Pittsburgh, Washington, Nebraska, Texas join Wisconsin in NCAA tourney final eight

NCAA volleyball 4/19/2021-Washington volleyball-Maria Bogomolova
Washington’s Maria Bogomolova, a senior from St. Petersburg, Russia, was overcome with emotion after sparking the Huskies’ huge fifth-set comeback/Mark Kuhlmann, NCAA Photos

Pittsburgh is in for the first time, Washington staged a remarkable comeback, Nebraska won without its best player, and Texas advanced Sunday and joined Wisconsin — which played on Saturday — in Monday’s NCAA Tournament regional finals in Omaha.

Update: Florida beat Ohio State in four, while Purdue did the same to Oregon. Later Sunday, Western Kentucky played Kentucky. This story will be updated with recaps of the final three matches.

It sets up a regional-finals Monday that has (all times Eastern):

Pittsburgh vs. Washington, noon
Nebraska vs. Texas, 2:30 p.m.
Florida  vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m.
Purdue vs. WKU-Kentucky winner, 9 p.m.
All four matches will be shown on ESPNU.

Also Saturday in NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball, Belmont Abbey won the Conference Carolinas tournament title and the NCAA automatic bid that goes with it.

PITT OUSTS MINNESOTA — Pitt wasn’t seeded but that hasn’t kept the Panthers (19-4) from knocking off seeds in back-to-back matches. Sunday they ousted No. 3 Minnesota (16-3) 21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-11, 15-11 to vault Pitt into the NCAA regional final for the first time.

Pitt, an at-large from the ACC, a league in which it went 12-0 this spring, has won 15 in a row. The Panthers, who swept LIU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then swept 14th-seeded Utah.

Chinaza Ndee led with 19 kills, two digs, and four blocks. Kayla Lund, the two-time ACC player of the year, had 17 kills and an assist, an ace, 10 digs, and a block. Chiamaka Nwokolo had a career-high 13 kills with two errors in 17 attacks to hit .647 and she had three blocks. Valeria Vazquez Gomez had nine kills, an assist, a block, and 17 digs. Sabrina Starks had six kills, two digs, and eight blocks, two solo. 

Lexis Akeo had 27 assists and five digs and Kylee Levers had 33 assists and 10 digs. Their team hit .205 after having 70 kills and 32 errors in 185 attacks.

Stephanie Samedy led Minnesota with 23 kills, nine digs, and six blocks. Taylor Landfair had 15 kills, two digs, and two blocks, and Adanna Rollins had 15 kills, hit .344, and had an assist, an ace, eight digs, and five blocks.

Regan Pittman had just three kills, but 11 blocks to go with an assist, an ace, and four digs. 

Melanie Shaffmaster had two kills, 50 assists, an ace, 13 digs, and three blocks. Rachel Kilkelly had 16 digs and six assists, and Jenna Wenaas had 11 digs.

WASHINGTON RALLIES PAST CARDS — The sixth-seeded Huskies are living on the NCAA edge. First the Pac-12 champions (19-3) had to go five to get past Dayton on Thursday. Then Sunday, they had the comeback of comebacks, going on a 10-2 run in the fifth set to beat 11th-seeded Louisville 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-13. 

Washington seemed out of it in the fifth, down 11-5, when it sided out on a kill by Claire Hoffman. At that point seldom-used Russian senior Maria Bogomolova came in to serve. Bogomolova, who up to that point this spring season had three aces and 11 digs, served an ace. She continued to serve tough and Louisville had back-to-back hitting errors and it was 11-9 when the Cardinals called time.

Back-to-back kills by Hoffman tied it and then Bogomolova had another ace. Finally, she served an error that left the score tied at 12. Bogomolova, who had not changed facial expression through the run and had come up with four digs, one spectacular off her chest, broke into a big smile as coach Keegan Cook embraced her. 

But the match was far from over. Louisville went up 13-12 on a kill by Claire Chaussee, but a kill by Marin Grote tied it and then Washington won on back-to-back hitting errors, a description which really doesn’t do justice to the intensity of the rallies. 

Hoffman led the Huskies with 20 kills as she hit .318 and had an assist, two aces, 11 digs, and three blocks. Samantha Drechsel had 13 kills, six assists, 10 digs, and three blocks. Madi Endsley had 11 kills, two digs, and two blocks, and Grote had eight kills with one error in 16 attacks, an assist, two digs, and five blocks. Lauren Sanders had seven kills, a dig, and seven blocks.

Ella May Powell had six kills in 15 errorless attempts, 45 asissts, an ace, 16 digs, and two blocks. Her team hit .203. Shannon Crenshaw had 19 digs, five assists, and two aces. Bogomolova, as mentioned, finished with three aces and four digs, and the thin 6-foot-1 outside from St. Petersburg cried uncontrollably after the match.

Louisville, the ACC champion whose season ended 15-3, got 17 kills from Anna DeBeer, who had 13 digs and two blocks. Chaussee had 13 kills, two digs, and four blocks. Aiko Jones had 10 kills, two aces, three digs, and five blocks. Amaya Tillman had seven kills in 14 errorless attacks and 10 blocks.

Tori Dilfer had three kills, 48 assists, two aces, 12 digs, and two blocks. Her team hit .191. Alexis Hamilton had 17 digs, three assists, and one ace.

Nebraska’s Jazz Sweet, left, and Callie Schwarzenbach block Baylor’s Yossiana Pressley/Mark Kuhlmann, NCAA Photos

NEBRASKA SWEEPS BAYLOR — Fifth-seeded Nebraska (16-2) may not have had middle Lauren Stivrins, but it didn’t matter as the Huskers overpowered Baylor 25-21, 25-17, 25-19.

Stivrins, who averages 3.93 kills per set, second on the team, and leads with 63 blocks, was out with an “undisclosed injury.”

Nebraska is in an NCAA regional final for the ninth year in a row.

Lexi Sun led Nebraska with 12 kills and hit .345 after having just two errors in 29 attacks. She had five aces, five digs, and a block. Madi Kubik added eight kills but hit negative, and had an assist, six digs, and two blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach had three kills, a dig, and five blocks.

Kayla Caffey had seven kills, hit .385, and had an assist, two digs, and three blocks. Jazz Sweet also had seven kills and had a dig and a block. Setter Nicklin Hames had four kills in eight errorless attempts, 31 assists, an ace, 11 digs, and three blocks. Her team hit .222. Kenzie Knuckles had 13 digs and three assists.

Baylor’s Shanel Bramschreiber during play against Nebraska/Mark Kuhlmann, NCAA Photos

Baylor of the Big 12, which went to the 2019 national semifinals, ended its season 20-7. 

The Bears, who hit .141, had only 31 kills. Yossiana Pressley led with almost half of them, 15, and she had two assists, five digs, and a block. 

Lauren Harrison had six kills and two blocks. Hannah Sedwick had two kills, 21 assists, four digs, and a block.

TEXAS DOWNS PENN STATE — The fourth-seeded Longhorns, champions of the Big 12, hit .353 and won a fierce battle with Big Ten at-large Penn State, winning 23-25, 25-18, 30-28, 25-17, and the fourth set was one for the books.

Texas, which is in a regional final for the 25th time, got 22 kills from Logan Eggleston, who had an assist, an ace (but five errors), eight digs, and two blocks. Skylar Fields had 21 kills, hitting .500 after having three errors in 36 attacks. Asjia O’Neal had 13 kills with three errors in 20 swings and hit .500 and had an assist, a dig, and three blocks. Molly Phillips had eight kills, hit .312, and had three blocks. Brionne Butler had six kills with one error in 11 attacks and four blocks. 

Setter Jhenna Gabriel had 55 assists, 18 digs, and a block. Sydney Peterson had 10 digs and an assist, Nalani Iosia had 10 kills, five assists, and an ace, and Morgan O’Brien had nine digs, two assists, and three aces.

With Stanford missing out, 13th-seeded Penn State is the only team to have played in every NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions went 10-6 in a season marred by numerous COVID-related cancelations. 

Jonni Parker had 20 kills, 21 digs and four blocks. Kaitlyn Hord had 13 kills with one error in 27 attacks and five blocks. Annie Cate Fitzpatrick had nine kills, an ace, 14 digs, and a block. Anastasiya Kudryashova had eight kills, hit .333, and had an assist, a dig, and a block. Serena Gray had three kills, an ace, and four blocks. 

Gabby Blossom had 46 assists, an ace, six digs, and two blocks. Maddy Bilinovic had 10 digs and two aces.

BELMONT ABBEY WINS CC TITLE — Second-seeded Belmont Abbey (15-7) beat top-seeded Mount Olive (13-4) in four to win the Conference Carolinas tournament and the league’s NCAA automatic bid. 

This will be Belmont Abbey’s first NCAA trip. The men’s tournament is May 3-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Since the conference started getting an automatic bid in 2014, it has lost all six of its NCAA matches, although in 2019 Barton was the first team to take a set when it lost in four to Princeton.

Belmont Abbey hit .333 against Mount Olive, as Andrew Kohut had 21 kills and Matteo Miselli had 20. Kohut hit .351 and had three blocks and 10 digs. Miselli hit .325 and had five digs. Brennan Davis had 57 assists, an ace, two blocks, and six digs. 

Tobi Azeez had 20 kills for Mount Olive to go with three aces, two blocks, and two digs. Eric Visgitis had 14 kills and his brother Luke had nine with one error in 13 attacks. Jarrod Ferguson had 51 assists, and eight digs.

Belmont Abbey wins the Conference Carolinas title

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