It's hard to believe it, but we're in the final week of the regular volleyball season! If you haven't caught any matches so far, don't despair--there are some goodies this week, including a showdown tonight between #1 and #2, and many of the Big Ten squads will be continuing on to the tournament. But before we get to that, let's revisit the week that was.
- And then there were three--last week saw both Penn State and Michigan State drop out of contention for the Big Ten conference title, leaving, unsurprisingly, a battle between Nebraska (17-1 in conference), Wisconsin (16-2), and Minnesota (15-3). Tonight's match between Nebraska and Minnesota has big implications for this race.
- Once again, the Big Ten holds the top three spots in the AVCA Coaches' Poll: Nebraska remains the undisputed #1, with Minnesota and Wisconsin continuing to hold firm at #2 and #3, respectively. But overall, the Big Ten's ranking fortunes have diminished slightly with only three other teams remaining in the Top 25, and those three substantially further down the rankings: MSU at #14, PSU at #15, and Michigan at #18. Illinois, OSU, and Purdue are still receiving votes, but are unranked. This does not mean that the conference can't make a nice run in the conference, however--in all of these cases, these are good teams that suffer from having to play the top three teams in the country anywhere from 3-6 times during the season, as well as other very quality opponents. That affects the W-L, though not necessarily the quality of the squad.
- One of MSU's strengths this season has been its service game. To wit, they currently rank second in the country in service aces per set at a rather remarkable 2.02.
- Nebraska owns eight of the top ten (and 11 of the top 15) attendance records for single matches this season. The Huskers have played in front of more than 8,000 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center eleven times this season. Purdue is the only other Big Ten team to draw more than 8,000 fans this year, with 8,240 fans watching their match against Indiana in September. It's important to note, however, that this is more a reflection of venue capacity, rather than a lack of fan support in the Big Ten. As noted in a previous edition of Net Results, B1G teams dominate average attendance marks in volleyball, and several teams are selling out some, most, or all of their home matches this year.
- Players of the Week: Wisconsin's Molly Haggerty scooped up not one, but two honors this week--Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week. Haggerty and Wisconsin had two big wins over the weekend, knocking off both MSU and Michigan, thanks in large part to Haggerty's 36 kills and .373 hitting average. Ali Bastianelli of Illinois was the Defensive Player of the Week with 21 blocks for the week. Another Wisconsin player rounds out this week's awards, with Lauren Carlini earning Setter of the Week honors for the 11th time in her career. Carlini averaged 13.7 assists per set this week.
Wednesday, November 16
Purdue 3 - Indiana 2
Iowa 3 - Rutgers 1: This is the first set Rutgers has won since October 14, and only the second set in the entirety of conference play. So, good job, Rutgers.
Nebraska 3 - Penn State 0: Last week's only televised match (thanks again for nothing, BTN) saw the Huskers dispatch Penn State relatively easily for their 13th straight win. The Big Red won 25-17, 25-14, and 25-22 in a smothering defensive performance. The Huskers held Penn State to a season-low 28 kills (nine below their previous season low) and .065 attack percentage (.100 worse than the previous low). The match also marked Nebraska's seventh sweep of a ranked opponent this season.
Friday, November 18
Illinois 3 - Maryland 0
Minnesota 3 - Michigan State 2: In a thriller that was pre-empted on BTN by some crappy non-con basketball, the Spartans pushed #2 Minnesota to the limit. At first, the Gophers seemed destined to cruise, winning the first two sets 25-17 and 25-18. But the Spartans came back strong, winning the next two 21-25 and 19-25. Ultimately, Minnesota triumphed in a tough fifth set 18-16.
OSU 3 - Northwestern 1
Wisconsin 3 - Michigan 1
Saturday, November 19
Penn State 3 - Purdue 0
Illinois 3 - OSU 1
Northwestern 3 - Maryland 0
Wisconsin 3 - MSU 0
Nebraska 3 - Iowa 0
Sunday, November 20
Indiana 3 - Rutgers 0
Minnesota 3 - Michigan 2: Minnesota found itself in a tough fight for both of its games this weekend. This match was even closer than the last one, featuring razor-thin margins in each set. Minnesota again started strong, winning the first two 25-23 and 25-23. Then, Michigan claimed the next two with a score of, wait for it... 23-25 and 23-25. The decisive fifth set went to the Gophers 15-12, and preserved their perfect home record for the season. As a Husker fan, I'm hoping this weekend tired the Gophers out a little bit. ;)
Wherein BTN actually puts not just one, but TWO matches on TV! Huzzah!
Wednesday, November 23
Purdue at Maryland (7 pm ET)
#14 Michigan State at #18 Michigan (7 pm ET): If you read the recaps from the past weekend, you can see that this one has the potential to be a great one. Both teams took the #2 team in the country to five sets last weekend. Is another five-setter in the offing?
Iowa at #3 Wisconsin (8 pm ET)
#1 Nebraska at #2 Minnesota (9 pm ET): Nebraska has won 15 straight games and seems to be firing on all cylinders. Minnesota has withstood test after test and is undefeated at home. Something's going to give tonight--which will it be? You should watch this match--and you can, on BTN!
Friday, November 25
Indiana at Maryland (7 pm ET)
Purdue at OSU (7 pm ET)
Northwestern at PSU (7 pm ET)
Illinois at Rutgers (7 pm ET)
Saturday, November 26
Indiana at OSU (7 pm ET)
Illinois at #15 PSU (7 pm ET)
Northwestern at Rutgers (7 pm ET)
#14 MSU at Iowa (8 pm ET)
#3 Wisconsin at #2 Minnesota (8:30 pm ET): No evening B1G football games this Saturday, which leaves your schedule all clear to watch this doozy. Depending on how Nebraska @ Minnesota shakes out tonight, this game could have some big implications for the conference title. Luckily, BTN is deigning to cut short its 8 pm program, "Campus Eats: Pizza" in order to show this match. Small miracle! Take advantage of it!
#18 Michigan at #1 Nebraska (8 pm ET): Unfortunately, it's at the exact same time as Wisconsin and Minnesota, but this one could be a good one too! In Nebraska, this one will air on NET.
And that's a wrap on the regular season! Next up, we'll watch the Big Ten's fearless ladies march through the NCAA tournament starting December 1, and of course, we'll cover it all here.