NCAA Tournament begins with 10 matches; 2 more coaches out; NIVC gets underway

Texas hopes its has plenty to celebrate as the Longhorns play Sacred Heart and San Diego plays Rice in Austin/Texas photo

The NCAA Volleyball Tournament begins Thursday with 10 matches. Then on Friday, those winners will play for five spots to advance to the Round of 16, and there will be 22 more first-round matches.

VIEWING — Every first- and second-round NCAA match is being shown, most on ESPN+, although the Texas matches are also on the Longhorn Network. We also have the lineup for the NIVC. So if you want to watch a match, we have you covered. Get the viewing links by going to our Volleyball TV & Streaming Listings.

Thursday’s lineup

Rice (19-6) vs. San Diego (20-7)
No. 2 Texas (24-1) vs. Sacred Heart (19-9)
Rice, led by outstanding outside hitter Nicole Lennon and super setter Carly Graham, had won 14 in a row before losing to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Tournament final. The last loss before that was to Texas, when the powerful Longhorns went to Houston and crushed the Owls. San Diego finished third in the West Coast Conference and has lost three of its last four. Sacred Heart won the Northeast Conference and has a Herculean task trying to beat Big 12-champion Texas and its star-studded lineup at Gregory Gym. 

Dayton (25-5) vs. Marquette (26-5)
No. 6 Purdue (23-6) vs. Illinois State (19-13)
Atlantic 10-champion Dayton, led by outstanding outsides Jamie Peterson and Lexie Almodovar, has won 19 in a row.  Marquette, the second-place team in the Big East, was one of the nation’s hottest teams but is now beset by injuries. Still, any team with Taylor Wolf and Savannah Rennie is dangerous. Illinois State won the Missouri Valley but beating Purdue is tough under any circumstances. The Big Ten’s Boilermakers had won nine in a row before losing at home to Nebraska to end the regular season.

Oregon (22-8) vs. Kansas (16-11)
No. 14 Creighton (30-3) vs. Ole Miss (21-8)
Oregon of the PAC-12 has its entire lineup intact for the first time since preseason. The dangerous Ducks have won seven of nine, losing only to ranked teams Washington State and Washington, and are led by one of the college game’s stars, junior outside Brooke Nuneviller. Kansas of the Big 12 is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 and has been boosted by strong early-season play and wins in its last four matches. Ole Miss, back in for the first time since 2010, had the biggest turnaround in the country. Big East-champion Creighton is tough to beat at home — it’s 11-1 there this season, with the only ;pss to Nebraska in early September. Creighton has won 13 in a row.

Washington State (19-11) vs. Northern Colorado (24-6)
No. 5 Baylor (20-5) vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (19-9)
Washington State is always a tough opponent but is dealing with injuries, including to leading attack Pia Timmer. The Cougars are 11-6 in their last 17 matches, with every loss to a ranked PAC-12 team. Northern Colorado, the Big Sky champion, started the season slowly but has won nine in a row. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which won the Southland, has won seven in a row. The Big 12’s Baylor, which went to the national semifinals in 2019, played 19 of its 25 matches against NCAA Tournament qualifiers and has won seven in a row since losing to Texas.

Miami (24-4) vs. South Alabama (25-6)
No. 16 Florida (20-8) vs. Florida A&M (25-6)
Miami is probably the best team many haven’t seen this year. The Hurricanes tied with Pittsburgh for second in the ACC and finally cracked the AVCA rankings this week at No. 24. Miami, No. 11 in the NCAA RPI, has weapons, including Angela Grieve, outstanding setter Savannah Vach, and a tough defense. South Alabama won the Sun Belt and is riding a 13-match winning streak. Florida A&M won the SWAC in its first year in the conference and has won 12 matches in a row. The big question mark is Florida, which finished third in the SEC. Florida had won nine in a row before back-to-back, three-set losses at Kentucky to end the regular season, and leading attacker, T’Ara Caesar left the team Monday. The Gators still have plenty of weapons, and will rely heavily on second-leading attacker Thayer Hall.

FRIDAY — Among the teams in action are No. 1 Louisville, No. 3 Pittsburgh, and No. 4 Wisconsin.

At Louisville, the Cardinals play UIC after Ball State plays Michigan. At Pittsburgh, the Panthers play UMBC, and Towson plays Penn State. At Wisconsin, the Badgers play Colgate, and Texas Tech plays FGCU.

At No. 7 Kentucky, the Wildcats play Southeast Missouri State, and West Virginia plays Illinois.

At No. 8 Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets play The Citadel, and Western Kentucky plays South Carolina.

At No. 9 Ohio State, the Buckeyes play Howard, and North Carolina plays Tennessee.

At No. 10 Nebraska, the Huskers play Campbell, and Florida State plays Kansas State.

At No. 11 BYU, the Cougars play Boise State, and Utah plays Utah Valley.

At No. 12 Minnesota, the Gophers play South Dakota, and Stanford plays Iowa State.

At No. 13 UCLA, the Bruins play Fairfield, and Pepperdine plays UCF.

At No. 15 Washington, the Huskies play Brown, and Hawai’i plays Mississippi State.

HISTORY — Last spring, Kentucky beat Texas in four to win the SEC’s first volleyball title. In the semifinals, second-seeded Kentucky beat sixth-seeded Washington, and fourth-seeded Texas beat top-seeded Wisconsin.

Kentucky also won the first NCAA championship match since 1989 that didn’t include a Pac-12 or Big Ten team. In ’89, Long Beach State beat Nebraska, which was then in the Big Eight.

Since the NCAA began holding the women’s tournament in 1981 only 11 teams have won it all. Stanford has nine titles; Penn State seven; Nebraska five; UCLA four; Hawai’i, Long Beach State, and USC three each; Pacific and Texas two each; and Kentucky and Washington one each.

COACHING CAROUSEL — Alabama’s Lindsey Devine is out after three seasons. The former ETSU coach saw the Crimson Tide go 10-20 this fall (2-16 SEC). In her three seasons Alabama was 29-52 overall (13-45 SEC) … 

Grambling’s Demetria Keys Johnson is out after serving as an assistant at the school from 2005-09 and taking over as head coach in 2010. The Tigers finished 11-17 this sesaon (8-8 SWAC).

There are at least 20 openings now in Division I and three in the Power 5 conferences, at Alabama, Iowa, and TCU.

NIVC — The 31-team National Invitational Volleyball Championship begins Thursday with six matches at three sites. 

At Colorado State, the host Rams play Houston Baptist, and Tulsa plays UTEP.

At Chicago State, Evansville plays Sam Houston, and Bradley plays the host team.

And at Valparaiso, the Crusaders play Butler, and Toledo plays Indiana State.

Click here for a complete look at the tournament.

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