A rare night without upsets. It happened Friday in NCAA volleyball, but it was hardly a night without important results, from Princeton becoming the first team qualified for the NCAA Tournament by clinching the Ivy League’s automatic NCAA bid to Wisconsin, Penn State, North Carolina, Florida State, Florida all winning.
Creighton and Dayton remained unbeaten in their respective leagues and Washington State broke a four-match losing streak.
All that and more, but first a look at Saturday’s massive schedule of 105 matches, some that will decide conference races and so many key to tournament seeding, both in the respective leagues and the NCAA Tournament.
There are six matches in the Big Ten, including No. 1 Nebraska at Indiana, but the showcase battle has No. 17 Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State. No. 2 Minnesota plays at Illinois, No. 3 Wisconsin goes to Northwestern, No. 10 Penn State goes to Ohio State and Iowa plays at Purdue.
In the Pac-12, No. 13 UCLA is at No. 9 Stanford, USC plays at Cal and Colorado is at Oregon State.
The Big 12 is busy, with No. 4 Kansas playing host to TCU and No. 5 Texas at Iowa State. West Virginia goes to Baylor and Texas Tech is at Oklahoma.
The ACC has just one match, but it pits league leader No. 8 North Carolina against Georgia Tech, coming off a five-set comeback win against NC State on Friday night and fighting for its postseason life.
The SEC has football Saturday off.
The two ranked West Coast Conference teams — tied for first — are in action. No. 7 San Diego, coming off being upset by Portland, plays host to Gonzaga, while No. 12 BYU gets Portland at home.
No. 14 Hawai’i plays at UC Davis.
No. 22 Creighton, which rules the Big East and beat visiting Providence on Friday, plays host to the Friars again on Saturday.
Also, SMU would like to get its focus back onto the court when the Mustangs entertain South Florida. SMU is 20-7 and leading the American Athletic at 13-2, but this past week the school got some bad publicity when it uninvited the daughter of one of the Dallas police officers killed last summer from doing an honorary first serve.
This is from the Dallas Morning New story:
The daughter of one of the Dallas police officers killed during the July 7 ambush was told she was no longer invited to hit an honorary serve at a volleyball game at Southern Methodist University “in light of recent events and diversity within the SMU community.”
The university has since apologized and re-extended the invitation, but it did not explain why the invite was spiked in the first place.
To read the entire story, click here.
For a complete list of all the Saturday matches, click here.
Big Ten: Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State win
Wisconsin won at Illinois 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 as junior Lauryn Gillis led with 13 kills while sophomore Tionna Williams added 10. Haleigh Nelson had seven blocks. The Badgers are 21-3, 13-2 and a game behind Nebraska for the league lead.
Illinois, which dropped to 14-12, 7-8, hit just .069 and got six kills each from Michelle Strizak and Katie Stadick.
Penn State won at Maryland 21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18 to improve to 19-7, 11-4. Maryland, 10-17, 2-15, drew a crowd of home-record crowd of 1,808.
Simone Lee led Penn State with 17 kills, Heidi Thelen added 10 and had four blocks. Haleigh Washington had eight kills and nine blocks.
Freshman outside hitter Gia Milana led the match with 20 kills while adding 11 digs. Freshman setter Taylor Smith had 37 assists and a career-high 17 digs.
“It was a tough match tonight against a very good team,” head coach Steve Aird said. “I thought we played hard and did some nice things, but Penn State was better tonight. I am proud of the program, and proud that so many people came out to support us. We are going to be really good in the next few years and the goal is to battle the rest of the season, develop and grow.”
Rutgers has five matches left to win its second set of the season in Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights fell to 4-24, 0-15 in their 25-12, 25-12, 25-16 loss at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 16-11, 6-9.
Taylor Sandbothe led Ohio State with 10 kills and hit .533. Lauren Cloyd led Rutgers with seven kills.
ACC: UNC, FSU, Georgia Tech win
No. 8 North Carolina swept visiting Clemson 25-16, 25-12, 25-11 to improve to 22-3, 14-1, as Hayley McCorkle had nine kills with no errors and Taylor Borup had eight kills on 10 swings and hit .700.
“I can’t even say who stood out, because every one of them played so well,” UNC coach Joe Sagula said. “I think this is one of the best matches Hayley has played, without question. We were looking to rest her, but we said ‘There’s no way we can take her out,’ because she was playing so well.”
No. 18 Florida State had to go four to win at Boston College 22-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18. The Seminoles, 19-5, 12-3, got 10 kills and 13 digs from Katie Horton and 16 kills from Milica Kubura.
Duke stayed a game behind UNC and a game ahead of FSU by winning at Virginia Tech 25-26, 25-17, 25-15 to improve to 19-6, 13-2. Jordan Tucker led with 11 kills and four others had five or more.
“Our team did a great job of playing one point at a time and staying aggressive,” Duke coach Jolene Nagel said. “We wanted to give Virginia Tech something tough to handle whether it was our serve or when we have the chance to attack. We kept our composure on defense so that we could transition successfully. I’m really proud of our focus and determination to execute so efficiently tonight. This was a great team effort.”
Georgia Tech is hanging on at 21-6, 12-3 after winning at NC State 21-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-14, 15-7. Teegan Van Gunst led with 20 kills and 13 digs, Gabriela Stavnetchel added 13 kills and Annika Van Gunst had 11.
Julia Brown had 19 kills for the Wolfpack, 16-11, 9-6.
Pittsburgh stayed in the chase by beating visiting Wake Forest to improve to 20-7, 11-4, with a 25-21, 25-20, 27-25 victory.
Freshman Stephanie Williams led with 16 kills in 23 swings without an error and hit .696. She also had eight digs. Junior Mariah Bell added 12 kills, two blocks and eight digs.
Wake, 9-17, 5-10, got 11 kills from Kylie Long.
Also, Miami beat Syracuse and Virginia won at Louisville.
Washington State snaps skid
The Cougars, who had lost four in a row, beat visiting Arizona State 25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 26-24 in the only Pac-12 match of the night. Taylor Mims had 14 kills and 11 blocks as WSU improved to 18-9, 8-7, as Arizona State fell to 9-18, 2-13.
WSU’s 19 team blocks is also tied for fifth-best in school history.
Kyra Holt led the Cougars with 17 kills and had eight digs and five blocks. Casey Schoenlein added nine kills and four blocks with McKenna Woodford had eight kills and four blocks.
“Winning feels really good, especially against another Pac-12 team because everyone in the conference is good,” Mims said.
“It’s great having a really tall team. Just the way we set it up is know the other hitters on your side and go out and be aggressive with it. With our defense behind us, it’s great knowing that we can take up so much space and it’s easier for us. McKenna ending up with those blocks is just one of those little things that get us that momentum back.”
SEC: Florida, Texas A&M notch victories
No. 6 Florida beat visiting South Carolina 25-13, 25-20, 25-15 as the Gators hit above .350 for the seventh consecutive match and tied their season high of nine service aces.
Florida has won 11 in a row, swept the last seven matches, and has a half-game lead atop the league. The Gators, 23-2, 13-1 SEC, got 11 kills from Alex Holston and 10 from Carli Snyder.
South Carolina is 17-8, 5-8. Desso Legros led with 10 kills.
Texas A&M kept pace with a 27-25, 29-27, 25-20 win over visiting Mississippi State. The Aggies are 17-7, 11-2, while State is 12-16, 4-10.
Kaitlyn Blake led with 13 kills and three blocks and Jazzmin Babers added 12 kills and six blocks. State’s Eva Grace Singleton had 16 kills.
Also, Ole Miss beat visiting Tennessee 25-19, 25-23, 26-24, and LSU stayed out of the cellar and won its first home match of the season by beating last-place Georgia 25-22, 21-25, 23-25, 25-10, 15-10.
Creighton, Dayton stay perfect in their leagues
No. 22 Creighton clinched a share of the Big East title by beating visiting Providence 25-15, 25-18, 25-13 to improve to 21-6, 15-0.
Taryn Kloth led the Bluejays with 14 kills and hit .560 to set a career-high for hitting percentage in a single-match, and Lauren Smith added nine kills on .562 hitting. The same teams play Saturday.
No. 23 Dayton won the Atlantic 10 by beating visiting Davidson 25-22, 25-19, 25-19 to improve to 27-1 — the best record in the country — and 13-0 in the league.
Junior Jessica Sloan had a match-high 18 kills to go with seven digs and two blocks while sophomore Lauren Bruns had 11 kills.
Around the nation
Princeton is the first team in.
Princeton went down to the wire to clinch the Ivy League’s automatic NCAA bid by winning in five against visiting Cornell. The Tigers, 18-4, 12-1, were down 5-0 in the fifth and that comeback, combined with Harvard beating Yale in five, gave Princeton the title and for the first time since they are going back to the NCAA Tournament. Yale, which split with Princeton this season, is 17-4, 10-3 …
Lipscomb stayed atop the Atlantic Sun by sweeping visiting Jacksonville as Carlyle Nusbaum had 18 kills and 10 digs. The Bison are 19-7, 11-2, and remain tied with Kennesaw State, 17-10, 11-2, which swept North Florida. Also in the ASUN, FGCU won in five at USC Upstate to improve to 24-5 — its most wins since moving to Division I — and 10-3 in the league …
New Hampshire swept visiting Albany to tighten up the America East stretch run. UNH is 18-10 and leads the league at 9-2 while Albany finishes its regular season 15-9, 9-3. UNH finishes up against Binghamton on Sunday. UNH is the host for the AE tournament that starts Friday …
Missouri State stayed atop the Missouri Valley by sweeping Indiana State to get to 22-7, 13-2, while Wichita State stayed a game back by beat Illinois State in four to improve to 1907, 12-3. Wichita State is 36th in the NCAA RPI and might get an NCAA at-large bid, while Missouri State is 49th and needs to win the league tournament to get in. Northern Iowa, 46 RPI kept pace by sweeping Loyola Chicago to get to 20-8, 11-4 …
Radford finished its home schedule 11-0 and improved to 23-5, 14-2 Big South, as it won the league’s regular-season title. The Highlanders also avenged one of their only two conference losses and recorded their 13th sweep of the year. The 23 regular-season wins are the most for the program since 2000, while the 14 conference victories are the highest total since the 2001 squad went 14-0 in league play. It is the second time in three years that Radford has gone unbeaten at home …
In a battle that left them tied for the lead with one match left, South Dakota improved to 23-6, 12-3 in the Summit League by beating visiting Denver in five, 15-13 in the fifth, dropping the Pioneers to 20-7, 12-3. Audrey Reeg had 24 kills for South Dakota. South Dakota plays host to South Dakota State on Saturday, while Denver entertains North Dakota State on Sunday …
Cleveland State swept Wright State to improve to 23-5, 14-2 Horizon …
The respective MAC division leaders are both 22-5, 14-1 as Miami beat Akron in three and Northern Illinois swept Toledo …
Murray State, 19-8, 14-1 Ohio Valley Conference, stayed a game ahead of SIUE, 20-6, 13-2. Murray State beat visiting Eastern Illinois in four as Scottie Ingram had 22 kills, while SIUE dealt Austin Peay, 22-10, 11-4, a huge blow by winning in three …
Texas Southern improved to 17-9, 13-1 in the SWAC by sweeping Southern …
In the Sun Belt, Coastal Carolina improved to 23-4, 13-1, by sweeping Troy. Coastal has a huge seven-match lead in the East Division, while Arkansas State, which was idle, is up by two matches in the West.
Great write up, Lee! Appreciate your amazing efforts giving this great college sport the coverage it deserves.