The first weekend of the NCAA volleyball tournament lived up to expectations. Here are five of the best rallies from the first and second rounds that deserve to be watched again and again:
5. Michigan vs. Navy
Michigan swept Navy in the first round of the NCAA tournament, partly behind defense in this clip. Libero Jenna Lerg makes a great save on a ball that looks to be heading toward the floor off the block. Then, later in the rally, defensive specialist Natalie Smith (8) makes three straight digs, then has the awareness to let the next ball go past her and out of bounds.
On the other side, Navy deserves credit for how they handled Michigan’s All-American Carly Skjodt on this play. They had three digs on three straight attempts. The most crucial moment in this rally was on the first hit when Skjodt was alone blocking on the right pin. She was able to hold her own by getting a touch to give the defense time to get to the ball. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
4. Baylor vs. Hawaii
Who doesn’t like a great battle at the net? The Baylor block showed great instincts on the first attempt from the Rainbow Wahine. The Hawaii pass was directly to the setter, which allows for more options on the attack, but the Bears anticipated it well enough to get the block up in time.
Off the second block, the Hawaii libero makes the play of the rally by reacting quickly and keeping the ball alive, as well as giving a good ball to the setter. Then, the Hawaii block returns the favor on the next play. Sometimes — well, most of the time — great defense is a treat to watch.
3. Michigan vs. No. 12 Pittsburgh
Not only was this an intense rally, but one of the most significant points in the match. Pittsburgh finally put the set point down to extend the match to a fifth set after a 29-touch rally, despite Lerg’s best efforts for the Wolverines.
Lerg was able to get a good enough jump on the serve once she saw it was going to hit the net and placed her hand perfectly under the ball for a pancake. Lerg then makes three digs, including one full-extension save late in the rally. Pitt setter Kamalani Akeo makes a great one-handed, diving dig to extend the rally before she eventually delivers the assist to Zoi Faki. Pitt lost in the fifth set.
2. Texas State vs. Rice
Here’s another pivotal moment in one of the first games of the tournament. At 24-24, Texas State is just two points away from winning the match, but Rice fights here to stay alive.
Throughout this rally there are some phenomenal saves, but there’s one to point out because it’s so often a difficult one to make. At about the 18-second mark, there’s a ball hit off the top of the block, which often shoots the ball well into the backcourt past the reach of the defense. But Nicole Lennon stayed home and was able to keep the ball in play. At 37 seconds, Amy Pflughaupt shows incredible effort going across the court to dive and save the ball. Though Rice won the point, Texas State scored three straight to take the match.
1. Baylor vs. Hawaii (again)
This rally has it all. From powerful attacks to spectacular ups, this set point ended up being the best rally of the first two rounds of the 2018 NCAA volleyball tournament.
Yossiana Pressley (in gray) has one of the heaviest hands in the Big-12. Hawaii’s block was able to slow her down and its back row was able to take away the deep corner shot on her third attempt. So when the ball went back to Pressley, she tried to go high off the block and missed the hands, so the ball went out of bounds. A textbook defensive example by Hawaii to take the first set. Baylor, however, ended up winning the match after losing the first two sets.