Calvin wins third Division III title, New Hampshire, Lipscomb, UTRGV, North Dakota win conference tournaments

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Calvin College wins its third NCAA Division III volleyball championship/Photo Credit: NCAA volleyball

A busy Saturday around the college women’s game. We’ll kick it off with the coronation of a new NCAA Division III champion, and also give you a baker’s dozen view of conference tournament action plus what the Top 25 teams were up to, including Kansas securing no worse than a share of its first Big 12 title. Jayhawks coach Ray Bechard and Texas coach Jerritt Elliott both earned milestone coaching victories on Saturday.

But first, a quick look at Sunday’s big five matches:

Sunday’s Big 10 action is headlined by No. 2 Minnesota hosting No. 18 Michigan, plus  Indiana at Rutgers.

The Pacific 12 has three matches, No. 8 Washington at Utah, No. 12 Stanford at Arizona, Washington State at Colorado.

Big 12 takes the day off.

The SEC is busy, as No. 5 Florida plays at No. 25 Missouri, No. 23 Kentucky hosts Texas A&M, plus Ole Miss at Georgia, South Carolina at Auburn, LSU at Tennessee, and Arkansas at Mississippi State

Sunday ACC action has No. 17 Florida State at Wake Forest, Pittsburgh at Boston College, Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech at Syracuse, Louisville at Clemson, Miami at Duke, and Virginia at NC State.

In the Big East, Creighton hosts Villanova.

Back to Saturday play, we start up in Oshkosh, Wis., where Calvin College won its third national title with a 3-0 sweep of Washington-St. Louis. Calvin also won national crowns in 2010 and 2013.

Calvin, which received 13 kills from Anna Kamp, 13 digs from Keilahna Castillo and three aces from Kristen Vyletel, moved to 33-1 with the win.

Laura Danhoff was named the most outstanding player for the tournament, while Sarah DeVries and Jenna Lodewyk were named to the all-tournament team.

“I thought from the very beginning, the coaching staff has tried to have our players believe in themselves as women and as volleyball players and we have worked incredibly hard at that all year,” said Calvin coach Amber Warners.

“When people ask me how you measure success, I say that when your seniors give absolutely everything and walk away and they can’t give anymore. I don’t just mean that on the court. People see us five percent of the time in our season. What these women have given is unbelievable. I am proud of the women they are. I was really proud of their fight. We asked them to just green-light-go and lay it out there and I thought they did that.”

Amanda Palucki’s 11 kills led Washington-St. Louis. Zoe Baxter had 19 digs.

Let’s go tournament hopping where several NCAA bids were on the line Saturday.

In America East action, New Hampshire gets a spot in the 64-team NCAA field after a 3-0 win over Albany. New Hampshire is the first team in conference history to win four titles in a row. Senior setter Keelin Severtson was named the championship’s most outstanding player. She had 68 assists in the two matches.

Lipscomb won the Atlantic Sun Conference title with a 3-1 win over Florida Gulf Coast and earned an NCAA berth. Top-seeded Lipscomb was paced by ASUN player of the year Carlyle Nusbaum’s 17 kills and 13 digs. Taylor Racich had 16 kills. Kayla Ostrom had 28 assists and 13 digs. Brittany Thomas had 15 digs.

UTRGV sweeps Utah Valley to win the WAC Championship/Photo Credit Greg Owens, WAC
UTRGV sweeps Utah Valley to win the WAC Championship/Photo Credit Greg Owens, WAC

No. 5 seed Texas Rio Grande Valley also is headed to the NCAA tournament after defeating No. 2 seed Utah Valley in three to win the WAC tournament. It’s the Vaqueros first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Ragni Steen Knudsen led Rio Grande Valley with 15 kills and hit .387, while tournament MVP Alisha Watson had 12 kills.

In the Big Sky, North Dakota punched its NCAA ticket after a 3-0 sweep of Northern Arizona in that league’s final. It’s North Dakota’s first-ever NCAA trip.

“I am so proud to see them accomplish a goal they put fourth at midnight 102 days ago,” said North Dakota coach Mark Pryor. “We talked at our first practice about if you want to be last, you have to be willing to be first. First in the practice gym, first to push yourself harder internally, first to recognize and resolve conflict, and first to recognize your areas for growth. This team did that every step of the way.”

Faith Dooley was named the tournament MVP after notching 10 kills and four blocks in the final.

In the Atlantic 10, Dayton needed five to get by fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in one semifinal match. The Flyers moved to 29-1 behind Jessica Sloan’s 15 kills and 10 digs.

Dayton, the top seed in the tournament, faces No. 3 seed St. Louis Sunday afternoon. The Billikens went five sets in their upset of No. 2 seed Rhode Island. St. Louis moved to 18-13 with the win in a match that featured 34 ties and 17 lead changes. A-10 player of the year Danielle Rygelski had 25 kills and 11 digs. St. Louis is in pursuit of its first conference title since 2008.

In the Horizon League, Green Bay was a 3-0 winner over Northern Kentucky, while Cleveland State, the top seed in the tournament, went the distance with Oakland.

Megan Powers had 14 kills for Green Bay in its win. Grace Kauth led Cleveland State with 19 kills and hit .341. Cleveland State is in the Horizon final for the eighth time under coach Chuck Voss. Melissa Deatsch had 15 kills to lead Oakland. Cleveland State and Green Bay play Sunday for the title.

Dei'Ja Martin of Florida A&M reaches for a quick set in MEAC tournament play/Photo Credit MEAC Conference
Dei’Ja Martin of Florida A&M reaches for a quick set in MEAC tournament play/Photo Credit MEAC Conference

In MEAC play, Florida A&M was a 3-0 winner over Maryland Eastern Shore in one semifinal behind Nicole Abreu’s 10 kills and nine digs. Florida A&M faces Howard for the conference tournament title Sunday. Howard was a 3-1 winner over Bethune-Cookman. Khalia Davidson had 16 kills and a season-high 23 digs for Howard.

In the Big South, High Point went to five in its win over Liberty to advance to the title match. Molly Livingston had 17 kills for High Point, while Katie Tylman added 16.

High Point faces top-seed Radford, a 3-1 winner over No. 4 Campbell. Maddie Palmer’s career-high 26 kills led the winners.

In MAAC action, Quinnipiac is headed to its first MAAC title match in history after a 3-1 win over Marist. Sophomore setter Kat Miller had 13 kills and 10 digs. Quinnipiac will encounter top-seed Fairfield Sunday for the title. Fairfield, the No. 1 seed, was a 3-1 winner over Siena College. Senior middle blocker Megan O’Sullivan had 19 kills and six blocks to pace Fairfield.

Western Kentucky's Rachel Anderson challenges the UTSA block/Photo Credit Conference USA
Western Kentucky’s Rachel Anderson challenges the UTSA block/Photo Credit Conference USA

The Conference USA semifinals saw No. 6 seed Rice down No. 2 seed Southern Miss in five sets. Rice is the lowest seed to ever advance to the final. Chelsey Harris had 18 kills to lead the Owls.

Rice tackles No. 1 seed Western Kentucky Sunday in the finale. Western Kentucky was a 3-1 winner over Texas San Antonio in the other semifinal. Western Kentucky, led by Alyssa Cavanaugh’s 19 kills, is in the C-USA final for a third year in a row.

The Colonial Athletic Association finale is set for Sunday after No. 6 Delaware upset No. 2 seed College of Charleston in five sets in one semifinal, while top seed James Madison swept No. 5 Towson.

Delaware, which got into the tournament despite starting 0-6 in conference, used 15 kills and 11 digs from Autumn Jenkins, 56 assists and 12 digs from Erin Layne and 13 kills and 14 digs from Maria Bellinger to advance.

CAA player of the year Janey Goodman had 10 kills for James Madison and in the process set the program single-season mark for kills (513).

In SWAC action, Texas Southern swept Southern and Alabama State did the same to Alabama A&M to set up a Sunday title match. Texas Southern is in the final for the first time since 1994. Alabama State is in the final for the fourth year in a row.

And finally in the MAC, No. 2 seed Northern Illinois earned a spot in Sunday’s title match with a 3-0 win over No. 3 seed Ohio. Mary Grace Kelly’s 11 kills led the Huskies.

Northern Illinois (24-5) faces top seed Miami University in the MAC final. Miami was a 3-1 winner over No. 4 seed Bowling Green in the other semifinal. Paige Hill led Miami with 15 kills and hit .583 with only one hitting error.

Tournament action will be on tap Thanksgiving Day in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Turkey day quarterfinal matches in the Missouri Valley Conference features No. 4 Southern Illinois vs. No. 5 Illinois State and No. 3 Northern Iowa against No. 6 Loyola. The winners move to Friday’s semifinals against No. 1 Missouri State and No. 2 Wichita State.

And finally some Top 25 recaps. Kansas clinched at least a share of its first-ever Big 12 Conference regular-season title with a five-set win against Iowa State. Kansas moved to 25-2 overall and 14-1 in Big 12 action. Kansas won despite playing without All-American right side Kelsie Payne.

“It could have been a disaster or it could have been the best day ever and they decided to make it the best day ever,” said Kansas coach Ray Bechard. “Our seniors weren’t going to let us lose. It’s a perfect storm. Somehow we found a way to beat a very good team.”

Tayler Soucie had nine blocks and eight kills, while Cassie Wait had 15 digs. Bechard won his 350th match at Kansas.

No. 7 Texas defeated Kansas State 3-1 giving coach Jerritt Elliott his 400th win at Texas. The Longhorns moved to 20-4 overall and 12-2 in Big 12 play. Paulina Prieto Cerame had 17 kills and hit .355. Freshman Micaya White had 15 kills and two aces. Ebony Nwanebu had 10 kills and hit .625.

In other Big 12 action, Baylor edged Oklahoma 3-2, while TCU also needed five to beat Texas Tech.

Numerous ranked teams were in action in the Big Ten Conference Saturday. No. 3 Wisconsin took care of No. 13 Michigan State in three sets. The Badgers scored back-to-back wins this weekend over ranked teams. Wisconsin tied a program record with 11 wins against ranked opponents in front of a sellout crowd of 6,012 at the Field House. The Badgers remain only a game out of first place in the Big Ten (16-2).

“I thought we did a really good job of being resilient,” said Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield. “Those guys have some servers that were pacing some bombs over there. We battled and fought to try to get the ball up in the air. To hold a team to hitting .103 was another really good defensive night for us. That’s starting to turn into a big strength for our players. To come in here 2-0 for these two teams that will probably be seeded going in to the NCAA tournament. I’d say this was probably a pretty good weekend for us.”

Freshman Molly Haggerty had 14 kills. Junior Lauryn Gillis had nine kills, while senior Haleigh Nelson and redshirt senior Romana Kriskova each had eight kills. The Badgers held the Big Ten’s best-serving team to only four services aces.

AVCA No. 1 ranked Nebraska scored a 3-0 win over Iowa in front of an Iowa-record 4,131 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was Nebraska’s 13th win in a row and won for the 24th time in a row on the road.

Andie Malloy led Nebraska with 14 kills and hit .462 and also had a season-best five blocks. Mikaela Foecke had 10 kills and hit .600. Kadie Rolfzen had nine kills, while Briana Holman finished with six kills.

The previous Iowa attendance record was 3,102 set back in 2009.
“Today we just blew through the attendance record here at Carver,” said Iowa coach Bond Shymansky. “I’m really thankful for all the Hawkeye fans who came out and supported us tonight, and I’m grateful for all the people that made that happen. We want to take advantage of a great home stand here and they are helping us do that.”

Ali Frantti spikes the ball against Purdue/Photo Credit Craig Houtz, Penn State Athletics
Ali Frantti spikes the ball against Purdue/Photo Credit Craig Houtz, Penn State Athletics

In other Big Ten action, No. 15 Penn State was a 3-0 win over Purdue. Illinois took down No. 24 Ohio State 3-1 in Champaign, while Northwestern was a 3-0 winner over Maryland.

In the Illinois win, the Fighting Illini out-blocked Ohio State 15-8 with sophomore Ali Bastianelli leading the way with 12 blocks. Classmate Jordyn Poulter had eight blocks to go along with 37 assists. Michelle Strizak had 17 kills, 10 digs and five blocks.

Only two matches were on the docket in the Pac-12 where No. 19 Oregon was a 3-1 winner over USC. The Ducks hit .406 as a team. Ronika Stone had 14 kills, while Taylor Agost had 13 kills. Jolie Rasmussen had 12 kills and Lindsey Vander Weide had 11. Oregon moved to 19-8 overall and 12-6 in Pac-12 play.

Arizona State was a 3-0 winner over Cal. Lexi MacLean led the Sun Devils with 15 kills.

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