NCAA volleyball: The roundup, plus Friday’s schedule as stakes get higher

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Colorado State added to its lead in Mountain West volleyball, Southland-leader Stephen F. Austin won its 23rd in a row, No. 23 UCF won again and things got real tight in the WAC.

Those results and more from Thursday in our NCAA Division I women’s roundup, but first a look at how things stack up as we head into a pivotal weekend as the regular season heads into the home stretch.

Big Ten: Everyone is looking up at third-ranked Minnesota, which holds a three-game lead — four in the win column — in the B1G.

The Gophers are off Friday, but there’s plenty at stake when No. 7 Penn State goes to No. 8 Nebraska and No. 6 Illinois plays at Ohio State. Two other teams are playing for their postseason lives every time out as Iowa is home for Rutgers and Northwestern goes to Maryland.

Pac-12: Second-ranked Stanford has all but locked up the league, holding a four-game lead over three teams — No. 15 USC, No. 16 Oregon and No. 18 Washington State — tied for second. The Cardinal play host to Colorado. USC goes to Oregon as both teams jockey for NCAA Tournament position. Washington State is home for Arizona as both of those teams do the same, No. 22 UCLA goes to Oregon State, Arizona State is at Washington, and Utah goes to Cal.

SEC: After league-leading No. 12 Kentucky swept No. 11 Florida on Wednesday, both teams are off Friday, but the other two ranked teams in the league are in action. No. 20 Missouri, tied with Florida for second, goes to South Carolina and No. 25 Tennessee — one of the biggest surprises in the country this season — is at Ole Miss. Also, Alabama, another team playing for NCAA Tournament position, plays host to Georgia, and LSU plays at Mississippi State.

Georgia announced that it will be finishing the season without leading attacker T’ara Ceasar, who has transferred effective immediately.Ceasar ranked third overall with 376 kills and fifth in the SEC at 4.18 kills per set.

ACC: Tenth-ranked Pittsburgh, which finally lost, holds a one-game lead over No. 24 Louisville and surging Florida State, which is just 14-8 but has an NCAA RPI rank of 37, one spot below Louisville.

Pittsburgh goes to Georgia Tech, Louisville is home for fourth-place Miami, and Florida State goes to Notre Dame. Syracuse, the other team trying to stay in the mix, goes to Virginia. Also, Duke, which is 13-8 but sitting at No. 34 in the RPI, is at North Carolina, Virginia goes to Clemson and Wake Forest is at NC State.

Big 12: Sixth-ranked Texas, off Friday, holds a two-game lead over Kansas (28 RPI)  in the loss column. Baylor (21 RPI) is a game back of the Jayhawks. Baylor goes to Oklahoma, while Kansas is home for Texas Tech. Iowa State goes to TCU and West Virginia is at Kansas State.

West Coast Conference: No. 1 BYU, the only unbeaten team, has the league all but locked up. But second-place San Diego, 46 in the RPI and two games back, hopes to close the gap when the teams play in Provo on Friday. Pepperdine stayed a game back of USD with a sweep of fourth-place Saint Mary’s on Thursday.

Big East: The league has two ranked teams, first-place No. 9 Creighton and second-place No. 19 Marquette. Creighton goes to St. John’s, while Marquette is at Villanova.

Big West: No. 17 Cal Poly holds a one-game lead over Hawai’i and goes to UC Santa Barbara, while Hawai’i (No. 61 RPI) is at CSUN. Third-place UC Irvine, a game back and ranked 58 in the RPI, goes to UC Riverside.

American Athletic: No. 23 UCF has a two-game lead over Cincinnati in the loss column. UCF, ranked No. 11 in the RPI, is off Friday, while Cincinnati (25 RPI) is home for Wichita State, at 44 in the RPI and able to stay in NCAA contention.

Around the nation: Northern Iowa, which not only leads the Missouri Valley, has an RPI of 15. The Panthers play at Bradley. Second-place Illinois State, a game back in the loss column and standing 41st in the RPI, is home for Drake … Big South leader High Point goes to second-place Radford, which is a game behind … The second-hottest team in the nation, Summit League-leader Denver, is home for Oral Roberts the Pioneers go after their 22nd win in a row.

NCAA.com has the complete Friday schedule.

And every match that is being broadcast and streamed can be found at the VolleyballMag.com daily TV listings.

CSU, SFA, UFC get wins: Colorado State (20-6, 12-0 Mountain West) won at Air Force (13-13, 2-9) 25-14, 25-21, 29-27. Paulina Jensen-Hougaard led with 14 kills with no errors in 18 swings to hit .778. She had five blocks and two digs. Breana Runnels and Jessica Jackson had 11 kills each. Abigail Miksch had 10 kills for Air Force, which also got nine kills from Bailey Keith, who hit .667 …

Stephen F. Austin (26-0, 13-0 Southland) not only won its 23rd in a row, the Ladyjacks dropped Sam Houston (20-6, 12-2) two games back with a 25-16, 25-14, 28-26, 25-21 victory.

Three SFA players — Peyton Redmond, Haley Coleman and Danae Daron — had 12 kills each. Redmond had nine digs and a block, Coleman had 12 digs, two aces and two blocks, and Daron hit .647 after making one error in 17 swings and had two digs and seven blocks, three solo. Setter Ann Hollas not only had six kills, but had 23 assists, an ace, four blocks and a team-high 23 digs. Taylor Cunningham led SHSU with 14 kills, 11 digs and six blocks …

UCF (21-3, 12-0 American Athletic) won at UConn (11-14, 3-9) 25-17, 26-24, 25-19. McKenna Miller led with 17 kills, hit .308, and had 11 digs and four blocks, two solo. Anne-Marie Watson had nine kills, hit .533, and had five blocks. Iman McGary had 12 kills, two aces, four digs and three blocks for UConn.

WAC-tion: The top four teams are within a game of each other in the Western Athletic Conference after UMKC beat CSU Bakersfield, Utah Valley knocked off Cal Baptist, UT Rio Grande Valley swept Grand Canyon, and NM State swept Seattle.

Kansas City (18-8, 9-3) is tied with UTRGV (18-8, 9-3). NM State (18-6, 8-3) is a half-game back and CBU (19-7, 9-4) is a game back in the loss column.

Melanie Brecka had 20 kills and hit .386 for Kansas City and added six digs and three blocks. Alicia Harrington had 17 kills, hit .378, and had 11 digs, two aces and four blocks, and Tyrecia Lukes had eight kills, hit .438, and had five blocks, one solo … UTRGV’s Ragni Steen Knudsen led in her match with 14 kills, nine digs, an assist, an ace and three blocks … Megan Hart had 16 kills, hit .667 and had three aces, two digs and a block for NM State … And Kristen Allred led Utah Valley with 16 kills, nine digs, an ace and two blocks. Teammate Jarema Makaila had eight kills, hit .429, and had a dig and six blocks.

Around the nation: Mariena Hayden had 20 kills, two aces, a solo block and 16 digs as UNLV won in five at Nevada … Alcorn State’s Alondra Rivera Modesto had 22 kills, hit .395, and had six digs and three blocks, one solo, as the Braves beat Jackson State in five … Pepperdine swept Saint Mary’s as Shannon Scully had 12 kills and 13 digs in the WCC victory …

Houston Baptist won a Southland match at Northwestern in five as HBU’s Mikayla Vivens had 25 kills, hit .317 and had 12 digs and a block, while Northwestern’s Hannah Brister led the Demons with 23 kills and eight digs … Andrea Hale had 19 kills, three blocks and 13 digs for Weber State in its five-set win at Northern Colorado. Teammate Heather Gneiting had 16 kills, two aces, 10 digs and six blocks … Hofstra won a five-set Colonial match over Charleston as Aisha Skinner led with 23 kills, hitting .373. She had nine digs, four blocks and an ace. Madison Kennedy had 21 kills for Charleston and teammate Devon Rachel added 20, 18 digs, an ace and three blocks … Taylor Slover had 20 kills and 13 digs for Fresno State in a five-set win over Boise State …

And in a big SWAC showdown, Alabama State (18-17, 15-2) dealt Alabama A&M (20-13, 16-1) its first league loss, but A&M still won the regular-season title. Bayle Bennett led Alabama State with 18 kills, five digs and five blocks, one solo, in the five-set win. Jaelin Gant had 24 kills and nine digs for A&M and Terra Brooks had 21 kills.

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