The early regional semifinals on Friday went almost according to plan with the higher seed winning three of the first four matches contested. The lone upset, however, was one of the biggest of the NCAA Championships as No. 1 seed Florida was toppled by 16th-seeded Purdue in straight sets (28-26, 25-15, 25-19) at the Austin Regional.
The Gators were ranked No. 1 in the AVCA poll for the majority of the year after rolling to a 27-1 regular-season record, including the first-ever 20-0 record in Southeastern Conference action. But after hitting hitting better than .290 through its first 30 matches, UF ran into a roadblock as the Boilermakers limited the Gators to .122 hitting. Purdue held a massive 61-37 advantage in digs with five players posting at least nine digs. Carly Cramer led the defensive effort with 16 digs while Emily Ehers added 15.
The strong ball control game the Boilermakers played helped keep a larger number of rallies alive, setting up an offense that connected at a .327 pace. Jaclyn Hart and Catherine Rebarchak combined to hit .527 with 13 total kills while Ariel Turner added a match-high 18 kills.
In fact, Turner was the only player on either team to record double-figure kills, as Callie Rivers led the Gators with nine kills. UF’s top offensive threat, Kelly Murphy was held to five kills (zero errors, 19 attacks) after coming into the match averaging better than three kills per set.
The Boilermakers will face host Texas on Saturday after the ninth-seeded Longhorns got past Illinois in a five-set comeback, 19-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-14, 25-11. The Illini, which won the match-up between top-10 squads with a sweep in September, hit better than .333 in each of the first three sets but then stumbled down the stretch, as UT limited Illinois to a combined .163 hitting in the fourth and fifth frames.
The Longhorns got 19 kills apiece from Juliann Faucette and Rachael Adams, who hit .438 and added five blocks. As a team, Texas hit at a .338 pace, including posting just four errors in the decisive final two sets.
Jazmine Orozco lead the Illini with one of the top performances in the 2010 postseason as she had 21 kills on .545 hitting, with only three errors in 33 swings. She was joined by Michelle Bartsch (17 kills) and Colleen Ward (16), who added 14 digs and seven blocks.
Texas will be the only Big 12 representative in the regional finals as second-seeded Nebraska also fell Friday. Host Washington, the only unseeded team still alive in the final eight, earned the victory over the Cornhuskers in four sets, 25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 29-27.
The Huskies shut down the Huskers’ attack, limiting NU to just .173 hitting, including connecting under .150 in the first and third sets. UW got off to a hot start, hitting .571 with only one error in the opening frame and finished the match hitting .238, as the teams combined for 23 service errors.
Kindra Carlson and Becky Perry each had 18 kills with Carlson posting a double-double with 14 digs. Bianca Rowland added 10 kills on .436 hitting with eight blocks. Hannah Werth led the Huskers with 16 kills and 16 digs.
Washington will next take on seventh-seeded California, which powered through Minnesota, the No. 10 seed, in three sets, advancing to the regional final for the fourth consecutive season with a 26-24, 25-23, 25-23, victory. With the win late Friday, Washington assured the Pac-10 of a representative in the national title match, as all four of the teams in the regional finals on that side of the bracket are from the conference (Washington vs. California; Southern California vs. Stanford).
The Golden Bears, who have not dropped a set in the postseason, are one of just three teams to reach the regional final in each of the past four seasons, joining Texas and Penn State.
California is one of the most proficient hitting teams in the nation and it showed Friday as they hit better than .300 in each set, finishing with a .319 average. Tarrah Murrey and Adrienne Gehan each had 10 kills to pace Cal, with Gehan hitting a solid .364. Kat Brown hit .533 (8k, 0e, 15ta) and Shannon Hawari connected at a .350 (8k, 1e, 20ta) clip to help Cal advance.
Minnesota had 15 kills on .433 hitting from Tabi Love while Ashley Wittman added a double-double with 14 kills and 10 digs. The Golden Gophers hit .289 as a unit but California held a 9.0-6.0 blocks advantage and UM added six service errors and no aces.
In a showdown between the Big Ten and Pac-10, the West Coast powers proved to be too much once again as third-seeded Stanford and sixth-seeded Southern California advanced to an all-league regional final on Saturday.
With the victories, the Pac-10 leads the Big Ten 4-1 in head-to-head match-ups in the 2010 postseason.
The Cardinal dispatched Ohio State in four sets, 25-21, 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, with timely hitting. Stanford was actually out-hit .318-.315 but moved one step closer to the national semifinals in Kansas City next week as it Alix Klineman pounded home 29 kills on .480 hitting to pace the offense. Jessica Walker (11) and Cassidy Lichtman (10) each had double-figure kills for the Cardinal while combining for eight digs and six blocks.
In the second match, USC cruised by upstart Indiana in straight sets, 25-18, 25-21, 25-20, as Alex Jupiter (13 kills, .235 hitting) and Lauren Williams (10, .444) led the offense. The Women of Troy hit .279 on the night, doubling the Hoosiers’ .136 attack percentage. When IU did disrupt USC’s attack in the second set, holding it to .170 hitting in the frame, the Hoosiers were only able to connect at a .091 pace. Ashley Benson hit .267 with 13 kills and three blocks to lead Indiana.
University Park Regional
Duke was the first team to reach a regional final this weekend as it raced by Missouri, 25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-22. The Tigers came in looking for a third consecutive upset after knocking off No. 5 seed Northern Iowa (the highest seed ever to fall in the first round) and Northwestern, but fell short Friday as four Blue Devils had at least 13 kills to pace a balanced attack.
Amanda Robertson had 15 kills while hitting .321 to tie Sophia Dunworth (15 kills) for team-high honors. Robertson added 10 digs for a double-double, joining Becci Burling (12 kills, 12 digs) and helping Duke to a 75-54 advantage in digs. Missouri, who was led by Paola Ampuida’s 21 kills, kept it close by holding an 11.-0-8.5 blocks advantage, but in the end was outhit .283 to .199.
In the other semifinal, Oklahoma was no match for three-time defending national champion Penn State, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15. PSU kept its title hopes alive by hitting .429, including a sizzling .586 (18k, 1e, 29ta) in the third frame.
Blair Brown had 24 kills on .583 hitting and Arielle Wilson hit .571 with nine kills and just one error on 14 swings to lead the Nittany Lions. They combined for seven blocks as Penn State held an 8.0-5.0 lead at the net as well as a 50-35 digs advantage. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Sallie McLaurin led Oklahoma with 11 kills on .417 hitting.