Week two was chalk, but week three brought some notable results. Only one major upset, but any power ranking of the B1G’s top six will need to be scrambled somewhat.
#2 Wisconsin defeated #8 Kentucky in four sets. The first two sets featured Badgers domination, especially the 25-11 second, when Kentucky hit .000. However, Kentucky got off the mat and won the third behind some great hitting from Madi Skinner and some nervous service from the Badgers as they were unable to convert a couple of match points. The Badgers had clawed back from a 14-19 deficit, but Kentucky played some great defense and earned the set. In the fourth, the Badgers again rallied from a deficit, this time 14-18, and had tied it at 20 when service specialist Gio Civita provided two aces in staking UW to a 24-20 lead. But Kentucky rebounded to tie it at 24. However, UW earned a side out and Kentucky had a poor return of serve on match point so UW was finally able to put the match away.
Kinda sad we won't be in the Field House for a while.— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 11, 2021
You guys were UNBELIEVABLE today... :( pic.twitter.com/TypEAVRyDW
#13 Minnesota leveled their record at 3-3 with two victories over ranked opposition (vs. #14 Stanford and @ #11 Oregon) out west. WSR recaps below, but suffice it to say that Minnesota’s RPI will likely do them favors come tournament time.
#3 Nebraska rolled through a #19 Creighton squad that was fresh off a sweep of Kentucky. See BRT’s contribution below.
#18 Penn State had the opposite experience of Minnesota, losing vs. #14 Stanford and @ #11 Oregon. The Nittany Lions are 5-3, with five three-set victories over unranked teams and an 0-3 record against ranked foes. In short, they’re still a bit of a mystery. The match @ 8-0 West Virginia on Friday (no TV, alas) looks like a chance to make a statement.
#6 Purdue was swept by #10 Louisville. Losing a top 10 matchup is not cause for alarm, and there are some solid wins already banked. However, it’s inevitable that getting swept will raise some questions. The early (11:30 am central) match with Tennessee presents a good chance to get back on track before opening conference play by hosting OSU next week.
#3 Nebraska blew a two-set lead at home against #20 Utah. See BRT’s contribution below.
[Note: Current ranking listed first, last week’s ranking in parentheses]
#2 (#2) Wisconsin: W-#8 Kentucky (25-17, 25-11, 26-28, 26-24); W-Marquette (25-15, 25-18, 25-18)
Kind of...: Beating Kentucky was impressive, especially without first-year sensation Julia Orzol. The Badgers added a sweep of Marquette (who was essentially #26 this past week...the top vote-getter among unranked teams) that was impressive for how underwhelming a sweep of a good team could seem. Overall, Devyn Robinson continues to be excellent at multiple frontline positions, Dana Rettke is consistently superb, and Sydney Hilley holds it all together. Jade Demps brought 25 aces (11 Friday; 14 Sunday) in Orzol’s absence and Iowa transfer Joslyn Boyer served a 7-0 run as well as providing great work as defensive specialist. In short, there’s a great senior core that was already known and the new/young pieces are blending in very well.
3# (#4) Ohio State: W-James Madison (25-17, 25-22, 25-14); W-VCU (25-15, 25-23, 25-17); W-Virginia (25-16, 25-17, 25-18)
#6 (#3) Nebraska: W-#19 Creighton (25-14, 25-22, 25-16); L-#20 Utah (25-18, 25-24, 25-27, 22-25, 13-15)
BRT: This week was a tale of Things I Did Not Expect. I expected that Creighton would give the Huskers a tougher time, and instead the Huskers turned in a rather tidy sweep. I expected that the Huskers would dispatch Utah in three or four, and instead, they lost! Nebraska had a chance to sweep in Set #3, but just could not slam the door on Utah, a pattern that persisted in the next two sets. It’s a rare thing when the Huskers don’t win a 5th, so kudos to Utah for managing that, let alone at Devaney.
I’m sad about the loss, but still not panicking. Nebraska is an extremely young team—five freshmen have playing time this year—and it seems that things haven’t totally gelled into their final form yet. Add to that that Lauren Stivrins is still not playing as she recovers from back surgery, and I don’t think we’ve seen the Huskers at their most potent yet. Hopefully, Cook will find a way to round them into form soon—but even if this is a “down year” (which would be what, 2nd or 3rd in the conference?) having that many high-powered freshmen will hopefully make Nebraska an even scarier team for years to come.
# (#6) Purdue: L-#10 Louisville (19-25, 16-25, 21-25); W-Lipscomb (25-22, 25-22, 25-17)
BoilerUp89: Purdue faced their most difficult test of their non-conference schedule and came up short by not really threatening to win any of the 3 sets. Hitting % was way down, errors were up, and Louisville took control of each set about halfway thru. Purdue rebounded with a clean sweep of Lipscomb, but it doesn’t look like they are ready to hang with the top of the B1G yet. Hopefully they can get some things figured out before those matches.
#11 (#13) Minnesota: W-#14 Stanford (25-22 19-25, 25-16, 25-17); W-#11 Oregon (25-21, 23-25, 18-25, 25-20, 15-12)
#20 (#18) Penn State: L-#11 Oregon (17-25, 21-25, 25-27); L-#14 Stanford (25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 24-26, 7-15)
Illinois: W-Omaha (25-15, 25-17, 18-25, 25-11); W-SMU (25-14, 25-13, 25-18); L-#19 Creighton (18-25, 16-25, 27-25, 33-31)
Michigan: W-Duke (19-25, 21-25, 25-13, 25-12, 15-6)
Northwestern: W-Missouri (25-21, 25-21, 28-26); W-Wyoming (25-13, 18-25, 25-14, 25-11); L-UCSB (25-27, 25-20, 19-25, 16-25)
MNW: Winning a Spidermanpointing.gif match with Mizzou in straights is good for this iteration of the ‘Cats, even if the Tigers have struggled. The Cowgirls can really hit, though (top 30 in the country if my math is right), and Northwestern’s defense won them that match—libero Megan Miller’s 19 digs were huge. Losing to the Gauchos isn’t ideal, but UCSB lost a five-setter to Illinois earlier this year—taking the two as equal isn’t a great sign for how the ‘Cats rank among the tiers of the Big Ten, but at this point we’ll take it.
It’s home for the Chicago Cup this weekend—UIC, DePaul, and Loyola all on home court. No easy ones there, but a chance to see if the ‘Cats are putting something together.
Michigan State: “Michigan State’s home volleyball matches vs. North Carolina and Duke scheduled for this weekend (Sept. 10-11) at Jenison Field House have been canceled due to health and safety protocols.”
Rutgers: W-NJIT (25-21, 25-23, 25-214); L-NC State (22-25, 25-2, 25-19, 25-19, 9-15); W-UConn (25-20, 25-13, 25-23)
Iowa: L-Syracuse(23-25, 20-25, 25-20, 22-25); L-Ball State (27-29, 15-25, 25-23, 25-18, 12-15); W-Iowa State (25-20, 25-19, 25-21)
Indiana: L-Mississippi State (25-23, 31-33, 25-22, 23-25, 10-15); L-Oklahoma (25-22, 22-25, 25-15,18-25, 13-15); L-#21 Georgia Tech (25-20, 19-25, 21-25, 17-25)
BuffKomodo: The Indiana Volleyball Hoosiers traveled down to Georgia for the Georgia Tech Classic (seriously get a sponsor). While they came up short in all 3 games they played, Indiana should take solace in the fact that they are an improving squad. They had their opportunities to beat Mississippi State and Oklahoma, losing both games in 5 sets. They were even able to take the first set from the 21st team in the nation, Georgia Tech, and remain within striking distance the whole game. Indiana is a young squad and 3 straight road tournaments to start the season is rough. They come home this week to play. Support the Indiana Daily Student where I got my rundown.
Maryland: W-Howard (25-16, 25-17, 25-17); W-Quinnipiac (25-14, 25-18, 25-12); W-UMBC (25-17, 25-13, 25-13)
Key Matches This Week (all times central):
This is the last week of non-conference play and the schedule is expectedly light, with a lot of tuneups. Nebraska is your outlier as they take the masochism torch from Minnesota. Coming off an unexpected loss to Utah, the Huskers have a chance to right the ship. The home match vs. Louisville on Saturday is the match of the week and is must-see. [I know Auburn @ PSU football is prime time, too, so here’s how to handle it. Flip to VB during timeouts. Unless it’s a sweep, record the football from halftime onward, dedicate yourself to finishing VB, then back to football and you’ll be caught up before it’s over.]
Tue. 9/14: #6 Nebraska @ #16 Stanford (Pac 12,7:00 pm)
Fri. 9/17: #20 Penn State @ West Virginia (no TV, 6:00 pm)
Sat: 9/18: #22 Tennessee @ #9 Purdue (BTN+, 11:30 am)
Sat: 9/18: #5 Louisville @ #6 Nebraska (BTN, 7:00 pm)
Sun: 9/19: Notre Dame @ #3 Ohio State (ESPN2, 1:00 pm)