7).

“The Pac-12 is always tough, and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you’re at home, on the road, it’s going to be tough,” WSU coach Jen Greeny said.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened Sunday:

Washington held serve by beating visiting Colorado in three, Utah won at Washington State in five, Arizona — which had scored three road upsets in a row — lost at Cal, and visiting USC swept Oregon State. If you want to see the entire Pac-12 standings, click here.

There was only one match in the Big Ten on Sunday, when No. 2 Nebraska swept Maryland. The ranked teams in the ACC — No. 8 North Carolina and No. 15 Florida State — and the SEC — No. 9 Florida and No. 23 Kentucky — all won on Sunday.

The Big 12 had the day off.

Two other ranked teams won, No. 17 Hawai’i and No. 25 Western Kentucky.

Monday, there are only two matches on tap and 16 more are scheduled for Tuesday, including the big Nashville out-of-conference battle between Lipscomb and Belmont.

Ashten Smith-Gooden gets one of her eight kills in Cal's win over Arizona/Matt Nielsen Sports photo
Ashten Smith-Gooden gets one of her eight kills in Cal’s win over Arizona/Matt Nielsen Sports photo

Pac-12: Utah off to best conference start

The Utes got stronger in the fourth and fifth sets and came away with a 25-22, 23-25, 17-25, 25-23, 15-9 victory, improving to 7-1 on the road this season, which includes four victories over ranked teams.

Adora Anae led Utah with 18 kills and 10 digs, while Carly Trueman had 12 kills and Eliza Katoa eight. Berkeley Oblad had seven of Utah’s 14 blocks.

Kyra Holt led WSU with 21 kills and 13 digs and also had three blocks and three aces. McKenna Woodford had nine kills and four of WSU’s 17 blocks. The Cougars lost back-to-back five-setters this past weekend.

“I thought Utah did an exceptional job and played some great defense. They blocked really well at times too,” Greeny said.

Tia Scambray of Washington lunges for a dig against Colorado/Steven Burns photo
Tia Scambray of Washington lunges for a dig against Colorado/Steven Burns photo

Washington beat Colorado 25-12, 25-16, 25-21 for the Huskies’ fifth win in a row. They had 14 blocks, nine from Crissy Jones, including two solo. She also had 11 kills without an error and hit .524. It was even more impressive when you consider that Jones played middle blocker this weekend with freshman Avie Niece out with an injury.

Courtney Schwan led Washington with 15 kills and hit .500. Setter Bailey Tanner had six blocks and 11 digs.

Colorado got 11 kills from Katelyn Cuff and 10 from Gabby Simpson.

“Washington played extremely well and we did not find a way to respond,” said CU coach Jesse Mahoney, whose team won in five two days earier at Washington State. “We struggled in all phases of the game, which is disappointing coming after one of our more complete performances of the season on Friday.”

Arizona was set to make a big move into the rankings after winning last weekend at USC and UCLA and then Friday at Stanford, but then stumbled in the fourth and fifth sets at Cal 25-22, 23-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-11.

“If we can figure out how to do that the rest of the season, we’ll be in good shape,” said Cal coach Rich Feller, whose team was 5-35 the past two years in league play but is now 2-6.

His team was led by sophomore middle Belen Castillo, who had a career-high 20 kills. She had two errors and hit .562. The other middle, senior Jenelle Jordan, added 13 kills and hit .440.

“It was great to see us battle like that,” Feller said. “We had a short-term memory after Friday (a four-set loss to Arizona State) and played a team that can get as hot as anybody. That was great to see.”

It was ugly to see for Arizona counterpart Dave Rubio, whose team had a season-high 14 service errors.

“It’s unfortunate we weren’t prepared to play,” Rubio said. “There was certainly a lot at stake and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that was presented.”

Kendra Dahlke led the Wildcats with 19 kills. Kalei Mau added 18 kills and hit .319 and Katarina Pilepic had 17 kills and hit .387.

“Cal played well but we were really poor,” Rubio said. “We were poor both physically and mentally. We were not ready to play.”

USC was as the Trojans swept Oregon State 25-20, 25-23, 25-18.

Freshman outside hitter Khalia Lanier had 16 kills, 12 digs, two blocks, and a service ace. Sophomore outside hitter Alyse Ford had 12 kills and 14 digs. Senior middle Elise Ruddins tallied five kills without an error and hit .500 on 10 swings and also shared match-high honors with seven blocks.

“It was a really great weekend for us,” said Ruddins, whose team won at Oregon on Friday. “ … We’re gonna do great things this season. We started off a little rough but we’re finally getting in a rhythm and we’re doing a great job of staying together on the court.”

Anni Thomasson of Kentucky digs against Ole Miss/Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics
Anni Thomasson of Kentucky digs against Ole Miss/Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

SEC: Kentucky wins 12th in a row, Gators beat A&M

The Wildcats swept visiting Ole Miss 25-20, 29-27, 25-19 to improve to 15-4, 8-0 in the SEC and remain a half-game ahead of Missouri and a game ahead of Florida.

Three Kentucky players had 10 or more kills, led by freshman Leah Edmond, who had 13.

“We need that, we want that, because we want it to be difficult to prepare for us, so we want to have that balance,” Kentucky coach Craig Skinner said. “(Setter Olivia Dailey) does a good job of recognizing who hasn’t gotten the ball lately and tries to get them involved to keep the blockers on their toes. That’s a very important piece of playing at an elite level.”

Missouri was down 0-2 at Alabama and rallied for a 16-25, 23-25, 27-25, 25-20, 15-12 victory as junior Melanie Crow had a career-high-tying 23 kills and Kira Larson had 16.

Missouri is 16-3, 7-0, and will likely get closer to the AVCA top 25 that will be released Monday.

Florida is now 16-2, 6-1 after Rhamat Alhassan had 22 kills, hit .528 and had 10 blocks in a 27-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-16 victory at Texas A&M. It knocked the Aggies to 11-7, 5-2.

Alex Holston added 17 kills and 11 digs.

“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a team. Alhassan and Holston in the same rotation, you have to honor both of them,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “I thought their libero (Caroline Knop) did a great job. Their [defensive specialists] did a beautiful job of making it where the setter could legitimately get great sets to both of them. It does put a ton of pressure on your block and on your defense. That was definitely tough.”

Carli Snyder had 11 kills and 12 digs for Florida, which is 12-1 all-time against A&M.

“That was like two heavyweight boxers coming out in the ring early,” Florida coach Mary Wise said. “The first set was such high-level volleyball with neither team giving an inch. It took a special performance from Rhamat for us to win in four. Her performance will go down in the books.”

Kiara McGee and Hollann Hans led the Aggies with 14 kills apiece. Ashlie Reasor had 12 and Kaitlyn Blake had 11 kills an six blocks.

Also in the SEC on Sunday, Auburn beat visiting Mississippi State 26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11; South Carolina won at LSU for the first time in 13 years with a 20-25, 25-21, 25-22 sweep; and Tennessee beat visiting Arkansas 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22.

ACC: UNC, Seminoles roll on

The Tar Heels won for the eighth time in a row by routing Louisville 25-11, 25-21, 25-17. The road win led North Carolina 16-2 and at 8-0 off to its best ACC start since 2002.

Freshman Taylor Borup made her second career start and hit .524 with 13 kills and three blocks. Sophomore Taylor Leath had 11 kills, hitting .333.

Florida State got all it could handle from visiting Pittsburgh 25-22, 24-26, 25-20, 25-23 as Milica Kubura led with 14 kills, Katie Horton added 11 and Christina Ambrose had 10. Melanie Kiel had 11 blocks, three solo.

FSU is 14-3, 7-1.

Notre Dame, coming off the loss to UNC, kept pace with a 25-19, 25-17, 25-23 victory over visiting NC State to improve to 16-4, 7-1. Kaite Higgins led with 11 kills and hit .625. Jemma Yeadon had five blocks, one solo.

Also in the ACC, Georgia Tech swept visiting Syracuse 25-15, 25-23, 25-18 to improve to 15-5, 6-2 in the league; Miami swept visiting Virginia Tech  25-20, 25-19, 25-19; and in a battle of last-place teams, Clemson held off visiting Boston College 19-25, 27-29, 25-19, 25-23, 15-13.

Hawai’i, WKU keep winning

The Rainbow Wahine are 14-5, 7-1 in the Big West after sweeping visiting UC Davis 25-16, 25-11, 25-15. Nikki Taylor and McKenna Granato nine kills each. Taylor tied her season-high with eight blocks.

Western Kentucky swept FIU 25-13, 25-17, 25-19 to improve to 20-2 and 7-0 in Conference USA. Alyssa Cavanaugh led with 13 kills.

Dayton also at 20 victories

The Flyers swept Davidson 25-18, 25-17, 25-23 to improve to 20-1, 7-0 in the Atlantic 10. Sophomore Kendyll Brown led with a match-high 10 kills to go with four blocks. Junior Amber Erhahon also had four blocks along with four kills. Duquesne (16-6, 6-1) stayed a game back by sweeping Rhode Island.

Also Sunday, Fairfield improved to 11-0 in the Metro Atlantic with a sweep of Marist for its 12th win in a row. The Stags are 18-5 overall and stayed ahead of Quinnipiac (16-7, 8-2), which beat Siena in four …

Creighton hit a resounding .408 — seventh-best in program history — in a 25-10, 25-15, 25-18 sweep of Seton Hall that was left the Bluejays to 14-6  and 8-0 in the Big East. Creighton, which has won eight in a row, has a two-game lead in the loss column over second-place Marquette. Marysa Wlkinson led a balanced attack with nine kills … 

Wichita State remained atop the Missouri Valley at 8-1 as it improved to 15-5 by sweeping Illinois State …

Arkansas State improved to 15-7, 7-1 in the Sun Belt, with a sweep of Louisiana-Monroe … UCF won in five at Temple to improve to 6-2 in the muddled American Athletic Conference dropping Temple to 5-3 … South Dakota lost for the first time in the Summit League, dropping to 18-4, 7-1 after being swept at Denver (14-6, 6-2) … And the same thing happened to Central Connecticut (11-8, 6-1) in the Northeast Conference after it lost in four to LIU Brooklyn (8-12, 5-2).

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