Top 10 Above the Net

Texas tussled in a pair of matches this past week against Top Five opponents, winning one and dropping one. Otherwise we see little movement in this week's national volleyball rankings from Roland, as most top teams finish hammering their preseason opponents. There is a big battle in the Bay Area tonight, however, as two schools just 12 miles apart duel in a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament.

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-0)
Previous Ranking:  1

Results From Last Week:  Louisville (W, 3-0); Cal Poly (W, 3-0); Minnesota (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  Kansas (W, 3-0); at Oklahoma (Sat.)

Summary:  Once again, it was the Player of the Year candidate, Sarah Pavan, who lead Nebraska to a perfect 3-0 weekend, averaging an eye-popping 5.90 kills and 2.30 digs per game while hitting at a .409 clip.  For her efforts, she was named the Big 12 Player of the Week, the fourth time she has captured the weekly conference honor.  Despite suffering a hiccup against Minnesota by dropping a game, Nebraska was still able to come away with straight-game victories over strong teams like Louisville and Cal Poly, and Pavan scored her 1,000th kill against the Cardinals - the fastest ‘Husker to do it in program history.  Feeding Pavan all those balls this season has been redshirt freshman Rachel Holloway, as she has enabled her team to hit an astounding .330 for the weekend, on top of distributing 14.1 assists per game over three matches.  Holloway, who beat out last year's starting setters Maggie Griffin and Dani Busboom (this year's libero), will attempt to lead her squad to victory this upcoming week, as Big 12 play opens up.  Nebraska passes the first test with flying colors, defeating Kansas in straight games, with Oklahoma looming in the distance.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-0)
Previous Ranking:  2

Results From Last Week:  Missouri (W, 3-0); Texas (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  Tennessee State (Fri.); West Virginia (Sat.); Miami, Ohio (Sat.)

Summary:  Whenever Penn State is brought up in conversation, everyone wants to talk about all the talented hitters, such as outside hitters Nicole Fawcett, Katie Price, Megan Hodge, or middle blocker Christa Harmotto.  Lost in the shuffle is the quarterback of the team, but freshman Alisha Glass served notice that the hitters aren't the only talented players on the team.  Succeeding Sam Tortorello, one of the best setters ever to play in Happy Valley, Glass had a very productive weekend to the tune of 13.38 assists, 2.88 digs, and 1.50 blocks per game while directing the Nittany Lions offense to a hitting percentage of .327 in victories over Big 12 foes Missouri and Texas, with the latter win a five-set classic that saw Penn State survive a 0-2 start in Austin.  With her performances over the weekend, she laid claim to both the Big 10 and AVCA National Player of the Week awards.  The competition will lessen slightly when Penn State hosts Tennessee State, West Virginia, and Miami (Ohio), but Glass & Co. will not let up as the pursuit of the school's second national championship continues at the Penn State Invitational this weekend.

3. UCLA Bruins (9-0)
Previous Ranking:  5

Results From Last Week:  vs. Texas State (W, 3-1); vs. Georgia (W, 3-0); at Denver (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at Towson (W, 3-0); vs. Florida International (Fri.); vs. Long Island (Sat.); at Maryland (Sat.)

Summary:  This weekend serves as a homecoming of sorts for All-American Nana Meriwether, the senior middle blocker out of Potomac (Md.) who has been putting up huge offensive and defensive numbers this season.  This week, she takes her 4.50 kills and 1.58 blocks per game and .562 hitting percentage to Maryland, where UCLA will participate in the Hilton Garden Inn Greenbelt Invitational, hosted by the University of Maryland.  Named to the All-Tournament team at last weekend's Pioneer Classic, Meriwether had 22 and 17 kills against Texas State and Denver, respectively.  Sophomore sensation Nellie Spicer was named the MVP of the University of Denver-hosted event, directing the Bruin offense with such smooth efficiency.  Against the home team, Spicer dished out a season-high 58 assists, as she was able to get four teammates in double digits.  After downing Towson in three games Tuesday night, UCLA should have no problems with its competition this weekend, though once Pac-10 play opens up next weekend, there will be no more cruising through opponents.

4. Texas Longhorns (6-2)
Previous Ranking:  3

Results From Last Week:  Santa Clara (W, 3-0); Penn State (L, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  Texas Tech (W, 3-0); at Kansas (Sat.)

Summary:  Despite dropping a heartbreaking five-set match to visiting Penn State, Texas has shown that it is here to stay among the volleyball elite, especially with young guns Ashley Engle and Destinee Hooker leading the way.  Engle is a 6-3 wunderkind who can do it all - pass, defend, set, and hit with authority.  Her future may lie as a setter, but for now, she is a do-it-all type of player for head coach Jerritt Elliott.  This past weekend against Santa Clara and Missouri, she tallied 5.12 kills and 2.62 digs per game.  Fellow classmate Hooker is a physical specimen that will only get better with time and was nearly unstoppable against the Nittany Lions, posting 21 kills on a .308 hitting percentage.  Though she doesn't play back row, it doesn't matter when you can create kills from any set that playmaker Michelle Moriarty throws up.  With Big 12 action set to begin this week, look for these two to be the front-runners for conference Freshman of the Year.

5. Washington Huskies (8-1)
Previous Ranking:  6

Results From Last Week:  Portland State (W, 3-0); University of Maryland, Baltimore County (W, 3-0); North Dakota State (W, 3-0); Gonzaga (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Fresno State (Thu.); at UC Davis (Fri.)

Summary:  All-American libero and current United States National team member Candace Lee has graduated, but redshirt freshman Tamari Miyashiro has certainly given Husky head coach Jim McLaughlin a capable replacement.  She averaged 4.67 digs per game this past weekend at the Husky Classic, registering a season-high 23 digs against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  With Miyashiro anchoring the back row, setter Courtney Thompson was able to run her offense efficiently, giving her hitters many opportunities to put the ball away.  Against North Dakota State and Gonzaga, Thompson was able to get her team to hit .424 and .425, respectively, while handing out 16.00 assists per game.  Offensively, the usual suspects rose to the occasion for the Purple and Gold, with Christal Morrison putting down 4.9 kills per game and Alesha Deesing hitting over .400 in three out of the four matches at the Bank of America Arena.  After a successful tournament at home, Washington travels to Northern California to face off with Fresno State and UC Davis.

6. Santa Clara Broncos (6-1)
Previous Ranking:  4

Results From Last Week:  at Texas (L, 3-0); vs. Missouri (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at San Jose State (W, 3-2); at Stanford (Thu.); vs. UC Irvine (Sat.); vs. Georgetown (Sat.)

Summary:  It's not often that a coach gets a chance to the steal headlines from the players, but Santa Clara head coach Jon Wallace did just that after his team downed local rival San Jose State in five games on Tuesday night.  The victory gave the young general his 163rd victory at the helm of the Bronco program, pushing him ahead of former coach Mary Ellen Murchison, who had tallied 162 career wins.  However, Wallace is not reveling in his accomplishments; rather he is getting his team prepared for a titanic battle just up the 101 Thursday night against host Stanford.  Last year, the Broncos knocked out the Cardinal in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and Wallace & Co. would love to prove that it was not a fluke.  Senior co-captain Kim McGiven will be the go-to player after having a spectacular weekend in Austin, where she averaged 4.29 kills per game after a double-double of 21 kills and 14 digs against Missouri.  Outside hitter Brittany Lowe chipped in 17 kills and 17 digs, while middle blocker Annalisa Muratore tore it up in the middle, putting away 15 kills, blocking three balls, and hitting .429 in the four-game victory.  In addition, middle blocker Anna Cmaylo continues her strong season, carrying her squad to victory against the feisty Spartans, powering a career-high 26 kills in the thriller.  After Stanford, Santa Clara continues its weekend play on Saturday, pulling double duty against UC Irvine and Georgetown.

7. Florida Gators (6-1)
Previous Ranking:  7

Results From Last Week:  Central Florida (W, 3-0); Illinois State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:
  at Florida State (W, 3-1); at Georgia (Fri.); at South Carolina (Sun.)

Summary:  Florida captured its own Campus USA Credit Union Classic this past weekend, defeating both Central Florida and Illinois State in straight sets.  Redshirt junior Amber McCray was honored as the tournament MVP, after hitting over .400 and averaging 4.17 kills per game.  Setter Angie McGinnis faced off against her younger sister Mary, an outside hitter for Illinois State, and showed which sibling reigned supreme, as the junior compiled 38 assists and 13 digs, all while enabling her squad to hit at a .350 clip.  Joining McCray on the All-Tournament team was McGinnis and middle blocker Kelsey Bowers, who averaged 2.83 kills and 1.17 blocks per game while hitting at an astounding .600 clip.  On Tuesday, the Gators downed in-state rival Florida State in four games thanks to the all-around efforts of McGinnis, who totaled 47 assists, nine digs, seven kills, and five blocks.  Conference play begins this weekend with away matches at Georgia and South Carolina.

8. Stanford Cardinal (6-1)
Previous Ranking:  8

Results From Last Week:  Northwestern (W, 3-0); Fairfield (W, 3-0); Hawai'i (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Santa Clara (Thu.); Georgetown (Fri.); Saint Mary's (Sat.)

Summary:  After losing in four games to BYU, Stanford bounced back with a flurry with three straight victories this past weekend, the most impressive one being a straight-game thrashing of host Hawaii.  True, the Rainbow Wahine were missing their All-American setter Kanoe Kamana'o and primary passer Tara Hittle, but the way Cynthia Barboza was performing, it would not have made much difference.  Even though the home team was depleted from injuries, the sophomore outside hitter from Long Beach (Calif.) was still able to silence the mostly pro Hawai'i crowd of 8,213 by producing 15 kills, eight digs, four aces, and three blocks.  For the weekend, she had 46 kills, 33 digs, seven blocks, and six aces in three matches, while hitting for a .471 clip and was impressive enough to snag her first-ever Pac-10 Player of the Week award and Stanford's 56th in program history.  Classmate Foluke Akinradewo could have made a case for herself as the Pac-10 Player of the Week, as she had 4.56 kills and 1.78 blocks per game this weekend, and hit above .500 in two of the three matches.  The match-up against Santa Clara will be an exciting one, as two of the top middles in the country, Akinradewo and SCU's Anna Cmaylo, go head-to-head.  In addition, quarterbacks Bryn Kehoe (Stanford) and Crystal Match (Santa Clara) face off in a tantalizing battle between two returning Third-Team AVCA All-Americans.

9. California Golden Bears (9-0)
Previous Ranking:  9

Results From Last Week:  Colorado State (W, 3-1); American (W, 3-0); Pepperdine (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Pacific (Thu.); Yale (Sat.)

Summary:  With perhaps his best team in his eight seasons at Berkeley, head coach Rich Feller guided Cal to its third straight tournament title this year behind the outstanding play of junior outside hitter Angie Pressey.  Despite her 5-8 frame, the jumping bean with a hammer for an arm toasted the much taller Pepperdine Waves to the tune of 12 kills and four blocks in the championship match of the Golden Bear Invitational.  For the weekend, she averaged 3.80 kills and 2.3 digs per game while putting the ball down at a .380 rate to claim MVP honors of the two-day tournament.  Three other teammates made the All-Tournament team, including outstanding freshman opposite Hana Cutura, sophomore outside hitter Morgan Beck, and senior setter Sam Carter.  Cal faces NorCal rival Pacific on the road, with visiting Yale on deck Saturday night.

10. USC Trojans (9-0)
Previous Ranking:  10

Results From Last Week:  vs. Florida State (W, 3-0); vs. St. John's (W, 3-0); at South Carolina (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Pepperdine (Thu.); Purdue (Fri.)

Summary:  Finally getting a chance to take to the court after two years of injuries, outside hitter Jessica Gysin is showing folks why she was such a highly-touted prepster.  A talented passer and defender with an extremely high volleyball IQ, Gysin showed off her offensive abilities by torching St. John's for 14 kills.  She is currently averaging 3.41 kills and 2.21 digs per game.  Transfer Asia Kaczor picked up MVP honors at the recently completed Gamecock Invitational, with Gysin, Diane Copenhagen, and Debora Seilhamer taking home All-Tournament accolades.  Freshman playmaker Taylor Carico was at her best against host South Carolina, where she set the team to a .360 hitting percentage and dished out 42 assists.  Southern California will look to gain territorial bragging rights on Thursday, when it travels to Malibu to face the tall trees of Pepperdine.  After that, Purdue visits the Lyon Center for USC's final preseason match of the year.

11. Wisconsin Badgers (6-1)
Previous Ranking:  13

Results From Last Week:  vs. Northern Colorado (W, 3-0); vs. Windsor (W, 3-0); at UW-Milwaukee (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  vs. UC Santa Barbara (Fri.); vs. Brown (Sat.); at San Diego (Sat.)

12. Purdue Boilermakers (9-0)
Previous Ranking:  14

Results From Last Week:  at Dayton (W, 3-2); Western Michigan (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  USC (Fri.); Pepperdine (Sat.)

13. Tennessee Lady Vols (8-1)
Previous Ranking:  15

Results From Last Week:  at Pittsburgh (W, 3-1); vs. Marshall (W, 3-0); vs. Lehigh (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  LSU (Fri.); Arkansas (Sun.)

14. BYU Cougars (7-1)
Previous Ranking:  11

Results From Last Week:  at Kansas (L, 3-1); vs. Arkansas (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Utah State (W, 3-0); Air Force (Fri.); Colorado State (Sat.)

15. Ohio State (10-0)
Previous Ranking:  NR

Results From Last Week:  Tennessee Tech (W, 3-0); Arizona State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  IPFW (W, 3-0); Youngstown State (W, 3-0)

Dropped Out:  Hawaii (12)

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