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B1G Volleyball Weekly Update

Badgers, Buckeyes look great; PSU with a setback

UW freshman Julia Orzol (22), already making an impact

NOTE: Watch #10 Minnesota host #1 Texas tonight on BTN, 7:00 central

Every B1G team kicked off their season this past weekend, most quite successfully. Given that practices only started two weeks ago, you should treat nonconference matches the way you treat MBB/WBB nonconference matchups: good victories to get, but far from determinative about what will happen at the end of the season. That said, here are your main takeaways from week 1:

  • #2 Wisconsin looked dominant. Sweeping TCU was expected, but the four set victory over #10 Baylor featured a 25-7 second set. That doesn’t happen when top 10 teams play each other. The Badgers dropped the third, but finished things out in four and look to be properly ranked.
  • #11 OSU serving notice. The Buckeyes notched a home win over #4 Washington. OSU was paced by Emily Londot, who seamlessly picked up where she left off last year when she was the B1G freshman of the year. As a result, OSU vaulted to #6 in the rankings this week.
  • #12 Penn State dropped a neutral site match to #24 Georgia Tech in four sets, hitting .133 in the first and .152 in the fourth. PSU now finds themselves at #17, one slot behind GT (taking notes, football voters?). The Nittany Lions were picked third in the B1G preseason poll and there’s no need to panic, but Russ Rose’s charges have only finished in the top three twice in the last six years. Coming off a sixth place finish in last year’s abbreviated season, there is work to be done.

Last week:

[Note: Current ranking listed first, last week’s ranking in parentheses]

#2 (#2) Wisconsin: W-TCU (25-13, 25-15, 25-18); W-#10 Baylor (25-16, 25-7, 16-25, 25-15)

Kind of...: Julia Orzol (pictured above) started her UW career with a flourish, leading the team with 11 kills vs. TCU and contributing 12 more in the win over Baylor. Orzol brings plenty of experience from the Polish national team (U17, U19, U20) and looks to be a great addition to an already deep group of outside hitters. Dana Roettke and Danielle Hart combined for 27 kills and 10 blocks vs. Baylor and, as a team, UW hit .325 against the Bears (after mauling TCU to the tune of .407), including an unconscious .533 (one error all set!) in the fourth set. If you want to nitpick, there were a few too many service errors. But a 16-0 advantage on aces for the weekend means that serving was far from a weakness, either.

The Badgers have two matches vs. Dayton this week as they gear up for a showdown with defending national champion Kentucky on September 10.

#4 (#5) Nebraska: W-Colgate (25-13, 25-16, 25-11); W-Kansas State (25-17, 27-25, 11-25, 25-22)

BRT: I didn’t get a chance to tune in to the Huskers’ debut weekend, though hopefully that will change as the season goes along (what am I going to do, watch football instead?) Worth noting for Nebraska is that they were without star setter Nicklin Hames (senior), who injured her ankle in the Red-White scrimmage the previous week. Happily for the Huskers, this doesn’t sound like it’s a long-term injury, as a healthy Hames is going to be key for Husker chances this season.

The Huskers have returned some big names, courtesy of the Covid loophole, and opponents will once again have to face down Lexi Sun and Lauren Stivrins. Stivrins, however, had back surgery in the off-season, and has not yet returned to play, though coach John Cook expressed hope that she may start back to practice this week.

Another personnel update is at the libero position. Two-year starter Kenzie Knuckles lost the starting job to freshman Lexi Rodriguez to begin this season, with Cook citing Rodriguez’s superior passing ability. Passing was a liability for the Huskers last season, so if Rodriguez can hold her own in the heat of Big Ten play, this could have some big returns for Nebraska.

In all, Cook seems to have used this weekend to start working on the Huskers’ future, playing several new faces and freshmen. The world (and Cook) are well aware of what Stivrins and Sun are capable of, and it looks like there is some solid new talent behind them.

#10 (#7) Minnesota: L-#10 Baylor (24-26, 25-16, 17-25, 24-26); W-TCU (25-7, 25-19, 25-16)

Fear not. Most weeks WSR will be here to provide more specific Gopher content. In the meantime, let me, a UW fan, unironically say a couple of nice things about the Gophers.

First, the match with Baylor really was a tossup. Both teams made some errors down the stretch of the first set, but Minnesota made one more. In the fourth set, Minnesota let a 24-20 lead slip away. Baylor features 2019 national POY Yossiana Pressley and just added Swiss Army knife Avery Skinner (and 1st team All-American) as a transfer from defending national champion Kentucky. There is no shame in a neutral court loss to the Bears.

Second, Minnesota still has Stephanie Samedy, the 2020 (i.e., spring 2021) B1G POY, and they are a “program,” so it’s really a matter of when the pieces fall into place, not if. Samedy had 10 errors and a match high 21 kills vs. Baylor. I have a pretty strong hunch which one of those stats is likelier to be the norm for her this year. Minnesota will be fine.

#8 (#8) Purdue: W-Loyola Marymount (25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20); W-Kansas (25-20, 25-21, 25-15)

#6 (#11) Ohio State: W-N. Kentucky (25-10, 25-18, 25-14); W-#4 Washington (23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-18)

#17 (#12) Penn State: L-#24 Georgia Tech (20-25, 16-25, 25-17, 19-25); W-St. John’s (25-14, 25-22, 25-9); W-UCF (27-25, 25-21, 25-19)

Illinois: W-UCSB (23-25, 32-30, 22-25, 25-22, 15-8); W-Milwaukee (25-18, 25-21, 25-23); W-Valparaiso (25-20, 25-16, 25-20)

Michigan: W-LSU (23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-20); W-Florida State (25-14, 25-19, 25-16)

Northwestern: L-Northern Colorado (19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 19-25, 16-18); W-Colorado State (25-23, 21-25, 25-16, 25-20)

MNW: Northwestern remains aggressive but error-prone, which will pay off in a fun way at some point but also leads the ‘Cats to drop 5-setters to volleyball powerhouses like Northern Colorado, which they did on Friday in Greeley (UNC is probably a better volleyball school than Northwestern, but you’d think a Big Ten program could show a little better). The bounce back win over Colorado State was encouraging, and this team may be up-and-down all year.

Of never-ending amusement to me is that Northwestern’s leading blocker is Ella Grbac — and yes, she is the daughter of quarterbacking legend Elvis Grbac. On the whole, it’s “watch Temi Thomas-Ailara”. When she’s hitting well and avoids errors, the ‘Cats offense flows. When it doesn’t, uh...don’t hold your breath on defense.

Michigan State: W-Western Michigan (25-15, 25-22, 31-29); W-Canisius (25-22, 25-19, 25-4); W-Wright State (25-19, 16-25, 18-25, 25-21, 15-12)

Rutgers: W-S. Florida (25-23, 25-16, 25-14); L-FGCU (18-25, 14-25, 21-25); W-UMBC (24-26, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-6)

Iowa: L-Duke (25-16, 14-25, 25-22, 22-25, 13-15); L-Coastal Carolina (20-25, 17-25, 20-25)

Indiana: W-UIC (27-25, 25-17, 25-12); W-Bowling Green (25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 12-25, 15-12); W-Butler (25-22, 25-18, 26-24)

BuffKomodo: Indiana took part in the Top Dawg Challenge located at Butler. As anticipated, Indiana swept the challenge for a cool 3-0 start. Taking down UIC and Butler is one thing, but they took down the defending MAC champion Bowling Green in 5 sets.

Standing out were the hitters junior Kaley Rammelsburg, senior Breana Edwards, freshman Mady Saris, and sophomore Savannah Kjolhede. Defensive specialist Paula Cerame stood out as well. Go Hoosiers and support the Indiana Daily Student, where I got my rundown at.

Maryland: W-Virginia (25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-22); W-Central Conn. State (26-24, 25-15, 25-16); W-Hofstra (25-18, 25-15, 25-19)

Key Matches This Week (all times central):

It’s a big week for Minnesota as they add their second, and third, top 10 opponent to last week’s match with Baylor. And Illinois has a chance to make a statement at home.

Wed. 9/1: #1 Texas @ #10 Minnesota (BTN, 7:00 pm)

Fri. 9/3: #8 Purdue vs. #25 Washington State (No TV, grrr, 6:00 pm)

Fri. 9/3: Georgia @ #4 Nebraska (BTN, 6:00 pm)

Fri. 9/3: #11 Washington @ Illinois (BTN, 8:00 pm)

Sun. 9/5: #10 Minnesota @ #5 Florida (ESPNU, 1:00 pm)