Saturday, December 11, 2021

Live-Blogging NCAA Women's Elite Eight Saturday (December 2021)

A long day of play is over. See below for my real-time statistical commentary on all four matches (with thanks to the NCAA women's volleyball website for statistics and play-by-play sheets, which were very helpful when I missed a play)...

Texas-Nebraska: Coming up soon for the remaining spot in the Final Four with Pitt, Louisville, and Wisconsin... Game 1: Texas out to early 4-1 lead... Nebraska turns things around, taking 13-9 lead... Now 14-10... Cornhusker lead up to 17-10, now 17-11... Nebraska in good shape, leading 23-15... And the Huskers close it out 25-19. Game-1 hitting percentages: NU .242, UT .125... Game 2: Nebraska leading 11-10... Huskers expand lead to 20-12, looking likely to take a two-games-to-none lead... Three straight for Longhorns, closing their deficit to 20-15... Texas closes further to 22-20... Excellent dig by Horns on hard-hit ball leads to kill in transition, now 22-21... 22-all on another UT kill... Airmailed serve puts NU back up, 23-22... 23-all after long rally... Another long serve by Texas gives Nebraska game-point, 24=23... Huskers pound overpass to take Game 2, 25-23 (a lot closer than it looked like it was going to be)... Game 3: Texas up 6-5, thanks to some big blocks. On the evening (cumulatively), we have seven total blocks for the Horns and five for the Huskers... Nebraska goes up 8-7, hoping to avoid the reverse-sweep suffered by Washington Thursday night vs. Texas... Still close: 15-14 Huskers... Now 17-14, the most recent point coming on a Nebraska ace serve... UT with two straight to close to 17-16... Now 20-19 NU... UT airmails another serve, making it 21-19... Nebraska can't put away a free-ball opportunity and Texas is back to within 21-20. Horns tie it 21-all... Texas serve into net gives Nebraska 22-21 lead, but Skylar Fields kill ties it at 22-all... Molly Phillips kill puts Longhrons up 23-22, T/O Nebraska... Texas serve called wide, but under challenge... Call reversed and ruled an ace to give Horns 24-22 lead... Another UT service error (into net), making it 24-23... Big UT block gives it game, 25-23. Texas now up to 11 total blocks (cumulatively)...  After three games (cumulatively), Fields hitting .344 (13-2-32).  Game 4: Nebraska leading 9-7... Now 11-10 Huskers... Announcer Paul Sunderland showing his statistical chops, noting that NU first-years Lindsay Krause (pronounced Krowzy) and Ally Batenhorst are hitting at a much higher percentage tonight than their percentages for the season.

Krause: Tonight .500 (12-2-20) ----- Season .219
Batenhorst: Tonight .476 (10-0-21) ----- Season .152

Nebraska ups lead to 15-12... 16-12 on Texas attack called a throw or push rather than a hit. Sunderland contends that similar types of contact have been taking place all night without being flagged. Now 17-12... 18-12... Now up to 20-12 Huskers... 21-13 NU... 21-14... UT block for 21-15... Longhorn kill for 21-16. T/O Nebraska... Huskers challenge whether UT's Logan Eggleston had her foot on 10-foot-line before going up for attack. Declined, so still 21-16... Texas hits long, but challenges whether Nebraska committed net violation. Challenge upheld, so 21-17... Longhorns with ace for 21-18... Mystery call (possibly NU net violation) for 21-19...  Batenhorst kills saves NU after shaky serve-receipt, 22-19 Huskers... Nebraska block for 23-19... Fields (UT) and Kayla Caffey (NU) trade kills for 24-20 Husker lead... Fields kill off the block keeps Texas alive, 24-21...  Krause kill sends Huskers to Final Four, 25-21 in Game 4...

Wisconsin-Minnesota is also coming on the air in-progress, with the Badgers leading Game 1 by a 19-15 tally... The Badgers finish off the opener 25-18, outhitting the Gophers .304 (19-5-46) to .222 (9-1-36). Minnesota avoided hitting errors in Game 1 (only one), but a very large share of their spikes were kept in play. UW middle Dana Rettke is off to a hot start hitting (.625, 5-0-8), whereas UM's go-to, right-side hitter Stephanie Samedy, is not (.071, 2-1-14). Without a great night from Samedy, for Minnesota it will be a calamity... Game 2: Minnesota out to a 10-8 lead... Now 15-13 Gophers... 15-14...15-all... And Wisconsin pulls ahead 16-15. Three kills from Jade Demps, two from Julia Orzol, and one from Devyn Robinson have powered a Badger 6-1 scoring run from 10-14 to 16-15... Now 17-all... 20-19 Badgers on stuff block; hitting over the 6-foot-8 Rettke and 6-foot-9 Anna Smrek is, pardon the pun, a tall task for Minnesota... Gophers hanging in, however, 21-all... Samedy has upped her hitting percentage to .273 (7-1-22). Now 22-all... Rettke slides over to the right for a kill to make it 23-22, followed by a Rettke ace making it 24-22... UW hits wide, bringing Gophers within 24-23. Samedy kill from the back row ties things at 24-all... Minnesota gets two good swings, but Wisconsin there with the block each time (the first time fielded by Gophers, the second time a stuff-block for a Badger point), giving Wisconsin 25-24 lead... Gophers hit wide for 26-24 Badger win... Game 2 hitting percentages: Wisconsin .342, Minnesota .275... Blocks (cumulative) through two games are even at four apiece... Game 3: Minnesota leads 8-7, as Gophers continue to play Badgers on even terms of late... Ace on serve that hits net and trickles over gives UW a 10-9 lead... Badgers starting to open up some daylight, 13-10, although Minnesota is challenging a no-touch call on a ball it hit out... Challenge denied, so score remains 13-10... 17-15 Badgers... 18-15... Gophers with three straight to tie it 18-all, the last point coming on a Samedy back-row kill... Badger block for 19-18... Ace (Minnesota lets serve land that was way in) for 20-18... Smrek kill for 21-18... Two more for Wisconsin to make it 23-18.. Gophers rebound with three to come within 23-21, but this time it's the Badgers challenging a no-touch call... Hard to tell on the replay (as many touch/no-touch calls are), but perhaps Minnesota blocker's finger bent a tiny bit, suggesting a touch... Challenge denied, so score remains 23-21... Rettke slide kill for 24-21, match-point... UW hits long, 24-22... Rettke with another slide kill for the match and Badger trip to the Final Four... Rettke finishes at .520 (15-2-25), Robinson at .391 (11-2-23), and Demps .312 (7-2-16) for Wisconsin. The durable Samedy, with 42 swings in three games, finishes at .214 (12-3-42), with Minnesota teammate Airi Miyabe hitting .296 (13-5-27).

Louisville-Georgia Tech started before the end of Pitt-Purdue, so by the time I started watching the Cardinals and Yellowjackets, Louisville had already taken the Game 1 (25-18)... Game 2:  According to an ESPN studio host, Georgia Tech had not won even a single game from its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) mate Louisville since 2016. That streak is now over, the Yellowjackets winning Game 2 by a 25-21 score. Georgia Tech upped its hitting percentage from .116 in Game 1 to .281 in Game 2... Louisville's hitting percentage moved in the opposite direction (.281 to .152). Game 3: Louisville regains the upper hand, winning 25-21... The Cardinals close it out, 25-20, to advance...

Pitt-Purdue underway... Game 1: After a slow start (Purdue starting out with 4-1 lead), Pitt leads 11-10... ESPN graphic points out Boilermakers' height advantage, but Panthers scoring kills with no problem when in-system. Pitt also has a couple of stuff-blocks... Panthers lead 15-14 at a TV break. even though Purdue hitting .500 (10-2-16). Pitt opening up a little daylight with 18-15 lead, hitting .444 (10-2-18)... Panthers up their lead to 21-17... Pitt up 23-19, running the middle to great effect... Panthers close out Game 1, 25-20... A real slugfest in Game 1, with Pitt hitting .571 (19-3-28) and Purdue hitting .478 (14-3-23)...  Game 2: 7-4 Purdue... Pitt getting hot, takes 9-8 lead. Still early, of course, but Panthers' Serena Gray crushing it in the middle (1.000, 5-0-5)... 13-all... 16-15 Pitt; Panthers with two service errors in Game 2... 18-17 Pitt... 19-18 Pitt... Now 19-all... Game-2 hitting much colder thus far: Pitt .172, Purdue .143... 20-all... 21-all... 22-all... Purdue now up 24-22... 24-all... 25-24 Purdue... Another Gray kill to tie it 25-all... 26-all... 27-all... 28-all... Purdue takes it, 30-28. Pitt just couldn't close on some free-ball opportunities...  Through two games: Pitt 25 digs, Purdue 23...  Game 3: Early 5-2 lead for Pitt... 11-6 Panthers... Boilers on a run, closing to within 12-10. T/O Pitt... Here's an odd statistic, considering how close this game is: Pitt hitting .727 in this game (8-0-11), whereas Purdue hitting .000 (4-4-14)... Two in a row for Pitt, as it leads 14-10... Now 14-11 on Purdue block; Boilermakers up to six stuffs for the match... 14-12... 15-13 Panthers and now 16-13... 16-14... 16-15 on a Purdue ace... Gray annihilates another set to the middle to make it 17-15 Panthers... 18-15... 19-15. Purdue T/O. Pitt's Game-3 hitting now .300 (12-3-30). You didn't expect the .727 to last, did you?... 20-15 Pitt... 21-15... 22-15, looks like it's slipping away from the Boilers, but don't forget the comeback vs. BYU... Three straight points for Purdue, now 22-18 Pitt; Panthers call time... Airmailed Purdue serve makes it 23-18... Boilers with nice quick-hit down the middle for 23-19... Gray back in the front row for Pitt, so you know what that means: 24-19... Pitt kill ends Game 3, 25-20... Cumulatively through three games, Pitt's Serena Gray hitting an error-free .750 (12-0-16)... Game 4: Purdue with a 5-4 lead... Now, 10-all... 12-10 Pitt...  Purdue has been making most of the miracle saves in the match (as per my memory), but on this last point, it was Pitt, 13-10... 14-10... Boilermaker kill for 14-11... Panthers return the favor for 15-11... Pitt starting to pull away a little, leading 17-11... However, you can't count Purdue out until the ref's whistle blows on the 25th (or whatever game-winning total) point for the other team... 19-11 Pitt... Three Purdue points cut its deficit to 19-14 and prompt Pitt T/O... Game-4 hitting percentages: Pitt .348 (9-1-23), Purdue .000 (9-9-33)... Panthers rebound with next two points to make it 21-14, T/O Purdue... 24-14 Pitt, 10 match-points. One is staved off, but no more than that... Your Game-4 final is 25-15, sending Pitt to the Final Four... ESPN color commentator Missy Whittemore ( a former setter) made the interesting point late in the match that Purdue did not seem to trust its front-row hitters at the time, instead setting players in the back row (who must launch their jump from behind the 10-foot line).

***

I think this is my first-ever Volleymetrics "pregame coverage," with the first of today's four regional finals roughly 30 minutes away. My primary thought heading into the action is the demise (in the short term, at least) of West Coast volleyball. When I covered the inaugural NCAA women's volleyball tournament for the UCLA Daily Bruin 40 years ago (screenshots below), the teams in the Final Four were USC, UCLA, University of the Pacific, and San Diego State (prior to 1981, women's collegiate sports were entirely under the auspices of the AIAW). Of the eight remaining teams playing today, none are from the Pac 12 or any other West Coast conference (OK, BYU was extremely close, Washington a little less so).

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