3-match, 3-day travelogue; wins for TCU, N. Colorado, Towson, JMU, UNLV; big Sunday on tap

We’re back. 

Three matches — two reverse sweeps — involving five NCAA Tournament teams in two days, two on the West Coast, one on the East, ridiculously early morning flights and so much fun. 

That’s why there were no roundups the past two days, but we’ll make up for it this week with conference breakdowns as we head into the home stretch of the NCAA Division I volleyball season.

Details on the road trip — Stanford at USC, Saint Mary’s at San Diego and Louisville at Georgia Tech — follow but first a look at key matches Sunday, another day featuring more NCAA RPI and tournament seeding implications.

SUNDAY: The match du jour is in the Big Ten, no surprise there, as No. 4 Nebraska (22-2, 14-1) goes to No. 6 Ohio State (18-5, 14-1), which is riding a 13-match winning streak. Both teams trail idle Wisconsin (21-3, 15-1) by a game in the win column. Wisconsin, which has won 14 in a row, swept Maryland on Saturday. Also in the B1G, No. 9 Minnesota is home for Indiana, and Rutgers goes to Iowa. 

Fifth-ranked Louisville is back at it in the ACC, at North Carolina. No. 7 Pittsburgh and No. 13 Georgia Tech are off, but Virginia Tech is at Wake Forest, Syracuse is at Boston College, and NC State is at Clemson.

The Pac-12 has No. 14 Oregon at Utah, No. 20 Washington at Arizona State and No. 25 Washington State at Arizona, which is coming off its first win over Washington since 2010.

In the Big East, No. 12 Creighton is home for Seton Hall, and No. 17 Marquette plays at Connecticut.

Both ranked American Athletic teams play — No. 23 Houston, which has won 16 in a row, goes to Wichita State, and No 24 UCF, which has won 10 in a row, is home for Cincinnati. 

The Big 12, SEC and West Coast Conference are off.

Towson beat visiting Hofstra on Saturday, and now the two teams tied for first will decide the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title Sunday.

Want to watch a match? We have the viewing links on the VolleyballMag.com TV & Streaming Listings page.

Stanford’s Kendell Kipp hits against UCLA’s Charitie Luper, left, and Anna Dodson/Andy J. Gordon photo

SATURDAY: TCU, No. 50 in last week’s RPI, kept its slim NCAA hopes alive with a four-set upset of visiting No. 10 Baylor. First-year head coach Jason Williams was a longtime assistant to Baylor’s Ryan McGuyre. Audrey Nalls had 22 kills, hit .364 and added an assist, nine digs and four blocks, one solo in the 25-23, 25-27, 25-20, 25-10 victory, TCU’s first over a top-10 team in six years … Also in the Big 12, Iowa State (32) did nothing to hurt its chances with a four-set win over visiting Texas Tech and top-ranked Texas swept at Oklahoma as the Longhorns hit .354 … 

In the Big Ten, No. 3 Wisconsin swept visiting Maryland as the Badgers hit .345. Danielle Hart had 10 kills with no errors in 16 attacks, theee digs and two blocks … No. 16 Penn State won in four at No. 15 Purdue as Kashauna Williams had 22 kills, hit .381 and had a dig and four blocks, two solo … Illinois won in four at Michigan and Michigan State broke its 12-match losing streak with a sweep of setter-less visiting Northwestern 

No. 17 Marquette swept its Big East match at Providence … No. 21 Rice swept its Conference USA match at Middle Tennessee two days after playing in one of the epic battles of the season, a five-set loss at No. 22 Western Kentucky  

There were no upsets in the Pac-12, but USC had to go overtime to beat visiting and league-winless Cal 26-24, 28-30, 22-25, 25-22, 16-14. Skylar Fields, back in the lineup, had 23 kills for USC and Lydia Grote matched her career high with 28 kills — again — for Cal to go with an ace, five digs and two blocks. Grote also had 28 kills on Thursday in a five-set loss at UCLA … No. 8 Stanford swept at UCLA and Colorado swept visiting Oregon State 

No. 11 Florida won its SEC match in four at Texas A&M … LSU, which had lost three in a row, kept its NCAA hopes alive by rallying to win in five at MissouriAlabama swept visiting South Carolina  

In the West Coast Conference, second-ranked San Diego swept visiting well-rested Pacifc and No. 18 BYU swept visiting Saint Mary’s … Also in the WCC, Santa Clara won in five at Portland despite Portland’s Jayde Harris getting 25 kills while hitting .362 to go with three aces, 10 digs and two blocks, one solo … 

Northern Colorado broke the tie for first in the Big Sky after beating visiting Weber State in five behind 23 kills by Kailey Jo Ince, who hit .353 and had 17 digs and a block … Weber State is a game up on Portland State, which lost in four to Eastern Washington, and Sacramento State, which beat Idaho in four … 

Amber Igiede had 14 kills, hit .364 and added an ace, three digs and six blocks, one solo, as conference-leading Hawai’i won its Big West match in four at UC IrvineUC Santa Barbara stayed a game back by beating visiting Long Beach State in four …

Towson (25-1, 14-1) hit .311 and swept visiting Hofstra (17-10, 14-1) to force a tie for first in the CAA. Nina Cajic had 10 kills with one error in 17 attacks … Also in the CAA, NC A&T lost in five at College of Charleston, but Naiya Sawtelle had 28 kills, two assists, two aces, 13 digs and a block … 

UNLV extended its Mountain West winning streak to 15 with a sweep at Fresno State … High fives to Colorado State, which won its Mountain West match over visiting Air Force in four, marking the final home match for retiring coach Tom Hilbert …

Loyola, in its first year in the conference, had already clinched the Atlantic 10 regular-season title but beat visiting Davidson in four to complete its first undefeated home season in 29 years … 

James Madison finished its first regular season in the Sun Belt 12-0 with a sweep of visiting South Alabama

Northern Iowa beat visiting Missouri State to extend its Missouri Valley Conference winning streak to 17. Carly Spies had 16 kills, hit .333 and had an assist, a dig and 10 blocks … 

Second-place Tennessee Tech lost its Ohio Valley match Friday at first-place UT Martin in four, but Saturday bounced back to win in five in the regular-season finale before the conference tournament. UTM is the No. 1 seed and TT the No. 2 … 

Youngstown State’s Paula Gursching, second to South Dakota’s Elizabeth Juhnke in total kills in the NCAA, did not play when the Penguins lost to Wright State. Gursching was injured in warmups.

It was all hands on deck, literally, during the long break at Georgia Tech

3 MATCHES IN 3 DAYS: Originally, this was scheduled to be an overnighter, less than 20 hours, to Atlanta to see Louisville at Georgia Tech. But a meeting popped up in Los Angeles, so I left the Central time zone on Monday and headed West. Tuesday morning it was raining so hard that I had to drive to Starbucks 75 yards away and still got soaked. It does rain in Southern California.

Wednesday morning, however, it was gorgeous and I headed to Hermosa Beach to visit the practice of reunited beach team of Olympian Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, the great USC teammates who are together for the run to Paris 2024.

That night Stanford played at USC. Bonus: Savannah Rennie is a volunteer assistant at USC and the greatest sports story of all time will make a great coach, USC’s Brad Keller told me. Don’t know Savannah’s story? Read it here. It’s incredible. 

Sadly, USC’s Skylar Fields, nursing an injury, couldn’t play that night. Stanford in three, right? Well, eventually, but not before USC played lights out from the first serve. Stanford ultimately won 23-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-9, but the Trojans were fabulous. In the first set, USC hit .359 and Stanford .367. When it ended, right side Kendall Kipp had 24 kills for Stanford while hitting .413 and she had three aces, four digs and six blocks. She is one of the top five candidates for national player of the year. USC freshman outside Jordan Wilson was really impressive, a high jumper who had 21 kills.

Then it was on to San Diego, where the No. 2 Toreros played host to Saint Mary’s. Side note: Had a great visit and lunch with Julie Chan, whom many of you in the volleyball world know. Julie is the wife of my late VolleyballMag.com partner Ed Chan, who died in September 2021. It was great to see Julie, who is also a huge USD fan, and we visited again at the match. Another side note: It was my first time to USD. What a beautiful campus.

San Diego is really good. How good? Well, 24-1, 15-0 in the WCC. The Toreros have the nation’s longest winning streak and that one loss was at Louisville in four. San Diego has beaten ACC-leader Pittsburgh, Big West-leader Hawai’i, Big Ten-leader Ohio State, Utah, UCLA, and in in the WCC, BYU, with their regular-season finale looming November 22 in Provo. 

San Diego has all the pieces. Are the Toreros super fast? No. Super big? Pretty big. Would they win the SEC or finish second in the Big 12? Good chance. And coach Jen Petrie did everything the NCAA asks. Schedule tough and win. Win your league (not yet but close). The NCAA committee will probably not give San Diego a top-four seed, but the Toreros, No. 9 in last week’s RPI, should be rewarded in this rich-get-richer world with one of those top-four seeds. We’ll have a feature on them this week,

And then it was on a 6 a.m. Pacific flight from San Diego to Atlanta. What’s an extra three hours on a flight I was gonna take anyway? And it it was worth it after seeing a match that no one in attendance will ever forget.

It was a battle that took 3 hours, 24 minutes. Louisville eventually won 17-25, 17-25, 25-14, 25-19, 15-11 but that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. It was really humid in Atlanta on Friday and Georgia Tech plays its matches in tiny O’Keefe Gymnasium on campus. Comfortable seating and ventilation are not its strong points.

Anyway … Georgia Tech’s Julia Bergmann set the pace early. She had 12 kills with no errors in her first 16 attempts. In the first set alone, she had seven kills in eight swings, an assist, two digs and a block. In the second set, she added seven kills with three errors on 16 swings and had another ace and a dig. And her team was up 2-0 on a night when after almost every play, the floor had to be wiped, often in multiple locations.

Georga Tech took a 2-1 lead in the third set when the action stopped.

For more than a half hour.

The floor was like an ice rink.

Georgia Tech’s event staff hustled and worked hard to make it right. Ultimately, they decided to mop the entire floor and dry it off. You can see from the picture above that I took that it was crazy. My media-area seatmate, NCAA.com’s Michella Chester, and I, could not believe what was happening.

Michella Chester of NCAA.com and Lee at Georgia Tech

This would be a good time to tell you that at this point, Louisville’s Claire Chaussee, like Bergmann someone who should be considered a top-10 player of the year candidate, had nine kills with seven errors through the first two sets. She had a kill to start the third before the match was interupted. 

Things were simply different after the long break. Louisville won the final three sets and Chaussee was nothing short of spectacular. The slender 6-footer from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, finished the match with a career-high 27 kills, ended up hitting .317 after having only one error in the final three sets, and when the match ended, her teammates actually hoisted her above their on-court celebration huddle. 

Bergmann, who spent her summer playing for the Brazilian national team, finished with 25 kills, but had 12 errors in 69 swings. She also had five blocks, one solo. 

Both of those teams can go far next month.

Speaking of going far, there was the late-night matter of getting back to my hotel for another early flight, this time back home. One Uber canceled. Another was on the way when all of a sudden the app changed to a new driver. A late night got later.

Sleep? Volleyball never sleeps. Nor does the person who covers three matches in three days on two different coasts, but no complaints here.

ON VACATION: A few conference tournaments are already set and seasons have ended for many teams, including Conference USA’s Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic and UTSA, the Big South’s Radford, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, USC Upstate and and UNC Asheville, the OVC’s Little Rock and Southern Indiana, Nicholls and Lamar in the Southland, the Horizon League’s Oakland, Purdue Fort Wayne, IUPUI and Robert Morris, and the WAC’s Utah Tech, Sam Houston, Abilene Christian, Tarleton and Seattle U.

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UCLA’s Anna Dodson hits against Stanford’s McKenna Vicini/Andy J. Gordon photo

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