There was yet another indication Wednesday night of just how tough the NCAA Tournament might be when No. 4 Kansas had to go five to win at unranked Kansas State.
The 25-18, 26-28, 25-22, 21-25, 15-11 victory by the No. 16 team in the NCAA RPI over the No. 14 was all that and more on a relatively light night on the schedule.
There was one upset of a ranked team as Arizona beat visiting No. 25 USC in five.
Winners included No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 5 Texas and No. 6 Florida.
And Murray State won a big match in the Ohio Valley.
It was also a big night in the Sandbothe family as Taylor became Ohio State’s all-time blocks leader and Elle had a big match for K-State.
But first, Thursday’s key matches.
The only one involving power-five conference teams Thursday has Alabama of the SEC at Texas A&M. The Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC are all idle.
But the two ranked West Coast Conference teams are in action, as No. 7 San Diego is at St. Mary’s and No. 14 BYU goes to Pacific.
The other ranked teams, No. 21 Western Kentucky, No. 24 Dayton and No. 25 Creighton are also off.
The Big Sky has a full slate, including South leader Northern Arizona at Weber State, and Sacramento State, a game behind in the standings, at Montana State. In the North, North Dakota tries to protect its one-game lead when it entertains Eastern Washington, while Northern Colorado, a game back, plays host to Idaho.
There are key matches in the Mountain West but none bigger than league leader UNLV (21-3, 10-2) going to perennial winner Colorado State (15-7, 9-2).
“This is no ordinary match,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “This has huge implications.”
Boise State (19-6, 10-2), tied for the lead, goes to Utah State.
And in the Southland, Texas A&M Corpus Christi (17-7, 12-0) plays host to McNeese State as it tries to clinch its second straight league title.
Big 12: Kansas, Texas, Baylor victorious
The KU-Kansas State was a fun one to watch, especially if you’re a fan of Kelsie Payne. The Jayhawks junior right side had 23 kills and 11 digs and came up big time after time.
“There was a lot of ebb-and-flow in this match, but Kelsie got enough kills at the right time,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said.
“That’s the best match we have had in a long time just from a competitive standpoint. It was good, competitive volleyball. They played well. We played well. We had enough in the end to make it happen.”
Kansas natives and seniors Cassie Wait and Tayler Souci made sure that they remained undefeated in Manhattan during their four-year careers (4-0). Wait finished with 33 digs and dominated a countless number of rallies for her third 30-dig outing of the season. Soucie had 11 kills and seven blocks.
Junior outside hitter Madison Rigdon remained consistent with 14 kills and 11 digs.
VBM’s Greg Echlin caught up with both Wait and Souci after the victory.
Kansas improved to 21-2, 10-1 to keep pace with Texas atop the standings.
Kansas State (17-7, 6-5) got 55 assists from setter Katie Brand as the senior moved into second place on the school’s all-time list. Brooke Sassin had 18 kills and 14 digs, and Kylee Zumach had 14 kills, while Sandbothe, a freshman, had 10 kills in 15 swings, hit .467 and had four block assists and one solo.
“I thought we outplayed them at certain points in the match,” K-State coach Suzie Fritz said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, they are a talented team. There was a lot of good volleyball that was played tonight.”
Kansas dominated the fifth set.
“They found a different level,” Fritz said. “I thought we got a little high error and we got a little tentative at the service line. In the end, in the fifth, it came down to serve and pass. They were a little better at it than we were.”
“K-State is going to be a postseason team,” Bechard insisted after the match. “They have had a great season so far. I was proud of the way our players competed, and I’m sure coach (Suzie) Fritz is proud of the way her team competed too.”
Texas, coming off its lost at Kansas last weekend, won at TCU 20-25, 25-17, 25-13, 27-25 as junior Ebony Nwanebu had 19 kills and hit .405.
Texas improved to 18-3, 10-1 as senior Paulina Prieto Cerame and freshman Micaya White had 13 kills apiece. White also had 12 digs, while Prieto Cerame added three blocks.
Sophomore Morgan Johnson added eight kills on 12 swings and only one error for a .583 hitting percentage.
TCU, 10-11, 3-8, got 15 kills and 16 digs from Ashley Smith. Natalie Gower had nine kills and hit .500, while Regan McGuire had eight blocks.
“I just got done talking to our team and the biggest things that we were talking about is how they really put it all out there. We fought really hard and it is the best volleyball we have played in a long time as a team and as a group,” TCU director of volleyball Jill Kramer said.
We moved from point-to-point really well and played the way you want to be playing this time of year and really fought. We will get back at it tomorrow but more than anything, I am really proud of their fight.”
Baylor had to go four, but the Bears improved to 19-7, 7-3, with a 25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 at Texas Tech. it’s the first time Baylor reached seven Big 12 victories since 2012.
Junior Katie Staiger continues to play big. She had 31 kills, becoming the 14th player in program history to notch 30-plus kills, the first since Tisha Schwartz at Iowa State on Oct. 5, 2002.
And libero Jana Brusek had 32 digs, a Baylor record for the most in a four-set match.
Texas Tech is 10-16, 0-11.
“I was happy to see some good individual performances. Katie gets over 30 kills and Jana did a great job for us defensively,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said. “It’s good to see Nicole (Thomas, seven kills) hitting well and getting more kills.
“Overall, offensively I thought we did some good things. Defensively, we really struggled. For the first time, our offense really carried us at times tonight. Glad we went four sets without an ace. That just helps feed into our offensive numbers.” –Baylor head coach Ryan McGuyre
And Iowa State (13-9, 5-5) swept visiting West Virginia 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 to keep its NCAA hopes alive. The Cyclones are 44th in the RPI.
West Virginia is 12-13, 3-8.
Big Ten: Gophers, Badgers, Purdue get wins
Wisconsin is 19-3, 11-2 after winning at No. 22 Ohio State 25-19, 26-24, 25-22. It was the fourth win in a row for the Badgers, who are a game off the Big Ten lead. Junior Lauryn Gillis led with 14 kills and senior Romana Kriskova had 12 kills, no errors and hit .545.
“I thought we were pretty good offensively,” UW head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought Lauren (Carlini) did a really good job of setting, she had some ridiculous, really nice sets. Taking blockers up with her, getting attackers really clean looks.”
Ohio State dropped to 15-10, 5-8, but senior middle Taylor Sandbothe got the 518th block of her career to take over first place on the Buckeyes’ all-time list. Dawn McDougall, who played at Ohio State from 1988-91, had 517.
Sandbothe also had five kills. Audra Appold led Ohio State with nine kills.
Second-ranked Minnesota swept Indiana 25-21, 26-24, 25-21 as the Gophers improved to 18-4, 10-3 as Paige Tapp had 11 kills without an error and hit .524. Sarah Wilhite added nine kills and five digs.
Indiana, 15-11, 4-9, got 13 kills from Jazzmine McDonald, who hit .600. Deyshia Lofton had 10 kills and five blocks.
Purdue is 15-9, 5-8, after holding off visiting Maryland 25-23, 25-15, 16-25, 28-26. The Terps are 10-15, 2-11.
Purdue was led by Danielle Cuttino, who 22 kills. Azariah Stahl added 12. Gia Milana led Maryland with 23 kills.
Florida, Arizona, Orange win
The Gators gave coach Mary Wise, the dean of SEC coaches, her 400th league victory with their 25-18, 25-12, 25-20 whipping of host Georgia. It moved Florida (21-2, 11-1) into sole possession of first place, a half game over Kentucky and Missouri, who had the night off.
Juniors Rhamat Alhassan and Carli Snyder had 13 kills apiece for the Gators.
Georgia is 13-11, 1-10.
Arizona earlier this season won at USC and UCLA, the first time in coach Dave Rubio’s 25 years where that happened. Now the Wildcats can go 4-0 in the LA series after beating visiting USC on Wednesday (25-23, 18-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-7. Next up is No. 9 UCLA on Friday.
Arizona, 15-10, 7-6 Pac-12, got 47 assists and 24 digs from setter Penina Snuka. Kendra Dahlke led with 19 kills.
“Certainly was a little dicey there in the beginning,” Arizona coach Dave Rubio said. “I think we were able to, as the match went on, play a little bit sharper. But it was touch and go there for a while. I’m really proud on how we hung in there and stayed true to what we were trying to do every day, and that’s to just mentally stay in a match.”
USC dropped to 15-9, 7-6. Khalia Lanier led with 18 kills and Alyse Ford added 15 and eight digs as the Women of Troy lost on the road for the first time in eight outings this season.
In the ACC, Boston College won its second league match of the season by beating Syracuse 26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23. BC is 7-16, 2-11, while Syracuse is 6-17, 5-8.
Racers down Austin Peay, Howard cruises
Murray State kept control of the lead in the Ohio Valley Conference with its 27-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-17 victory at second-place Austin Peay.
Kristen Besselsen had a career-high 25 kills, hit .345 and added 12 digs. She also had two service aces and three block assists. The Racers, 17-8, 12-1 in the OVC, also got 15 kills an 15 digs from Scottie Ingram.
Austin Peay dropped to 21-9, 10-3. Logan Carger led the Govs with 14 kills and six blocks.
SIUE, which was off, now is in second alone in the OVC at 10-2.
In the MEAC, Howard is 22-5, 11-0 in the league after overpowering Norfolk State. Jessica Young led Howard by hitting .647 with 12 kills. Khalia Donaldson added 15 kills.