This is going to be quick and dirty, but since quite a bit of volleyball action has already gone down on Thursday and Friday, I felt an update was in order. The NCAA continues to not do a great job of publicizing any televised information, and most networks are favoring basketball and football today anyway, so it may be tough to watch many of these matches. In Nebraska, the PBS station broadcasts many matches--you may want to see if the same is the case in your state for your team.
Once again, a live-updating bracket can be found here.
First Round Matches
#1 Nebraska 3 -- New Hampshire 0
On the surface, this looks like a sweep as expected, and after Nebraska won the first set 25-9, it looked like it was going to be a record-fast match. But New Hampshire had other ideas. The Wildcats regrouped quickly and gave the Huskers all they could handle with an impressive defensive effort, particularly on the part of seniors Demi Muses and Sara Carlson who seemed to get to everything the Huskers sent over. Nebraska managed to win both the second and third sets (25-23, and 25-18), but it wasn't a hugely inspiring match for the defending champs. They're going to have their work cut out for them tonight against TCU (8 pm ET).
For more, check out Corn Nation's match recap.
#2 Minnesota 3 -- North Dakota 0
As expected, the Gophers handled North Dakota with little trouble, winning their sets 25-21, 25-12, and 25-20. After a slow (by their standards) start in the first set, where they allowed North Dakota to go on a 7-0 run at one point, the Gophers adjusted. This was the first time in five matches that the Gophers did not end up in a five-set battle, which was probably a welcome relief. Superstar Sarah Wilhite had 17 kills for the match. Tonight at 7 pm ET, the Gophers take on Hawaii, a team the Gophers beat last year to advance to the Final Four.
#3 Wisconsin 3 -- Howard 0
The Badgers had little trouble with Howard, rolling over them in straight sets 25-11, 25-18, and 25-10. The biggest drama of the match was Badger all-American setter Lauren Carlini briefly left the game to have her ankle re-taped. The injury doesn't appear to be serious, however, and Carlini's brief absence did not substantially slow the Badgers. Wisconsin has already played its second round match, which you can read about below.
#9 Michigan State 3 -- Fairfield 0
The Spartans also posted a convincing first-round sweep, winning 25-14, 25-13, and 25-15 over the visitors from Connecticut. Five different Spartans had from 4-8 kills, providing MSU with a balanced offense that the Stags couldn't defend. The win moves the Spartans to a 25-8 record on the year--the last time MSU won 25 matches in a year, they made the Sweet Sixteen of the tournament (2012). MSU takes on Arizona tonight at 7:30 pm (ET).
#12 Michigan 3 -- American 0
The Wolverines proved my warning about the Eagles being a tough out unwarranted, as they rolled to a sweep in the first round. Michigan (25-13, 25-23, 25-12) posted a healthy team attack percentage of .406 on the night, which American was unable to stop (though they did slow it considerably in the second set.) Three Wolverines had double-digit kills, and two others had more than five. Michigan has already played its second-round match, covered below.
#16 Penn State 3 -- LIU Brooklyn 0
The Grand Dames of women's volleyball certainly looked like they've been there before as they took care of business easily against LIU Brooklyn, killing the Blackbirds 25-8, 25-16, and 25-6 (ouch!) Legendary Nittany Lions coach Russ Rose was not overly impressed with the win: "I thought we played well tonight in a situation where the other team just never really could get themselves going," Rose said. "You don't get too excited when you win a match like that." PSU has a chance to impress Rose tonight when they take on beloved fellow-Pennsylvania institution Pitt at 6:30 pm (ET).
Ohio State 3 -- Missouri State 0
The Buckeyes had their revenge on Missouri State, who beat them earlier this season. Not so last night, but it wasn't for lack of effort. OSU won, but the Bears offered up a tough match. The first set was a relatively even 25-21, and it was followed by a dominating 25-15 set. But the third set got a little more interesting. In the third set, the Bears stubbornly refused to let OSU walk away, denying them five match points (and missing one of their own.) Eventually, OSU won, with the unusual score of 31-29. The Buckeyes have another tough match tonight against #14 Kansas State at 8 pm (ET).
Purdue 3 -- Iowa State 0
The first two sets of this match were close affairs, as both offenses were firing on all cylinders. However, Purdue pulled through with 26-24 and 25-21 victories. But the Cyclones didn't have enough gas for the third set, and after the Boilermakers jumped ahead 9-2, there was no stopping them, and the match ended with a 25-13 Purdue victory. Purdue has already played its second-round match, covered below.
If you're keeping track, the Big Ten not only advanced all of its teams out of the first round, but did so without dropping a single set. Way to go, ladies!
Second Round Matches
Most Big Ten teams are in action again tonight, but a few have already completed the second round, and here's how that turned out for them:
#3 Wisconsin 3 -- Washington State 0
The Badgers continue to roll, beating WSU 25-18, 25-18, and 25-17 in a businesslike match to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth consecutive year. The Badgers are playing as well as anyone in the country right now, and vanquished Cougars coach Jen Greeny thinks they'll win it all: "I'll say it right now, they're going to win it all. I can't bet because I'm in the NCAA, but they can definitely do it. We'll be rooting for them." Personally, I've still got Minnesota as my pick to win it all, but if the Badgers keep steamrolling and Minnesota takes care of business, both teams are headed toward a Final Four matchup for the ages. Next up: the winner of Ohio State vs. #14 Kansas State next Friday.
#12 Michigan 3 -- Oregon 1
In another Big Ten - Pac-12 matchup, the Big Ten squad again emerged victorious. This time, it was #12 Michigan against the Ducks of Oregon. After dropping the first set 22-25, the Wolverines rallied to win the next three, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17. This was a tough match against a good opponent (Oregon was ranked #19 in the most recent AVCA poll), and an excellent showing by the Wolverines, who are now on to the Sweet Sixteen next weekend against suddenly terrifying Creighton (more on that in a bit).
Purdue 1 -- Missouri 3
The Tigers of Missouri claimed the Big Ten's first tournament victim in Purdue last night. Missouri startled Purdue in the first set, winning 25-13, before the Boilermakers settled down and took the second, 25-22, but it was destined to be their only set win of the evening. Missouri reassessed during the break, and came out and finished off Purdue, 25-16 and 25-21, sending them back to West Lafayette empty-handed.
Other Results of Note
For the most part, the favorites have made it through, and the bracket still looks mostly like one would expect. But there's one big exception, and that is the surprise second-round upset of #5-seed and last year's Final Four participant, Kansas, by Creighton. As a Husker fan who saw Creighton play Nebraska earlier in the season, I may be less surprised by this than most--the Bluejays pushed Nebraska hard and boast an insanely talented defense--but I still would not have predicted this upset. Creighton is ranked (#21 in the most recent AVCA poll, to Kansas' #4), but fly a bit under the radar thanks to playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, everyone is paying attention to them now after their epic five-set win. After Kansas claimed the first set 25-21, Creighton battled back to grab the next two sets, 25-20 and 25-17. Not to go quietly into that good night, KU won the fourth emphatically 25-16 to force a fifth set. But neither team seemed ready to leave in the fifth, and the match didn't end until Creighton won 20-18. Up next for the Bluejays is Michigan--a battle of two defenses that promises the potential for some great, grinding volleyball.