What a great NCAA volleyball Friday: Commentary and links to all the recaps

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As we head into the most exciting and fiercest day of the NCAA volleyball season, when four matches decide the national semifinals, some thoughts on a fantastic Friday before getting to a breakdown of Saturday’s four matches.

The warm embrace between two best friends after Minnesota beat Illinois. Not only are they Big Ten rivals, but Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon and Illinois counterpart Kevin Hambly are so close they vacation together. Their families are like one. So just playing each other in regular-season competition has to be hard. Imagine the round of 16 …

All that being said, here are the recaps. This is Minnesota’s version, and this one is from Illinois. By the way, the photo of Katie Schau of Minnesota blocking was taken from the Gophers’ website.

Also, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune sent a sportswriter to Des Moines, and here is her story.

The extra gear that Samantha Bricio has. The USC star is so calm on the court, rarely showing any emotion, and even appears to take plays off, which might not be true, but it just looks that way sometimes. But when it mattered, especially when she served Creighton off the court, the senior from Mexico is something else.

Here is the USC recap of the match, and here is the account from Creighton, which deserves much praise for playing so well and so hard with so many players battling injuries.

The dominance that Hawaii showed over Penn State. Let’s be honest, if you’re a serious observer of this stuff, there were a lot of things you expected Friday, but two-time defending-champion Penn State getting swept was not one of them. How about Dave Shoji, 41 years at Hawaii and beating Penn State coach Russ Rose for the first time?

Here is the Hawaii recap with all the Rainbow Wahine links, including post-match interviews, and here is the Penn State account.

High-fives to Ohio State for taking Washington to five sets. Even Washington would admit it wasn’t pretty, but sometimes a match like that, provided you survive and advance, is the best thing.

Here’s the Ohio State recap and here’s the Washington story.

Kansas took care of business against Loyola Marymount, which deserves a lot of high-fives, too. Kansas is tough to figure, but we will know everything abut the Jayhawks we need to know tonight when they play USC. Here is the Kansas story. This is the LMU write-up.

BYU will never forgive itself for losing that first set, 26-24, and then getting swept by Nebraska, which, when hitting on all cylinders, is a dynamo with incredible balance.

Here is the BYU account. The Nebraska recap is here.

Texas lost the first set to UCLA, 25-23, and then smashed the visiting Bruins into the offseason. Amy Neal might be short but she’s remarkable. Here’s the Texas recap and here is the UCLA version. And here’s the story from the Austin American-Statesman.

Finally, there’s Florida, a team with as much or more talent than anyone in the field. The Gators beat Wisconsin in five in what was certainly the most entertaining match of the day. Florida won the first two sets, Wisconsin the next two, and the fifth set was big-girl volleyball.

Florida has its own sportswriter and there’s a lot to be said about that for getting a really good story, which you can read here.

Here’s the link to the Florida post-match news conference.

Here is the Wisconsin recap.

Saturday’s four matches

The best thing is that there’s no soccer game on ESPNU before the four matches begin. ESPNU didn’t get to the volleyball, Creighton vs. USC, until after the first two sets.

Anyway …

The first match is at 3 p.m. Central pitting Nebraska (29-4) vs. Washington (31-2).

Minnesota (29-4) vs. Hawaii (29-1) follows.

Then comes Florida (25-6) at Texas (28-2).

Finally, Kansas (29-2) plays USC (33-2).

Eight teams, seven with a total of 11 losses. Don’t be fooled by Florida’s six defeats.

Predictions? Nah, not my thing. But I would be shocked if anyone besides Kansas gets swept.

No matter what, we will have a new champion and at least three new teams in the national semifinals. Texas was there last year in Oklahoma City, but lost to BYU.

One TV, four matches, another big day/night ahead. Can’t wait.

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