Whew! I’ll keep this short and sweet, because the weird timing and pace of this tournament means that we’re already partway through the second quarterfinal match—at 3:30 pm. On a Monday.
The NCAA is so cool.
Anyway, the Big Ten proved itself mortal in the third round, as the field of Big Ten teams was reduced by half on Sunday. None of these was more surprising than the shocking upset of Minnesota by Pitt. The unseeded Panthers, the Cinderella of the tournament, advanced to the Regional Finals for the first time in their program’s history, and sent a stunned No. 3 Minnesota home earlier than expected.
Third Round Results
Wisconsin #1 def. BYU #16, 3-0 (this happened Saturday night, but for informational purposes)
Pitt def. Minnesota #3, 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 15-11)
As mentioned, this was a stunner. Minnesota fought hard, but just couldn’t quit Pitt. Minnesota was once again playing without libero CC McGraw, and that no doubt played some part of this defeat, but still - it’s always a story when an unseeded team takes out #3.
Nebraska #4 def. Baylor #12, 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-19)
The Huskers looked sluggish in the first set, but managed to pull it off nonetheless, and played a far better match the rest of the way. Even without superstar Lauren Stivrins, who was out with an undisclosed day-to-day injury, the Bears were no match for the Huskers.
Purdue #7 def. Oregon #10, 3-1 (25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 26-24)
Purdue cruised in the first two sets, but the Ducks figured them out after the break, and it was a much tighter match from then on! Oregon gave them all they could handle, but the Boilermakers just hung on to end it in four.
Florida #9 def. Ohio State #8, 3-1 (25-20, 26-24, 23-25, 25-16)
For one of the first times this season, Ohio State’s youth and inexperience really showed. Perhaps that was no surprise facing Florida, one of the stalwarts of college volleyball, and coached by Mary Wise, a D-1 coach since 1981, at Florida since 1991, and the winningest female head coach in volleyball history—to put it mildly, it ain’t her first rodeo. Ohio State played tough, but lacked their usual defensive excellence, and struggled to slam the door on the Gators. In the second set, which Florida won 26-24, OSU led 24-20 at one point. A similar situation played out in the third set, but the Buckeyes held on in that one.
Texas #4 def. Penn State #13, 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 30-28, 25-17)
The story of this match was definitely that 30-28 third set. If you like volleyball, that’s the stuff you want shot straight into your veins. It had, I believe, 21 ties. Texas had four set points. It was madness. When the Longhorns pulled that off, it seemed to be the back-breaker for PSU, and they didn’t have much to offer in the fourth set.
Fourth Round (Regional Finals) Matches
It was tough to find much information about start times and whatnot for these matches, but they started. At 11 am on a Monday. Women’s Volleyball is the NCAA’s passion.
Nebraska #5 vs. Texas #4 (now, ESPN2)
You know who Nebraska fans don’t like? Texas. Not sure if you were aware of that, but if you weren’t, now you are! This is a long-standing rivalry, dating back to being conference-mates but continuing in the past decade thanks to both remaining at the top of the sport. However, they haven’t played each other since 2016, where Texas swept Nebraska in the NCAA Semifinals.
This will be a tough one for Nebraska, but some good news when I tuned in at the beginning of the second set is that Lauren Stivrins is on the court! As of this writing, Nebraska and Texas are tied 1-1.
Florida #8 vs. Wisconsin #1 (5:30 pm CT, ESPNU)
Florida’s hard-fought prize from yesterday may look less glittering today - they face Wisconsin, who looks to be in full-on juggernaut mode. Furthermore, the Badgers had an extra day of rest while Florida had a hard, scrappy match against OSU just yesterday afternoon. Florida may surprise me, but I look for Wisconsin to make pretty quick work of Florida.
Purdue #7 vs. Kentucky #2 (8:00 pm CT, ESPNU)
Purdue is easily the Big Ten team I know the least about this season - they didn’t play the Huskers and I watched OSU yesterday instead of Purdue. I also didn’t watch Kentucky last night, because their match started at like 10:30 pm or something dumb. So I don’t know what happens here, but hope the Boilermakers can catch the Wildcats sleeping, and keep the possibility of an all-B1G final alive.
How many Big Ten teams are in the Final Four?
This poll is closed