Final day: Big Ten, Pac-12 titles still up for grabs, MVC, Big East finals set

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Lily Johnson attacks against Illinois State in the MVC semifinals

Cue Kenny Loggins.

The song was “This  Is It.”

Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle?

Stand up and fight.

This is it: The last day of the NCAA volleyball regular season.

There are shares of the two best conference titles still on the line. Two other conferences — the Missouri Valley and Big East — are playing for automatic bids and a handful of teams are doing their last bit of jockeying for RPI rankings and hoping for the best when the NCAA announces the tournament field on Sunday night.

Here’s the way things stand in the Big Ten, where the standings look like this:

Nebraska is 26-2, 17-2 in the B1G.

Wisconsin is 25-3, 17-2.

Minnesota is 24-4, 16-3.

No.1 Nebraska beat Wisconsin in three on Oct. 21 in Lincoln in their only meeting. So if the Huskers beat visiting No. 18 Michigan on Saturday, they will claim the title.

No. 3 Wisconsin goes to No. 2 Minnesota. Minnesota won their Oct. 12 meeting at Wisconsin in three.

If Nebraska loses and Wisconsin wins, Wisconsin wins the title. But if Nebraska loses and Minnesota wins, there will be a three-way tie at 17-3.

More important for the Big Ten are Illinois and Indiana. That’s because Illinois is ranked 50th in the NCAA RPI and Indiana 55th, probably on the outside looking in at the NCAA field.

The Illini (17-13, 10-10) swept Rutgers on Friday and play at No. 15 Penn State (21-9, 13-6) on Saturday. A win over Penn State could make the difference, while a loss will almost assuredly leave Illinois out.

Indiana (17-15, 6-13) goes to Ohio State (19-12, 9-10). It’s the same scenario for Indiana, but even a victory might not be enough to get the Hoosiers in the conversation, especially after being swept at Maryland on Friday.

More on the Big Ten, including the recaps of Friday’s four matches, in a bit.

This is what the top of the Pac-12 look like:

No. 7 Washington, which has clinched a share of the title, is 25-4, 15-4.

No. 12 Stanford is 21-7, 15-5 and finished after beating Cal on Friday.

No. 8 UCLA is 23-6, 14-5.

Saturday, Washington goes Washington State and UCLA plays host to USC in two fierce rivalry matches. If Washington wins, it wins outright. But if the Huskies lose, they and Stanford tie. And if that happens and UCLA wins, the Pac-12 will have a three-way tie.

More on the Pac-12 in a bit, including recaps of Friday’s three matches.

The ACC has three matches Saturday. No. 6 North Carolina plays host to Wake Forest, Pittsburgh goes to Virginia and Duke plays at NC State.

The Big 12 has four matches on tap, No. 4 Kansas at Baylor, No. 5 Texas home for West Virginia, Texas Tech at Kansas State and Oklahoma at Iowa State. Baylor, 41 in the RPI, has the most on the line Saturday.

The SEC has two of its three ranked teams in action as No. 22 Missouri plays host to Tennessee and No. 9 Florida goes to Arkansas. Texas A&M tries to better its NCAA position at Auburn. Alabama, 56 in the RPI, tries to keep its faint hopes alive at LSU, while Georgia goes to Mississippi State. Friday, Ole Miss swept South Carolina.

The Missouri Valley Conference will crown a champion Saturday when top-seeded Missouri State plays second-seeded Wichita State for the league’s tournament title and the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it. If Missouri State wins, Wichita State (23-7, 35 RPI) is all but assured of an at-large bid, but Missouri State (26-7, 46 RPI) is probable but not a lock. Northern Iowa, which lost to Wichita State in the semifinals, is hoping for the best at 24-9 and 44 in the RPI.

The Big East comes down to No. 21 Creighton playing Xavier, Ohio, for the league’s tournament title and NCAA bid. Creighton would get an at-large if it loses, but Xavier is out. Marquette, which lost to Xavier, is 36 in the RPI and probably in.

Big Ten: Ohio State beats Purdue, Penn State, Illini, Terps win

The Buckeyes beat visiting Purdue 25-21, 19-25, 16-25, 25-20, 19-17 in a wild fifth set that left the home team 19-12, 9-10, while Purdue ended its regular season 18-13, 8-12.

Taylor Sandbothe led Ohio State with 21 kills. Luisa Schirmer had 15 kills and Madison Smeathers 10. Schirmer had a block to end the match.

Purdue got 20 kills from Danielle Cuttino, who also had four blocks, one solo. Sherridan Atkinson had 13 kills and also four blocks, one solo.

Penn State made short work of Northwestern 25-23, 25-23, 25-16 as Ali Frantti led with 11 kills and Simone Lee added nine. Northwestern, which got 18 kills from Symone Abbott, is 9-22, 2-17, and goes to Rutgers on Saturday.

Speaking of Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights were swept again, this time by visiting Illinois 25-11, 25-12, 25-17. Jacqueline Quade led Illinois with 11 kills. Rutgers dropped to 4-28, 0-19.

Maryland blasted Indiana 25-16, 25-20, 25-21 to end its season 12-20, 4-16.

Angel Gaskin led the Terps with 12 kills and hit .423.

“The record won’t show the fact that we continue to improve,” Maryland coach Steve Aird. “This season was about getting our younger players experience and growing on the court. I think we learned a lot of lessons and we’re already excited for next year.”

Freshman Audriana Fitzmorris leads the Stanford celebration in the Cardinal's win over Cal
Freshman Audriana Fitzmorris leads the Stanford celebration in the Cardinal’s win over Cal

Pac-12: Buffs upset Utah, Oregon, Stanford win

No. 17 Utah could have had a better scenario for its final regular-season match than losing at home to Colorado 19-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-20, 13-15. It left the Utes 20-11, 11-9 in the Pac-12, while Colorado’s season ended 14-16, 6-14.

CU got 13 kills from Alexa Smith and 11 from Katelyn Cuff, while Haghede Abu had 10 kills and six blocks.

“I’m proud of the fight this team showed in the last third of the season,” first-year CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. “They kept playing hard even though the wins weren’t coming. It’s something to build on heading into the spring.”

Adora Anae led with 23 kills, while Carly Trueman added 18 for Utah.

They call it the Civil War when Oregon and Oregon State face each other and Oregon State made the young Ducks earn their 23-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-18 in a match delayed because the power went out in Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

Oregon improved to 20-9, 13-7, while Oregon State’s season ended 12-19, 5-15.

Jolie Rasmussen led with 12 kills and a block, Taylor Agost had 11 kills and three blocks, Ronika Stone had 11 kills and two blocks and Lindsey Vander Weide had 10 kills and three blocks.

“My expectations were and are still high,” Oregon coach Jim Moore said. “We have as good a shot as anybody of going a long ways. We just have to show up and play.”

Stanford ended Cal’s season 25-15, 25-8, 25-15, leaving the Bears 9-21, 3-17. Over the past three seasons, Cal is 8-52 in Pac-12 play.

Inky Ajanaku had seven kills, hit .467 without an error in 15 swings, and had six blocks. Kathryn Plummer had 13 kills and three blocks and Merete Lutz had nine kills and five blocks.

ACC: Florida State holds off Georgia Tech, Kordes wins finale

The league title was already decided but Florida State locked up second place by dealing Georgia Tech a 25-17, 25-22, 16-25, 23-25, 15-13 defeat. FSU is 23-4, 17-3, and hoping to host a first- and second-round NCAA foursome, while Tech is 24-8, 15-5 and at 47 in the RPI living on the edge.

Katie Horton led FSU with 14 kills, nine digs and two blocks, while Mara Green had 12 kills and six blocks.

Tech got 17 kills from Gabriela Stavnetchei and 15 from Teegan Van Gunst, who also had 16 digs and three solo blocks.

Also Friday, Miami beat Clemson in four, Notre Dame beat Syracuse in four, Virginia Tech had to go five to win at Virginia and Louisville swept Boston College.

Louisville coach Ann Kordes announced earlier that she is getting out of coaching.

She also talked about it at length with the podcast The Net Live, which you can access here.

Abby Lehman of Wichita State attacks against Illinois State in the MVC semifinals

Wichita State's Abbie Lehman swings against Northern Iowa in the MVC semifinals.
Wichita State’s Abbie Lehman swings against Northern Iowa in the MVC semifinals.

Missouri Valley: It’s Missouri State vs. Wichita State

Missouri State advanced by beating a red-hot Illinois State team 25-20, 17-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-9, while Wichita State took down the host team, UNI, 12-25, 26-24, 26-24, 25-21.

In their first meeting, Sept. 23 at Missouri State, Wichita State won in five. In the match at Wichita State, Missouri State won in four.

Friday, Missouri State, as it almost always is, was led by Lily Johnson, who had 18 kills, three blocks and two aces. Lynsey Wright added 14 kills, two blocks and two aces and Simone House had nine kills and six blocks.

Tabitha Brown led Wichita State with 16 kills, while Emily Hiebert had 37 assists and a career-high 10 kills. Dani Mostrom had a career-high 31 digs, while Jody Larson had 12 kills, 10 assists, and 21 digs.

Big East: Creighton keeps rolling

Creighton, which has won 19 matches in a row, is going for its third consecutive Big East title. The Bluejays improved to 25-6 with a 25-16, 25-19, 25-22 sweep of Seton Hall. Jaali Winters led with 12 kills and Taryn Kloth added 10. Creighton swept Xavier in both their meetings this season.

Xavier, which ousted Marquette 16-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-19, improved to 20-12, while Marquette dropped to 23-8. Sofia Peterson led Xavier with 14 kills.

American Athletic: SMU clinches, Cincinnati wins

This is going to be a nervous league on Sunday. SMU (25-7, 18-2) clinched the title by beating Connecticut in four. Cincinnati (22-9, 17-3) claimed second place by beating Memphis in four.

But Temple was knocked off by Tulsa in four to drop to 22-8, 15-5. And UCF improved to 23-10, 13-7, by sweeping Houston.

Cincinnati is 40 in the RPI, Temple 49 and UCF 53.

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