Wisconsin-Nebraska highlights Friday action; UNLV upset in MWC; Houston plays UCF

Every NCAA Division I volleyball conference will be decided Friday or Saturday, two days that promise plenty of drama as four conference tournaments are competed and the regular-season comes to a close.

All eyes will be on the Big Ten, as Wisconsin (23-3, 17-1) and Nebraska (24-3, 16-2)  battle for the conference title and a top-four seed, while Ohio State (19-7, 15-3) holds out hope to stay in the mix.

Third-ranked Wisconsin, which has won 16 in a row, goes to No. 5 Nebraska and No. 8 Ohio State, coming off back-to-back losses to unranked Maryland and Indiana, is home for No. 9 Minnesota. Wisconsin won the first match with Nebraska 25-23, 25-23, 25-18, and Ohio State swept at Minnesota on October 12.

No. 19 Purdue is at No. 11 Penn State in a big seeding match for both teams, Maryland is at Indiana, Rutgers is at Michigan and Illinois is at Northwestern.

The drama continues Saturday when Wisconsin goes to Ohio State and Minnesota goes to Nebraska.

Wisconsin’s Sarah Franklin, hitting against Nebraska’s Kaitlyn Hord, left, and Whitney Lauenstein on October 26, led the Badgers with 21 kills in that match/Tom Lynn, Wisconsin Athletic Communications

The Mountain West became a two-bid league when runaway regular-season leader UNLV was upset in the MWC Championship by Utah State. That means that the Rebels will get an at-large bid and the tournament winner Friday, either second-seeded San Jose State or fourth-seeded Utah State, will be the conference’s automatic bid.

In the American Athletic Conference. No. 22 Houston (28-2, 19-0) plays at No. 23 UCF (26-1, 18-1). Houston has won 20 in a row since lost in four at Texas and beat UCF in four at home on October 7. UCF has won 14 in a row since. Both teams will get in but the winner will be in the hunt for a top-16 seed.

Hawai’i holds a two-game lead on UC Santa Barbara and can clinch the Big West title and its automatic bid when the Rainbow Wahine play at UCSB. If UCSB wins, the race will be decided Saturday when Hawai’i goes to CSUN.

Stanford clinched the Pac-12 title, but plenty is on the line in every match Friday. The sixth-ranked Cardinal is home for Cal, while No. 10 Oregon tries to solidify its top-16 standing against visiting Oregon State. That will be the last match for exiting coach Mark Barnard. Visiting No. 24 Washington and No. 25 Washington State are playing for seeding, and so is USC when it entertains UCLA. And Colorado puts its at-large hopes on the line against visiting Utah.

Five of the six SEC matches have NCAA implications, especially for Arkansas at Auburn and Georgia at LSU. No. 12 Florida plays at Ole Miss and No. 16 Kentucky is home for South Carolina as both hope for top-16 seeds, and Tennessee is at Alabama. Missouri is at Mississippi State.

There is one Big 12 match Friday when Kansas goes to Texas Tech.

The Big Sky semifinals pit top-seeded Northern Colorado vs. fourth-seeded Sacramento State and second-seeded Portland State vs. sixth-seeded Montana State.

The Big East semifinals match top-seeded and 14th-ranked Marquette vs. fifth-seeded UConn and second-seeded and 15th-ranked Creigton against third-seeded Xavier.

The Summit League semifinals have to-seeded South Dakota facing fourth-seeded Denver and second-seeded Omah playing third-seeded North Dakota. Denver advanced with a five-set win that saw Hailey Green get 32 kills.

In the ACC, Notre Dame goes to Virginia Tech and Clemson plays at Wake Forest. Clemson, VT and Notre Dame are tied with Virginia for last place at 4-13.

MOUNTAIN WEST: Utah State (21-10) not only upset UNLV (26-4), the Aggies are in the championship match after sweeping the Rebels and breaking their 17-match winning streak.

Utah State hit .305 in the 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 victory. Shelby Capllonch led with 13 kills as she hit .423 and had an assist, an ace and five digs. Adna Mehmedovic had 11 kills, hit .389 and had three blocks and two digs. Defending-champion UNLV, sure to get an NCAA at-large bid, got 13 kills from Isabel Martin, who had an assist, five digs and three blocks, one solo …

San Jose State (21-8) advanced to the NWC final for the first time in program history with a 25-17, 17-25, 25-19, 27-25 win over San Diego State (11-20). The last time San Jose State playing a conference championship match was 2003 when it lost to Hawai’i in the WAC. 

Haylee Nelson led the Spartans with 11 kills as she hit .318 and had three digs. Blaire Fleming had 10 kills, hit .348 and added an assist, three blocks and three digs. SDSU’s Kayla Rivera had 12 kills and hit .417 to go with an ace, two blocks and two digs.

San Jose State won the first meeting with Utah State in four, but then Utah Valley won at home in five on November 10 in a fifth set that went to 22-20.

SUMMIT LEAGUE: Denver (19-11) won a wild one 30-32, 25-22, 24-26, 25-22, 15-12 over fifth-seeded South Dakota State (17-14). Hailey Green had a school-record and 32 kills to tie the tourney record. She had nine errors in 72 attacks to hit .319. She added six digs and two blocks, one solo. Memphis Glasgow had 22 kills, two aces, a block and 14 digs. Gianna Bartolo had a program-record 40 digs, nine assists and two aces. Emma Ziegler had two kills, 68 assists, two aces, two blocks and 12 digs. SDSU’s Crystal Burk had 25 kills, two assists, a solo block and 11 digs. Ella Thompson had 11 kills, hit .429 and had four blocks, one solo. Masa Scheierman had 11 kills, five digs and three solo blocks. Jadyn Makovicka had 28 digs, three assists and an ace … 

North Dakota State (21-10) swept North Dakota (12-18) and needed just 39 kills to do it. Ali Hinze led with 10, three blocks and six digs. Kelley Johnson had two kills in five errorless tries, 27 assists, three aces, a block and eight digs. North Dakota’s Elizabeth Norris had 12 kills, hit .391 and had 17 assists and eight digs.

USC UPSTATE COACH: South Carolina Upstate fired coach Rhona Shirleyl. In four seasons, her teams went 35-65, 24-36 in the Big South. The Spartans finished 6-23, 3-13 this season.

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