Conference season has begun, and, with one huge exception, things went mostly according to form, even if the favorites had to work a bit. Let’s get to it!
Last Week’s Results (home team in bold):
HWAHSQB: I watched this match and Illinois superior blocking was the difference. Iowa was equal or better than Illinois at other facets and is probably going to upset someone at some point this year.
Wed. 9/22: #12 Nebraska def. Northwestern: 25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16
MNW: A bummer. Expected, but a bummer.
Northwestern students turned out in force for this nationally televised match—I recorded and watched a little back, though you should go to denton8er for real volleyball thoughts, of course. I watched specifically to find this highlight, because volleyball scrambles are so damn fun:
The ‘Cats looked to go out to the left on the attack, with Temi Thomas-Ailara hitting and blocking well alongside Leilani Dodson...but goldamn, Nebraska’s hitting—OH Madi Kubik flew in from everywhere, it felt like, and had a career night—and blocking size—7 blocks from 6’5” Callie Schwarzenbach—were just too much and kept Temi in check a lot of the night.
A match that showed why Nebraska is so good and the potential of this Northwestern team, though the ‘Cats got out of their system a little too often and committed a few unforced errors that cost them, perhaps, a five-setter.
BRT: After their dreadful performance against Louisville last week, it was nice to see the Huskers start to perk up a little bit. Set #4 was the only one where I really felt like I was seeing Nebraska Volleyball but it was welcome to see nonetheless. Overall, they played together better, and had more luck hitting. They still seem to be struggling to figure out who is going to be the killer hitter though—that said, it was nice to see Kubik have a better night.
Fri. 9/24: #7 Purdue def. #3 Ohio State: 25-17, 19-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11
BoilerUp89: A top 5 Ohio State team comes into West Lafayette and leaves with a loss. Purdue came out strong in the 1st set, went thru a lull in the 2nd set and dropped a close one in the third. Down 2 sets to 1, they eked out wins in the final two sets to take the match. The Boilermaker Block Party (student section) was loud and supportive and may have been the difference maker in this one. Setter Heyley Bush, outside hitter Caitlyn Newton, and outside hitter Grace Cleveland all played really well.
Fri. 9/24: #20 Penn State def. Rutgers: 25-10, 25-12, 25-20
Fri. 9/24: Indiana def. Michigan State: 25-21, 25-23, 25-20
Sat. 9/25: #12 Nebraska def. Iowa: 25-17, 26-24, 25-21
BRT: This was a fairly boring match, and I was ok with that. The Huskers felt similar to how they did against Northwestern—outmatching the opponent fairly easily, but not yet on an elite level. It seems like they have struggled to close out sets, something that I predict will come back to bite them sooner rather than later.
Sat. 9/25: #2 Wisconsin def. Rutgers: 25-18, 25-16, 25-21
Kind of...UW bounced back from Friday’s disappointing loss with a methodical defeat of the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers hung around in the first set, and actually led the third 21-20, but UW hit .391 for the match and Dana Rettke (.545 hitting and nine blocks) and Sydney Hilley (37 assists) paced the Badgers as they have so many times in their illustrious careers. Devyn Robinson (10 kills, 0 errors, 11 attempts, .909 hitting %) looked pretty comfortable in her first career start at middle blocker.
Sat. 9/25: Illinois def. Northwestern: 23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 15-9
MNW: You can’t make 6 errors in a fifth set. Northwestern did, and Illinois gladly ran away with it. A huge bummer, because this one was a litmus test for the ‘Cats climbing out of the bottom 5 of the conference. Midweek meeting with Rutgers is a must-win to right the ship and clean up some of the errors.
Sun. 9/26: Michigan def. Michigan State: 25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 28-26
Sun. 9/26: #7 Purdue def. Indiana: 25-17, 25-14, 25-20
BoilerUp89: Purdue won the Monon Spike for the 14th consecutive time (the trophy is awarded to the winner of one of the two matches the schools play every year - trophy game alternates between campuses annually) and their 18th in a row against Indiana. And no, that isn’t the longest winning streak in the series (24 in a row from ‘78-’85).
Sun. 9/26: #9 Minnesota def. Maryland: 25-13, 25-12, 25-16
Sun. 9/26: #20 Penn State def. #3 Ohio State 25-19, 27-25, 25-21
Awards and Kudos
Team of the week: Penn State
It’s probably too early to suggest that Penn State is underrated, but they now have their first victory over a ranked team this year, Sunday’s sweep over Ohio State. The Lions were backed by a great crowd and won the pivotal points, the biggest being Jonni Parker’s kill to fight off an OSU set point in the second. PSU would go on to win that set 27-25, and finish things out in the third.
Best match: Purdue over Ohio State
With five different matches going five sets, it was a great week of exciting volleyball, but Purdue/Ohio State has to take honors as it was a top-10 showdown. The fifth set was a bit nervy—both teams were upside down in hitting %—but the home crowd was rocking and Purdue rallied to take the last two sets. The fourth set featured some really high-level offense, with the teams combining for 36 kills against just 5 errors (.413 combined hitting). In a match this close, the little things matter, and Ohio State’s (slightly) superior stat line was undone by committing 8 more service errors than Purdue. Go ahead and mark your calendar for the rematch on Friday, October 15.
What else?: Maryland upsets Wisconsin
I was going to have an “Upset of the week” section, but, really, there’s no guarantee that there’s another upset on this level the rest of the season. Maryland came into the match undefeated, but untested. Somebody even suggested that while they were clearly improved from last year and much better than the last-place tie predicted for them in the B1G coaches preseason poll, they would be lucky to win two sets in their first four conference matches.
Instead, Maryland won three sets against the #2 team in the nation behind a great blocking line (Rainelle Jones had four solo blocks), some well-timed runs, and a little help from the Badgers (17 service errors, to Maryland’s 3). UW had leads of 17-14 in the first, 16-14 in the third, and 10-7 in the fifth, but the Terps just played the big points better.
This week’s schedule (all times Central):
Ed. note: We’ve put the nationally-televised matches in a bigger font to help you find them.
Wed. 9/29: Indiana (1-1) @ #8 Ohio State (0-2) (5:00, BTN)
Not the start OSU was hoping for, but 0-2 on the road against ranked competition doesn’t exactly ruin their B1G chances. Look for them to right the ship.
Wed. 9/29: #14 Penn State (2-0) @ Maryland (1-1) (7:00, BTN)
This match will help clarify what to make of Maryland. Despite being grievously wrong last week, I’m doubling down and suggesting that the victory of UW, while earned, was a bit of a perfect storm, and the loss to Minnesota more representative of how they’ll fare against the B1G elite most nights.
Fri. 10/1: Illinois (2-0) @ #4 Purdue (2-0) (6:00, BTN+)
Illinois had two nervy five set wins against inferior competition, but 2-0 is 2-0. If they get to 3-0, then there will be more to say about them. Purdue might be looking at a 6-0 start leading up to the rematch with OSU.
Fri. 10/1: Michigan (1-1) @ #12 Nebraska (2-0) (6:00, BTN)
Michigan took Minnesota to five sets on the road and shouldn’t be overlooked, but Nebraska looked notably better last week and...um...is Nebraska.
Fri. 10/1: Rutgers (0-2) @ Northwestern (0-2) (7:00, no TV)
Somebody will notch their first conference win. The Wildcats are at home, and they managed to take a set from Nebraska last week, so let’s guess that it will be them.
Fri. 10/1: Michigan State (0-2) @ Iowa (0-2) (7:00, no TV)
Oh my. Well, Iowa did force Illinois to five sets (though the fifth was a complete capitulation). MSU gave Michigan a little trouble. My coin landed on its edge.
***Match of the Week***
Fri. 10/1: #7 Minnesota (2-0) @ #5 Wisconsin (1-1) (8:00, BTN)
Wisconsin’s loss to Maryland makes this close to a must-win for the Badgers as they don’t want to fall two games behind while still needing to visit Minnesota late in the season. Minnesota obliterated the same Maryland team that upset Wisconsin, but the Gophers also let Michigan come from two sets down to force a fifth.
Look for the home crowd to go home happy.
Sat. 10/2: #14 Penn State @ Indiana (6:00, BTN+)
PSU’s schedule is big-time backloaded. Don’t be surprised if they’re sitting at 9-0 in a few weeks. DO be surprised if the reason they’re not is this match.
Sat. 10/2: Maryland @ #8 Ohio State (6:00, no TV)
If Maryland is 2-2 (or better) after this week, then we’ll really need to talk. If OSU is NOT 2-2 after this week, then we’ll really need to talk.
Sat. 10/2: Rutgers @ #4 Purdue (6:00, BTN+)
Purdue has a very reasonable schedule the next two weeks. They might be the last team to drop a conference match, and it won’t be this one.
Sat. 10/2: #7 Minnesota @ Northwestern (BTN+)
Northwestern took a set from Nebraska and two from Illinois. Maybe…? (Probably not.)
Sat. 10/2: Michigan @ Iowa (BTN+)
Michigan cannot lose this match if they have hopes of making the NCAA tournament. And they won’t.
Sun. 10/3: #5 Wisconsin @ Illinois (noon, BTN+)
Early start on Sunday. UW is clearly still adjusting to Danielle Hart’s season-ending injury. Don’t sleep on this match, but UW should win.
Sun. 10/3: Michigan State @ #12 Nebraska (3:00, BTN)
I think my position on whether you should watch B1G volleyball is clear. This wouldn’t have been my first choice for Sunday afternoon BTN. Nebraska should get to 4-0 in advance of next week’s trip to State College on Friday.