Top seeds advance in an upset-free NCAA Tournament Thursday

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Kansas libero Cassie Wait celebrates a point against Samford in first-round NCAA action

No. 3 seed Wisconsin, No. 5 Kansas, No. 12 Michigan and No. 15 Missouri all advanced.

So did Washington State, Creighton, Purdue and Oregon.

There were eight matches that kicked off the NCAA Tournament on Thursday and five ended in sweeps, two others went four and Creighton had to go the limit to get past Northern Iowa, 15-12 in the fifth.

It was also a day in which two more jobs opened up, at Georgia and Stony Brook. And the NCAA Division II tournament is in full swing.

Wisconsin' Tori Blake attacks against Howard
Wisconsin’s Tori Blake attacks against Howard

Wisconsin 3, Howard 0

The Badgers of the Big Ten improved to 26-4 by dispatching Howard 25-11, 25-18, 25-10, behind 16 kills from freshman Molly Haggerty and 11 apiece from Lauryn Gillis and Haleigh Nelson. Nelson also had seven blocks, hit .733 and was a big reason her team hit .402.

“We just played our game,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought our passers did a really good job of first contact and we just went from there. Good match.”

Howard, champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, ended its season 26-6. The Bison got seven kills apiece from Katherine Broussard and Jessica Young.

Wisconsin will play Washington State at 6 p.m. Central Friday. The match will be shown on the Big Ten Network.

Washington State 3, Marquette 1

The Cougars made sure there wouldn’t be an all state-of-Wisconsin match-up by ousting the Eagles 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 25-20.

It’s huge,” WSU coach Jen Greeny said. “I’m very invested in the program; that’s why I came back, to right the ship and get it to this level. It’s not really for me that I’m excited, I’m excited for the players and that they get to experience this.”

WSU improved to 22-11 as Kyra Holt had a season-best 22 kills. The senior also hit .370, had three aces and eight digs. Senior Hailey Bethune had a career-best 15 kills, hit .538 and had two blocks. McKenna Woodford added 11 kills.

“Playing in the Pac-12, every single night in our conference is like a tournament-type game in the quality of opponents that we play night-in and night-out,” Greeny said. “So we didn’t really discuss too much about being in the tournament for the first time in a while, we just tried to focus in on how to stop them and treat it like a non-conference, regular season game, and not make too much of a big deal out of it.”

Marquette of the Big East saw its season end 23-9. The Eagles got 18 kills and 11 digs from sophomore Taylor Louis and 12 kills from freshman Allie Barber.

Kansas coach Ray Bechard applauds his Jayhawks against Samford
Kansas coach Ray Bechard applauds his Jayhawks against Samford

Kansas 3, Samford 0

The Jayhawks overpowered their Southern Conference visitors 25-19, 25-21, 25-17 to improve to 26-2 and set up what should be a great match with Creighton at 6:30 p.m. Central. It will streamed on ESPN3.

Freshman Jada Burse led Kansas with 14 kills — six in the second set — and teammate Madison Rigdon added 11 kills. Kelsie Payne had nine kills in 14 swings.

“We’re excited to move on,” KU coach Ray Bechard said. “I don’t know that it was consistently good volleyball on our side, but there were times that we really played well. We played well enough in each set to have the success we wanted.

“I’m proud of these two right here (Burse and Rigdon), they did a nice job. They took a lot of swings tonight and defensively, we picked it up as it went. I know Samford has had a great year. I’m good friends with their coach and I know he’s brought them along and done some good things. We’re excited to move on.”

Samford ended its season 21-14. Kate Neisler led with 15 kills and Erin Bognar had 11 kills and two blocks.

Creighton's Jaali Winters gets one of her season-high 24 kills against Northern Iowa
Creighton’s Jaali Winters gets one of her season-high 24 kills against Northern Iowa

Creighton 3, Northern Iowa 2

If having a tough first-round match is great preparation for the rest of the tournament, then Creighton is better prepared than any of the eight winners coming out of Thursday. The Bluejays improved to 27-6 by getting past UNI 25-16, 25-20, 24-26, 14-25, 15-12 in a match that saw both teams give it all they had.

Big East-champion Creighton, which has won 21 matches in a row, had numerous season and/or career-highs. Junior Marysa Wilkinson had a career-high 18 kills. Freshman Brittany Witt had a career-high 32 digs, while junior Kenzie Crawford had a career-high 17 digs. Sophomore Jaali Winters had a season-high 24 kills and season-high four blocks and tied a season-best with 66 attack attempts.

In the 2015 tournament, Kansas made it to the NCAA national semifinals, while Creighton beat Coastal Carolina and North Carolina before losing at USC.

Kansas and Creighton played at Creighton in September. Kansas won in five, 15-13 in the fifth.

UNI, which had a season-best 17 blocks, finished its season 24-10. Piper Thomas led with 14 kills and eight blocks, Bri Weber had 12 kills and Kayla Haneline 11.

Michigan 3, American 0

The Wolverines set up a Big Ten-Pac-12 match-up by beating American 25-13, 25-23, 25-12 to improve to 23-10. Michigan gets Oregon at 7:30 p.m. Eastern (BTNplus).

Claire Kieffer-Wright led Michigan with 13 kills, while Abby Cole and Kelly Murphy had 10 apiece.

“I’m obviously pleased with how we played tonight,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “I thought we came out in the very beginning and played aggressive. It’s always hard in that first round of the NCAA Tournament to see how the nerves are going to be and how we’re going to get into a rhythm and I thought we did that really well.”

Patriot League-champion American ended its season 27-8. Aleksandra Kazala led with nine kills. American loses only one senior.

Oregon 3, Miami of Ohio 1

The Ducks improved to 21-9 as they had to grind against the MAC’s Miami, winning 25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-19.

“They’re a good team, a solid team,” Oregon coach Jim Moore said of the Redhawks. “We knew that and it didn’t surprise us, but a very good job by them and we’re happy to move on.”

Lindsey Vander Weide led Oregon with 18 kills, two blocks and an ace. Ronika Stone had a career-high 16 kills and three blocks, and Lauren Page and Taylor Agost had nine kills apiece.

Both Oregon and Michigan went to the 2012 NCAA semifinals. Michigan lost to Texas, while Oregon beat Penn State before losing to Texas in the title match.

Miami finished its season 24-7 despite having a lead in all four sets. Junior right side Olivia Rusek finished with 13 kills, while junior libero Maeve McDonald had 25 digs.

Purdue 3, Iowa State 0

Purdue of the Big Ten fought off set point in the first and rallied and went on to win 26-24, 25-21, 25-13 and improve to 19-13 to get into the second round against Missouri. The 6 p.m. Central first serve will be shown on ESPN3.

Junior Danielle Cuttino led with 21 kills on 31 swings and she hit .613. Sophomore Sherridan Atkinson added 10 kills and hit .529.

Iowa State of the Big 12 ended its season 18-11. Samara West led with 10 kills, while Jess Schaben had nine kills and a block.

“Even though those first two sets were close we never quite looked like ourselves,” ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “We were rattled enough that we never could get relaxed and get to playing.”

Missouri 3, NIU 0

The Tigers of the SEC completed the ouster of the MAC by defeating the Mid-American Conference champion 25-16, 25-13, 25-20.

Missouri, which hit .404, improved to 26-5 as won it sixth in a row. Melanie Crow led with 17 kills, two blocks and four aces, giving her 47 for the season. Carly Kan had 10 kills, 14 digs, a block and an ace.

NIU’s season ended 25-6. Mary Grace Kelly had eight kills and Jenna Radtke six as Missouri shut down the Huskies’ best players.

“Missouri was a step ahead of us and played error free,” NIU coach Ray Gooden said. “I thought they did a good job of taking care of their side of the net and putting us under a lot of pressure.

”I think at times though, our team did some nice things as well. We put together some nice serving runs and handled the ball when we needed to to score in some key spots.”

Openings at Georgia and Stony Brook

Georgia was 0-18 in SEC play in 2015 and 1-17 this year. Coach Lizzy Stemke resigned Thursday.

Georgia released this statement on its website georgiadogs.com:

ATHENS, Ga. — Lizzy Stemke has resigned as head coach of the University of Georgia volleyball team, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity announced Thursday.

Stemke spent six seasons as head coach of the Bulldogs, compiling a record of 79-105, including 32-80 in Southeastern Conference action.

Georgia Athletics will begin a national search for a new head coach.

Stony Brook had a rough go of it this season and it cost Coley Pawlikowski her job.

This is the statement from Stony Brook from its website stonybrookathletics.com:

STONY BROOK, N.Y. – Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron announced on Wednesday that Coley Pawlikowski was relieved of her duties as head coach of the volleyball program.

Pawlikowski spent the past four seasons at Stony Brook and compiled a 53-73 record, including an 8-21 mark this season. In 2016, the Seawolves snapped a streak of three straight America East Conference tournament appearances.

“Coley worked extremely hard to build the Stony Brook volleyball program and I am very appreciative of her efforts,” Heilbron said. “The expectation for our volleyball program is to compete for an America East championship every year and we will continue to pursue that goal under a new head coach. I wish Coley nothing but the best in the future.”

A national search for Pawlikowski’s replacement will begin immediately.

NCAA Division II tourney

Click here for the NCAA.com Division II volleyball home page.

Among the results from Thursday was Florida Southern off knocking No. 2 seed Saint Leo.

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