Nov. 15, 2010

The regular season is finished for a number of conferences and now the most important week of the season has arrived. Over the next seven days, 18 teams will earn automatic berths to the NCAA Championship with hopes of reaching Kansas City on Dec. 16 for the national semifinals.

Here is a complete schedule of the Division I conference tournaments, listed by the date of the championship match. Check back to the NCAA Volleyball Blog this week for updates on your favorite conference or to see how things are shaping up around the nation.

Saturday, Nov. 20
America East Championship (4 teams) - November 19-20, Albany, N.Y.
(Host: Albany)
Atlantic Sun Championship (6 teams) - November 18-20, Ft. Myers, Fla.
(Host: Florida Gulf Coast)
Big South Championship (8 teams) - November 18-20, Rock Hill, S.C.
(Host: Winthrop)
Metro Atlantic Championship (10 teams) - November 18-20, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Host: MAAC)
Ohio Valley Championship (6 teams) - November 18-20, Morehead, Ky.
(Host: Morehead State)
Southwestern Championship, 10 p.m., ESPNU (8 teams) - November 19-20, Montgomery, Ala.
(Host: Alabama State)
Summit League Championship (4 teams) - November 19-20, Fargo, N.D.
(Host: North Dakota State)
Sun Belt Championship (8 teams) - November 18-20, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
(Host: Middle Tennessee)

Sunday, Nov. 21
Atlantic 10 Championship (six teams) -- November 19-21, Cincinnati, Ohio
(Host: Xavier)
Big East Championship, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU (8 teams) --- November 19-21, Pittsburgh, Pa.
(Host: Pittsburgh)
Colonial Athletic Association Championship (4 teams) - November 20-21, Newark, Del.
(Host: Delaware)
Horizon League Championship (8 teams) - November 19-21, Milwaukee, Wis.
(Host: Milwaukee)
Mid-American Championship (12 teams) - November 16-21, Toledo, Ohio
(Host: Toledo)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Championship (8 teams) - November 19-21, Baltimore, Md.
(Host: Coppin State)
Northeast Championship (4 teams) - November 20-21, Fairfield, Conn.
(Host: Sacred Heart)
Patriot League Championship (4 teams) - November 20-21, Washington, D.C.
(Host: American)
Southern Championship (8 teams) - November 19-21, Boone, N.C.
(Host: Appalachian State)
Southland Championship (8 teams) - November 19-21, Huntsville, Texas
(Host: Sam Houston State)

Wednesday, Nov. 24
Western Athletic Championship, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU (6 teams) - November 22-24, Las Vegas, Nev.
(Host: WAC)

Saturday, Nov. 27
Big Sky Championship (4 teams) - November 26-27, Portland, Ore.
(Host: Portland State)
Missouri Valley Championship (6 teams) - November 25-27, Cedar Falls, Iowa
(Host: Northern Iowa)

Regular-season champion gets automatic bid
Atlantic Coast
Big 12
Big Ten
Big West
Conference USA
Ivy League
Mountain West
West Coast

Sunday, Nov. 28
Women's Volleyball NCAA Championship selection show, 3 p.m., ESPNEWS

Penn State Pulls Even With Illinois
A pair of losses on consecutive nights early in October put Penn State two matches behind the conference leaders and in a difficult position. The Nittany Lions certainly had the talent to rebound for a piece of their eighth straight conference title, but now they had little room for error.

Penn State Brown_Blair.jpgOn Saturday night in the Recreation Building on the PSU campus, the eighth-ranked Nitanny Lions collected their 88th consecutive home conference win and in the process climbed back into the conference title race with a dominating 25-18, 25-16, 25-18 victory over No. 9 Illinois. It was their 10th straight win since those back-to-back losses on Oct. 7-8, including the seventh sweep.

Blair Brown posted 13 kills with only two errors on 28 swings (.393 hitting) while adding seven digs. Deja McClendon added 12 kills on .600 hitting (0e, 20ta) to help PSU hit .324 on the match while holding an 8.5-4.0 lead in blocks and 53-43 advantage in digs. The injury riddled Illini hit just .112 for the match as Jazmine Orozco posted a team-high eight kills.

The victory Saturday pulled Penn State even with the Illini at the top of the Big Ten standings as each now has a 13-3 league record. PSU improved to 23-4 on the year, its 34th straight 20-win season, while Illinois fell to 21-5 overall.

Each team has four matches left, including the first two this weekend at home. Penn State will face Ohio State and Northwestern at home before hitting the road to play Iowa and Minnesota to end the regular season. Illinois plays at home against Iowa and Minnesota and travels to take on Indiana and Purdue.

Michigan and Minnesota are now tied for third in the conference standings at 10-6 after the Wolverines dropped a pair of matches over the weekend, including a crushing four-set loss to last-place Iowa. Michigan hit .193 on the match but was dominated at the net as the Hawkeyes held a massive 15.0-4.0 blocking advantage.

Purdue is in fifth at 9-7 in conference action while Ohio State and Northwestern are tied for sixth at 8-8 heading into the final two weeks of Big Ten play.

Pac-10 Showdown Set for Friday
As deep as the Pac-10 Conference is this year, there was little doubt that the regular-season title would actually be decided much before the end of November. It's right on schedule.

This weekend's matchup between No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 California could be pivotal in that outcome. The teams meet for the second time this season on Friday night when they play at Haas Pavilion in Berkley, Calif., for a rematch of their four-set battle of nearly one month before. That episode saw the Bears lose the first set to the then-top-ranked Cardinal before reeling off three straight wins to earn the 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-16, victory. The win helped California jump up the standings, where it moved as high as No. 2, the top ranking in program history.

The Bears are 11-1 at home this season with junior outside hitter Tarah Murrey leading the way. Murrey has hit .331 on the season while averaging 5.2 kills and 2.2 digs per set. Four other Golden Bears have produced at least 1.9 kills per set this season while helping the team combine for a .312 hitting percentage. Stanford's Alix Klineman has averaged 5.5 kills and 2.7 digs per set as the Cardinal has hit .321 on the season.

The teams enter this week with identical 13-2 records in conference play, while Cal has one more overall victory (Cal is 23-2; Stanford is 22-2). They have a two-match lead over third-place USC (22-4, 11-4 Pac-10) and a four-match advantage over fourth-place UCLA (19-7, 9-6 Pac-10).

Flyers Cap Perfect Conference Slate
Dayton felt a little bit of perfection on Sunday when the 17th-ranked Flyers swept Saint Louis, 25-18, 25-17, 25-20, to cap a 15-0 run through regular-season play in the Atlantic 10 Conference. UD became just the second A-10 team in the past 13 seasons to earn an undefeated league record as it finished 15-0 in conference action while improving to 24-3 overall.

Senior Lindsay Fletemier paved the way all season and saved some of her best play for last as she finished with a match-high 15 kills without an error on 22 swings for a blistering .682 hitting percentage. Her effort helped Dayton outhit SLU .340 to .191, and she added 2.0 of the team's 3.0 total blocks.

Heading into the league tournament this weekend, the Flyers are the top seed and will be followed by Xavier, Saint Louis, Dusquesne, Charlotte and Fordham.