In athletics, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion.
The Michigan women’s volleyball team proved that on Saturday night, upending No. 2 Stanford 3-1 to advance to the NCAA Division I Championship semifinals for the first time in program history.
The unseeded Wolverines’ victory against the Pac-12 champions was definitely unexpected in the collegiate volleyball world, but not by the Michigan coaches and players.
“I think this is a group that has really come together in the last month-and-a-half and become one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of,” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. “We might not be the biggest name or have the highest profile but I think this is a team that is playing as well as anyone in the country right now.”
Michigan, which finished in a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten, has beaten five consecutive nationally-ranked opponents, including Stanford and No. 10 seeded Louisville in NCAA tournament play.
Rosen believes a five-set victory against Nebraska on Nov. 2 was a turning point in the season for the team. Against the Huskers, the Wolverines had lost the first set and were down 10-0 in the second set before rallying for the victory. Michigan dropped the first set against Stanford before taking control of the match, and ending the Cardinal’s NCAA tournament run for the third time in the last four seasons.
“The energy in the locker room after the game was insane,” junior Lexi Erwin said. “We don’t need our names out there because no matter what teams throw at us, 14 people are coming at them.”
Erwin knocked down 23 kills and tallied 16 digs in the match, garnering Berkeley Regional Most Outstanding Player honors.
Sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller posted 59 assists in the match, joining Erwin on the All-Regional Tournament team.
“No one believed in us but us and that was the key to our victory,” Dannemiller said. “We love being the underdogs because no one expects we can win.”
Michigan is not the only first-time semifinalist heading to Louisville, Ky., for the championship. Oregon also advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory against No. 4-seeded Nebraska on Friday behind Alaina Bergsma’s 23 kills and .429 hitting percentage.
“We talked about emptying the tank [against Nebraska],” Bergsma said. “We gave it everything we had, so we could keep playing next week, just like we’ve been doing all season.”
Michigan will tangle with No. 3 Texas, while Oregon will face No. 1 Penn State in the semifinals on Thursday.
• In a rematch of last season’s Division I women’s basketball national championship game, Baylor once again topped Notre Dame for a 73-61 victory on Wednesday. Baylor’s Britney Griner contributed 24 points and 14 rebounds – one of four Lady Bear players scoring in double figures on the night, while Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins shot just 4-of-19 from the field. Griner has scored in double figures in 88 consecutive games, and in 118 of 120 contests in her career. It was her first double-double of the season.
• The No. 22 Wheaton men’s basketball team earned a dramatic 66-64 victory against No. 6 Washington-St. Louis on Saturday night as junior Tyler Peters buried a fade away jumper as time expired to lift the Thunder in the win. Peters netted 11 points and dished out 10 assists in the contest, while Wheaton moved to 8-0 on the season.
“This is an unbelievable win for us, against a program that I have an enormous amount of respect for in Wash U.,” head coach Mike Schauer said. “To find a way to beat them means a lot for this season for our programs and our kids. It is what small-college basketball is about. Two teams refusing to go away and battling each other to the very end.”
• Georgia Southern’s Dominique Swope scored a go-ahead 12-yard TD with 2:36 left in the game followed by a J.J. Wilcox interception of a Taylor Heinicke pass as the Eagles rallied for a 49-35 come-from-behind victory in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on Saturday. After coming out on the winning end of a game that featured three lead changes, three ties and 1,166 yards of total offense, GSU advances to play defending NCAA champion North Dakota State for the second consecutive year in the semifinals. The Bison won last year’s meeting 35-7 en route to a national title.
• The Lehigh men’s basketball team is off to its best start after 10 games (8-2) since the 1938-39 season after the Mountain Hawks posted their seventh consecutive victory with an 83-67 defeat of Saint Francis on Saturday. Senior C.J. McCollum – the nation’s leading scorer – poured in 29 points and a season-high nine rebounds in the contest. He was flawless from the free-throw line, making all 11 attempts. Lehigh shot 50 percent from the floor for the third consecutive game.
• St. Thomas (Minn.) advanced to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl Division III Championship game for the first time in school history after holding off UW-Oshkosh 28-14 on Saturday. The Tommies will face perennial power Mount Union on Friday in Salem, Va. The St. Thomas defense forced three fumbles and an interception, and held the Titans to just 25 yards rushing. UW-Oshkosh was averaging over 256 yards rushing per game entering the contest. The victory was the 57th in five years for Tommies head coach Glenn Caruso, making him the winningest coach in school history.
• Winston-Salem State will play in the Division II football national championship game for the first time in school history after downing West Texas A&M 41-18 on Saturday. The Rams’ defense held WTAMU quarterback Dustin Vaughan to 169 yards passing and one touchdown in the first quarter, pressuring him with four sacks and two interceptions in the game. Vaughan entered the contest averaging 334 yards passing per game, and had thrown 44 touchdowns in the previous 14 games. The Rams rank in the top 10 in the nation in every defensive category.
|THE DIGIT||THE 4-1-1|
||Valdosta State has advanced to the NCAA Division II Football Championship game all four times the Blazers have played in the semifinals after a 35-19 victory against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday. VSU also played in the national title game in 2002, 2004 and 2007, winning trophies in 2004 and 2007.|
|6||Concordia-St. Paul won its NCAA record-tying sixth consecutive Division II volleyball title on Saturday, defeating Tampa in five sets. Concordia has won 36 consecutive NCAA tournament matches and boasts a 44-4 mark in 10 post-season appearances.|
|8||The Indiana men’s soccer program won its’ eighth NCAA title, and first since 2004, after edging Georgetown 1-0 on Sunday. Nikita Kotlov netted the game’s lone goal as Indiana became the first No. 16 seed to win the trophy in championship history.|
|34||Mount Union trailed 28-14 entering the fourth quarter against Mary Hardin-Baylor in a Division III semifinal game on Saturday, but rallied to score 34 points en route to a 48-35 victory. The Purple Raiders will be playing in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the eighth consecutive year and 16th time in school history.|
|500||Messiah women’s basketball coach Mike Miller collected his 500th career victory on Saturday as the No. 8 Falcons topped Albright College 53-43 and improved to 7-0 on the season. Miller is 500-198 in his career for a .716 winning percentage. He is the 12th coach in NCAA Division III history to reach the 500-win milestone.|
• The Robert Morris women’s hockey team swept No. 4 Mercyhurst in two games during the weekend, marking the first time the Colonials have swept a series against the Lakers in program history. It is also the first time in RMU history the team swept an opponent ranked in the top 10. Senior goaltender Kristen DiCiocco tallied a season-high 40 saves for the Colonials in a 2-1 victory on Saturday – the fifth time she has compiled more than 30 saves in a game this season.
|Lou Carnesecca||St. John’s||526|
|Claire Bee||Rider/LIU Brooklyn||412|
|Dr. Jonathan Halpert||Yeshiva||400|
• Yeshiva head men’s basketball coach Dr. Jonathan Halpert became the seventh mentor in New York City basketball history to record his 400th career victory Thursday. It was on the court dedicated less than one year ago in his honor, as the Maccabees captured a 72-50 Skyline Conference win against visiting Maritime. Halpert, who is the 29th active NCAA Division III men’s basketball coach to have 400 wins, now ranks among the following New York City men’s college basketball coaching career victories leaders:
• Eastern Washington quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 51-35 victory against Illinois State. Three of the six TDs were to Brandon Kaufmann, who caught nine passes for 191 yards in the game. Kaufman broke the EWU and Big Sky single-season records for reception yards with a current total of 1,635 yards.
• The Amherst men’s basketball team’s 35-game home game winning streak ended on Thursday as Babson College upended the No. 10 Lord Jeffs 78-70. The winning streak dated back to the 2009-10 season.
• USC-Aiken head women’s basketball coach Mike Brandt collected his 200th victory as the No. 3 Pacers head coach in a 73-65 defeat of Wingate on Friday. Brandt has compiled a 200-109 mark at the USC-Aiken helm, and a 453-238 record in 24 seasons as a head coach. The Pacers are 6-0 on the season.
• No. 1 West Liberty State mens’ basketball fended off Glenville State 105-98 in West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action on Saturday, improving to 8-0 on the season. The Hilltoppers have won 46 consecutive WVIAC games at home and are 74-2 overall in their last 76 league games dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy