Week two of conference play went largely according to form, but Illinois delivered a jolt, taking down Purdue in five sets in West Lafayette. Maryland and Northwestern were less fortunate, each missing out on upset bids, dropping fifth sets to Penn State and Minnesota, respectively.
Last Week’s Results:
Wed. 9/29: #8 Ohio State def. Indiana: 25-10, 27-25, 25-20
Wed. 9/29: #14 Penn State def. Maryland: 19-25, 25-27, 25-22, 25-18, 15-9
HWAHSQB: I’m pretty sure beating the #4 team in the nation is good. This wasn’t televised, but from what I have seen, I think Illinois is an elite defensive team at the net.
BRT: I do not know what was wrong with Michigan in this one—from last week’s wonder team to a discombobulated mess, it was a strange journey for the Wolverines. The Huskers dominated from the word go, and it was never close. Perhaps there was something in the air in Lincoln last weekend that didn’t agree with visiting teams in any sport?
More likely, it could also have to do with the long-awaited return of Lauren Stivrins. The Huskers put together a solid weekend of volleyball, and after a shaky (for them) start to the season, it’s good to see things possibly clicking into place.
Fri. 10/1: Northwestern def. Rutgers: 25-19, 25-23, 25-23
MNW: Rutgers remains just what the doctor ordered for...well, literally everyone and everything.
Fri. 10/1: Michigan State def. Iowa: 25-23, 25-18, 25-21
This was a shellacking. A second set run with Katie Myers serving saw the Gophers close from 17-24 to 22-24; otherwise, there simply was no drama. The Badgers contained Stephanie Samedy (16/5/48, .229) about as well as you can contain a player of that caliber and neutralized Taylor Landfair (8/4/27, .148). For UW, first-year sensation Julia Orzol (17/4/39, .333; plus 10 digs, 4 assists, and an ace) was everywhere. Dana Rettke (13/2/18, .611), Grace Loberg (11/2/30, .3), and Devyn Robinson (6/0/13, .462) all had nights ranging from “very efficient” to “typically outstanding.” Robinson looks comfortable in the middle, and the Badgers look dangerous again.
Sat. 10/2: #14 Penn State def. Indiana: 26-24, 20-25, 25-16, 25-22
Sat. 10/2: #8 Ohio State def. Maryland: 25-21, 25-18, 25-19
Sat. 10/2: #4 Purdue def. Rutgers: 25-6, 25-17, 25-15
Sat. 10/2: #7 Minnesota def. Northwestern: 24-26, 19-25, 25-18, 31-29, 15-7
MNW: I just...godDAMNit.
In a seemingly never-ending string of moral victories for Northwestern volleyball, this one is right up there. Northwestern defended so well for so long—Ella Grbac and Tatyana Hardwick both had 6—with Temi Thomas-Ailara leading the pack in both kills and digs (and another 4 blocks), but the ‘Cats blinked in their only real chance to close it out—the fourth set—allowing Minnesota to take a 20-18 lead after an error.
Alexa Rousseau had a number of quick-hitters over on two that caught the Gophers’ defense off-guard, including in that marathon fourth set, but as time wore on the ‘Cats couldn’t quite win it off the kill, and the Gophers ran the “be taller” plays with Stephanie Samedy and Taylor Landfair—the latter really effective on low sets to the outside—to close it out.
Pretty huge bummer for the ‘Cats, but a good reminder—taken in tandem with the Maryland upset of wisconsin—that the middle of the pack in the conference is dangerous.
Sat. 10/2: Michigan def. Iowa: 25-16, 25-18, 25-20
Sun. 10/3: #5 Wisconsin def. Illinois: 22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-17
Illinois acquitted themselves respectably, and rallied from a 15-19 deficit to take the first set. The decisive 7-0 run featured six straight points off Jessica Nunge’s serve, including two aces. However the Badgers rallied, getting off to a 13-3 lead in the second set and never really looking back. Illinois tightened to three on a couple of occasions, but could get no closer. The third set was close throughout, but after UW went up 12-11, they didn’t trail again. Set four was a mere formality, with the Badgers quickly turning 4-4 into 11-5 and coasting the rest of the way.
Four Badgers finished with double-digit kills. Julia Orzol (16/7/44, .205) was inconsistent to start, but found better form as the match progressed. Devyn Robinson (14/3/25, .44) looks completely comfortable in the middle, which is huge. That Dana Rettke (10/5/19, .263) was only fourth in kills (and attempts) tells you that Coach Kelly Sheffield is really working on finding the right lineup to make up for Danielle Hart’s absence. The early returns have been good.
Illinois is a good team, and remain my pick for 7th and possible an at large bid. The NCAA just released their first RPI numbers and Illinois is sitting at 29, which bodes well so long as they keep winning the ones they should.
Sun. 10/3: #12 Nebraska def. Michigan State (3:00, BTN): 25-16, 25-19, 25-20
BRT: I didn’t get to see any of this one because I was at a baby shower, but looking at those scores, it appears that it was workmanlike. Yay!
Awards and Kudos
- Nebraska 4-0
- Penn State 4-0
- Wisconsin 3-1
- Minnesota 3-1
- Purdue 3-1
- Illinois 3-1
- Ohio State 2-2
- Michigan 2-2
- Maryland 1-3
- Northwestern 1-3
- Michigan State 1-3
- Indiana 1-3
- Rutgers 0-4
- Iowa 0-4
Team of the week: Wisconsin
[See recaps above.]
This may seem boring, but it’s still true. UW thrashed Minnesota in a matchup of top 10 teams, then knocked Illinois from the ranks of the unbeaten. Honorable mentions to Nebraska and Ohio State for each posting two sweeps this past week, but UW’s degree of difficulty was higher.
Best match: Illinois upsets Purdue
To be honest, I didn’t see this match as it was on BTN+ and, by the time I realized what was happening, UW/Minnesota was imminent and I was mentally committed to watching it live. That said, upsets of ranked teams, especially on the road, are likely to get some love in this space.
Illinois had looked completely fallible in needing five sets to put away Iowa and Northwestern, but, despite being outhit and outscored (total points won: Purdue 112, Illinois 104) Illinois won the close sets, 30-28 in the first and 26-24 in the third (rallying from 17-22 down in the process). Despite Purdue carrying the momentum into the fifth set, the Boilermakers hit only .071 (7/5/28), allowing Illinois to take the match despite only hitting .16 (7/3/25) themselves. In a nervy affair, Illinois better avoided mistakes when it mattered, and notched a huge road win.
What else?: How many bids?
The first RPI numbers are out and the B1G looks pretty good. Wisconsin (4), Purdue (5), Penn State (9), Minnesota (10), and Ohio State (11) can’t be too upset. Nebraska (21) might be less happy as their number calls into question whether they’d get a top 16 overall seed (top four in their region), which means hosting the first weekend. That said, Nebraska is playing really well, and with Lauren Stivrins back, that will probably take care of itself.
Outside the top six, Illinois (29) and Michigan (33) are in the mix for at-large bids, but Maryland’s (46) weak non-conference schedule is doing them no favors. From there, it’s a long drop to, surprisingly, Rutgers (86).
Most of the coverage here is of the top six teams for obvious reasons, but make sure to pay attention to matches among Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland. Those are sure to be some intense showdowns.
This week’s schedule (all times Central):
Wed. 10/6: Iowa (0-4) @ #4 Wisconsin (3-1) (6:00, BTN)
This may be the single biggest mismatch of the conference season: conference favorites hosting the worst team in the conference. Yet it’s on BTN. On the plus side, it should finish quickly and not delay coverage of the 8:00 p.m. match.
Wed. 10/6: #6 Purdue (3-1) @ Illinois (3-1) (8:00, BTN)
Yep, due the vagaries of the schedule, these two schools are matching up again only five days after the Illini stunned Purdue in West Lafayette. Purdue is the better team, but can they get done on the road what they couldn’t at home? I’ll say yes, in four. Regardless, you definitely need to watch.
Fri. 10/8: #7 Ohio State (2-2) @ Michigan State (1-3) (6:00, BTN+)
Ohio State is obviously better than a .500 B1G team. They should prove that convincingly here.
Fri. 10/8: Indiana (1-3) @ Rutgers (0-4) (6:00, BTN+)
Indiana swept Sparty and took a set off PSU. Rutgers has been swept four times thus far. Indiana is favored, but Rutgers won’t get many better opportunities to notch a B1G victory.
Fri. 10/8: Northwestern (1-3) @ Maryland (1-3) (6:00, BTN+)
Two decent teams needing this victory to continue entertaining thoughts of a 7th-place finish. Each dropped gut-wrenching five setters at home last week to ranked foes. The early returns suggest Maryland is likelier to win, especially in College Park.
***MATCH OF THE WEEK***
Fri. 10/8: #10 Nebraska (4-0) @ #13 Penn State (4-0) (6:00, BTN)
Do I really need to say anything? The two most storied programs in the B1G, with twelve NCAA titles between them, and they’re playing for sole possession of the first? Penn State is at home, and the crowd was electric against OSU, but Nebraska was on the upswing even before Lauren Stivrins returned, and now look positively dangerous. Appointment viewing.
Fri. 10/8: #8 Minnesota (3-1) @ Michigan (2-2) (8:00, BTN)
In the first matchup, Michigan rallied from two sets down before falling in five to the Gophers. Now they get Minnesota in Ann Arbor. Minnesota needed a reverse sweep to defeat Northwestern the night after getting routed by Wisconsin. Conditions certainly seem ripe for Michigan to help their at-large argument.
Sat. 10/9: #8 Minnesota @ Michigan State (6:00, BTN+)
Minnesota completes a road swing through America’s Mitten with a stop in East Lansing. While Minnesota has looked fallible lately, this should still be a victory. If not, time to raise the alarms.
Sat. 10/9: Indiana @ Maryland (6:00, BTN+)
This needs to be a victory for the Terps, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
Sat. 10/9: Northwestern @ #13 Penn State (6:00)
Northwestern is feisty. But so far that has meant “five set loss.” Northwestern may get an upset victory at some point this season, but there’s little reason to think the Wildcats are going to knock off the Nittany Lions in State College.
Sat. 10/9: #5 Purdue @ Iowa (7:00, BTN+)
This is probably the easier of Iowa’s two matches this week. But when your week is @ UW and vs. Purdue, that’s not saying much. If Iowa takes a set, it would be a surprise.
Sat. 10/9: Illinois @ #4 Wisconsin (7:00, BTN)
Six days after the Badgers won in four sets, these two meet again. UW is fierce at home (and generally), but with a win @ Purdue already under their belt, don’t expect Illinois to wave the white flag. Still, UW should win comfortably.
Sun. 10/10: Michigan @ #7 Ohio State (noon, BTN+)
This would be a season-defining win for Michigan, but Ohio State has rallied from their 0-2 start. Michigan is likelier to help their cause with the home match vs. Minnesota on Friday.
Sun: 10/10: #10 Nebraska @ Rutgers (noon, BTN)
Mismatch. Rutgers’ only chance is a Nebraska hangover from the PSU showdown. Even then, that won’t be enough.