Week three of conference play didn’t see a seismic upset (Maryland over Wisconsin) or a ranked team losing at home (Purdue to Illinois), but it still contained a few noteworthy developments:
- Wisconsin throttled Minnesota. When fully engaged, the Badgers look like a true national title contender
- Nebraska won handily at Penn State. Now healthy, the Huskers are the sole conference unbeaten. I would love to see this version of Nebraska get another shot at Louisville in a couple of months.
- Michigan got a big win at home over Minnesota and are now fourth among those receiving votes (i.e., #29). These two teams have played twice and each has won five sets. Michigan still has work to do to make the tournament, but the RPI is up to 31. If they get there, they could be a tough out.
- Illinois went 0-2, but about as impressively as possible (moving UP one spot to #26). Losing in five to Purdue is nothing to be ashamed of (Illinois/Purdue = Michigan/Minnesota), and the Illini took the opening set in Madison Saturday night and when they closed from 5-12 down to 20-21, there was a real sense that UW might be in some trouble. Just because the Badgers righted the ship and rolled the rest of the way doesn’t mean Illinois isn’t good. Illinois is a tough matchup for a lot of teams and their RPI held pretty steady at 32.
- Absent a few more upset wins, Maryland’s loss at home to Northwestern really torpedoes their at-large hopes. Beating Wisconsin is fantastic...and the only thing on their resume that is tournament worthy.
Last Week’s Results:
Wed. 10/6: #4 Wisconsin def. Iowa: 25-21, 25-15, 28-26
Wisconsin was disinterested and largely went through the motions. Really no need to try to break this all down. Instead, let’s give setters some love. Sydney Hilley is averaging over 12 assists/set so far this season. She is a two-time All-American and two-time B1G Setter of the Year. It can be an unheralded position that fans take for granted...until your team deals with inconsistency at the position. But a good setter can truly “make everybody else better” and Hilley is as good as it gets at the college level.
Wed. 10/6: #6 Purdue def. Illinois: 28-26, 16-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12
Fri. 10/8: Indiana def. Rutgers: 25-18, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23
Fri. 10/8: Northwestern def. Maryland: 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 16-25, 1
Fri. 10/8: #10 Nebraska def. #13 Penn State: 25-16, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17
Fri. 10/8: Michigan def. #8 Minnesota: 25-13, 13-25, 24-26, 25-14, 15-11
Sat. 10/9: #8 Minnesota def. Michigan State: 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21
Sat. 10/9: Maryland def. Indiana: 25-14, 25-17, 26-24
Sat. 10/9: #13 Penn State def. Northwestern: 25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19
Sat. 10/9: #5 Purdue def. Iowa: 25-18, 25-12, 25-16
Purdue began Iowa hate week in dominating fashion sweeping Iowa in three uncompetitive sets.
Sat. 10/9: #4 Wisconsin def. Illinois: 25-27, 25-20, 25-9, 25-15
As noted above, Illinois is a tough out and really gave UW trouble. The Illini block was fantastic in the first set (UW only hit .114 in the first set) and UW had some troubling receiving serves from Raina Terry and Diana Brown. After blowing a 21-15 lead in the first set, it felt like deja vu when Illinois closed to 20-21 in the second. And then...UW just took off, outsourcing the Illini 54-24 the rest of the way. Teams as good as Illinois aren’t held to single-digit points in a set. Dana Rettke and Devyn Robinson led the way with each hitting .438. Robinson looks VERY comfortable in the middle.
Sun. 10/10: #7 Ohio State def. Michigan: 25-22, 25-17, 25-15
Sun: 10/10: #10 Nebraska def. Rutgers: 25-19, 25-9, 25-12
Awards and Kudos
- Nebraska 6-0
- Penn State 5-1
- Wisconsin 5-1
- Purdue 5-1
- Minnesota 4-2
- Ohio State 4-2
- Illinois 3-3
- Michigan 3-3
- Maryland 2-4
- Northwestern 2-4
- Indiana 2-4
- Michigan State 1-5
- Rutgers 0-6
- Iowa 0-6
Team of the week: Nebraska
The win over Penn State is about as convincingly as PSU gets beat at home and Nebraska then took care of business in routing Rutgers. The Huskers are clearly on a roll. Home matches against Illinois this week and Purdue next week could be challenging, but there’s a pretty good chance the Huskers are 10-0 when UW comes to town on 10/27.
Best match: Purdue exacts revenge @ Illinois
Just like last week’s matchup, the road team pulled off the victory despite scoring fewer overall points. Purdue hit .52 in the first set and still needed extra points to win 28-26. The Purdue block came through in a few crucial moments, and they took advantage of a few Illini attack errors in a pretty tight fifth set. It’s too bad these two don’t match up again in the regular season as they’ve played 10 riveting sets.
What else?: Minnesota
It’s too much to say the Gophers are struggling. Almost everybody loses in Madison, and dropping a five-setter at Michigan is nothing to be ashamed of. That said, Minnesota seems to be a top heavy team. Stephanie Samedy might be the best player in the conference. Taylor Landfair could be next year. But it seems clear right now that Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State and Nebraska are deeper. The Gophers start a four match home stand with matches against Indiana and Northwestern this week. Those need to be wins because next week Ohio State and Penn State are coming to town.
This week’s schedule (all times Central):
Wed. 10/13: Northwestern (2-4) @ #12 Minnesota (4-2) (7:00, BTN)
As noted above, this needs to be a win for Minnesota, but Northwestern just hangs around. Don’t be surprised if it’s not a sweep. Do be surprised if Minnesota loses.
Wed. 10/13: Iowa (0-6) @ Illinois (3-3) (7:00, BTN+)
A lost season for Iowa, and a breather for Illinois, who is coming off of a grinding two weeks (Wisconsin x2, Purdue x2).
Wed. 10/13: Indiana (2-4) @ #9 Nebraska (6-0) (8:00, ESPNU)
I hope this draws a good number for ESPNU, but don’t expect a riveting match.
Fri. 10/15: Michigan (3-3) @ Maryland (2-4) (5:00, BTN+)
If Maryland has any hope of getting their NCAA chances off of life support, they need this match. A loss wouldn’t be mortal for Michigan, but a win would really solidify things. This should be a sneaky good match.
Fri. 10/15: #3 Wisconsin (5-1) @ Michigan State (1-5) (5:00, BTN)
UW has looked disinterested at times, but they still should roll. Good time to do some further tinkering with rotations.
Fri. 10/15: Rutgers (0-6) @ #15 Penn State (5-1) (6:30, BTN+)
As should be becoming clear, there are multiple mismatches this week. This might just be the biggest one.
***(Co-) Match of the Week***
Fri. 10/15: #6 Purdue (5-1) @ #7 Ohio State (4-2) (7:00, BTN)
I’m not choosing between Purdue’s two matches this week, and neither should you. They’re both on BTN and both should be great. This is a rematch of a tight 5-set victory for Purdue the first week of conference play. Ohio State has rebounded from an 0-2 start to run off four straight wins. With road games @ UW and @ Minnesota next week, they really need to hold the home court to avoid falling out of the title race
Purdue has been involved in all three of my “best matches” so far this year. They play exciting volleyball. Watch!
Sat. 10/16: #3 Wisconsin @ Michigan (3:30, BTN)
Wisconsin cannot take this match for granted. The Badgers were pushed @ Illinois, and Michigan has already defeated Minnesota at home, so they’re capable of pulling the upset. That said, this is the sort of match a team with national title aspirations needs to win.
Sat. 10/16: Maryland @ Michigan State (5:30, BTN+)
Regardless of what happens vs. Michigan, Maryland cannot afford to lose winnable road matches like this one.
Sat. 10/16: Rutgers @ #7 Ohio State (6:00, BTN+)
OSU gets a breather in-between the Purdue match above and next week’s daunting road trip.
Sat. 10/16: Illinois @ #9 Nebraska (6:00, BTN+)
Really tough to win in Lincoln, but Illinois is both pesky and funky. If their block gets going and they serve effectively, this could get interesting. If Nebraska sweeps, then it’s time to consider them conference co-favorite, which would be appropriate given that they do have sole possession of first.
Sat. 10/16: Northwestern @ Iowa (7:00, BTN+)
Northwestern really doesn’t have much hope of making the tournament, but they’re still good enough that this should be a convincing win. At the same time, Iowa doesn’t have too many other opportunities to notch a conference win the rest of the way. If Northwestern is flat, it could get interesting.
Sun. 10/17: Indiana @ #12 Minnesota (2:00, BTN+)
Minnesota hosts OSU and PSU next week. This tune-up should get them to 6-2 in advance of that crucial week.
***(Co-) Match of the Week***
Sun: 10/17: #15 Penn State @ #6 Purdue (1:00, ESPN2)
Two of the three teams currently tied for second match up in West Lafayette. If Purdue is coming off a road win over OSU, then this is a chance to keep the pressure on Nebraska. If they lose to OSU then Purdue will need a win to stay in contact. Penn State should enter 6-1 (but with a home loss to Nebraska), with a chance to notch a huge road win. Reasonable chance this goes five. Super senior Erika Pritchard has missed the last couple of weeks due to injury. Her return would certainly boost PSU hopes.