Seven of the eight regional semifinal matches happen Sunday in Omaha’s CHI Health Center. BYU does not play on Sundays so their match against #1 Wisconsin is Saturday, April 17th at 7 pm CST on ESPN3.
12:00 pm CST #3 Minnesota vs Pittsburgh ESPN3
1:30 pm CST #4 Nebraska vs #12 Baylor ESPNU
2:30 pm CST #6 Washington vs #11 Louisville ESPN3
4:00 pm CST #4 Texas vs #13 Penn State ESPNU
6:30 pm CST #8 Florida vs #9 Ohio State ESPN2
7:30 pm CST #7 Purdue vs #10 Oregon ESPNU
9:00 pm CST #2 Kentucky vs Western Kentucky ESPN2
Winners of the semifinals play the next night, Monday April 19th in the regional finals.
Now you know when everyone is playing; let’s talk about who is winning. I will start in the top left corner and move through the bracket top to bottom and left to right.
Wisconsin beats BYU tonight and every night.
Ohio State is a dangerous team and can beat a lot of teams. Florida is a fiery team and can overpower a lot of teams. Florida has more weapons in Thayer Hall, T’ara Ceasar, Lauren Forte and Holly Carlton. These players have post season experienced. This match should use all five sets to decide the winner, and I’m taking the Gators.
I gave a complete analysis of the bottom left matchup between Nebraska and Baylor in #5 Nebraska Volleyball Takes on #12 Baylor in the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament
Also in the bottom left is Texas and Penn State. Neither team was tested in the only other match they played in the NCAA tournament. Penn State played NC A&T and Texas played Wright State. Those opponents never reached 20 points so we haven’t seen these two perform in any gear above 1st.
There will be jitters on both sides of the net, and those often manifest in the form of hitting, serving and passing errors. Once those settle down Texas will be able to control the match through blocking and dynamic attackers. Logan Eggleston, Brionne Butler, Skylar Fields, Asjia O’Neal and Molly Phillips each get swings and can terminate.
Penn State plays defense just as good or better than any team in the country. They dig almost everything. There is the potential that this can frustrate the Texas hitters who are used to the ball doing down after they hit it, but I expect Texas to win out in the end of the this match. Texas and Nebraska will play!
I want to say that Minnesota will win and win big but if you watched the Pitt vs Utah match you would understand my hesitation. Pitt looked GOOD! Their attacks come from all across the net and they always have three attackers because they run a 6-2 offense (6 hitters, 2 setters).
Minnesota’s block is big, very big. Their smallest blocker is 6’0’’ Adanna Rollins and she is a great leaper who plays bigger than her frame, and she is the smallest! Most teams have a weakness in their block when the setter is front row but Minnesota’s setter, but Melani Shaffmaster is 6’3’’.
The Gophers are missing their starting libero, CC McGraw, for the last few matches with a knee injury. She was thought to be able to start come the NCAA tournament but we didn’t see her against Georgia Tech. That means Rachel Kilkelly plays libero. She is great, but she normally plays defensive specialist so there are second order impacts of McGraw’s injury we should look out for.
Despite missing their starting libero, Minnesota will win this match. Pitt will take a set but the overall strength of attackers and defense on the Gophers side of the net will be the complete package.
The other match in the top right is Washington vs Louisville. Washington relies a great deal on their outside hitters and one of them is a freshman, Madi Endsley. She had a team high 20 kills in the five set match against Dayton in the last round. Claire Hoffman is a junior outside hitter and had 13 kills in the Dayton match.
One of Louisville’s strengths as a team is blocking. They average 65% more blocks than their opponents. If Washington stays one dimensional by setting mostly outside, Louisville will set up camp, make a picnic and block Endsley and Hoffman all afternoon.
This one could go a lot of ways and is the toughest to call for me. I will take Louisville in five sets.
Purdue and Oregon are similar teams in the way they balance their attacks. Each team has a dominant outside hitter and right side hitter. These are the players they depend on for kills but also have a supporting cast. Oregon’s top outside is Brooke Nuneviller. She averages 3.54 kills per set.
Purdue has Caitlyn Newton who averages 3.93 kills per set. Both outside hitters are primary passers and key defenders. Purdue’s right side is Grace Cleveland. She averages 3.26 kills per set and is a great blocker. Oregon has Gloria Mutri on the right side, a 6’2’’ Junior who averages 2.62 kills per set.
I expect Purdue to win simply because the supporting cast for the stars we talked about above are more complete players and able to shoulder more of the offensive and defensive load.
Purdue meets the winner of instate match up; Western Kentucky and Kentucky. Since Kentucky is the #2 seed and Western Kentucky is unseeded in the tournament (although they are 18th in the last national poll) then this should be an easy prediction, but it isn’t. The Hilltoppers have a shot to beat Kentucky.
Paige Briggs is an outside hitter for Western Kentucky. She is great. Lauren Mathews is a middle hitter. She is phenomenal. These two players have beaten the opponents thus far in the tournament. I don’t think they will be enough to beat Kentucky.
What a day of volleyball. I won’t be able to switch between the matches fast enough to see it all. Enjoy and GBR!