Top 10 Above the Net

The question asked for the last two months has been answered, with an upheaval after #2 Penn State was finally beaten in Big 10 play. Nebraska is now the nation's lone undefeated team, and Stanford surges to the second slot. But the story of this week's women's volleyball rankings is big movement by three Big 10 teams, including the Badgers with a bullet.

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-0, 12-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  1

Results From Last Week:  Missouri (W, 3-0); at Kansas State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Texas Tech (W, 3-0); Oklahoma (Sat.)

Summary:  Nebraska continued to assault the Big 12 with straight-set stomping of both Missouri and Kansas State last week.  Jordan Larson's streak of double-doubles may have ended at 10, but she was still lethal against the Tigers with 15 kills at a match-high .458 clip to go along with her six digs.  Conference Player of the Year frontrunner Sarah Pavan had a match-high 18 kills at a stellar .424 hitting percentage, while middle blocker Tracy Stalls and outside hitter Dani Mancuso each had eight kills apiece.  Playmaker Rachel Holloway toyed with Missouri all night long, doing a fantastic job in transition and during out-of-system plays.  In all, the redshirt freshman finished with 48 assists and 12 digs, leading the Huskers to a .425 hitting percentage.  Against the Wildcats, it was Pavan and Larson leading the way again, as the devastating duo combined for 28 kills.  However, it was the defense of Cook's troops that did in Kansas State.  As a team, the Cornhuskers tallied 12 blocks, led by middle blocker Kori Cooper's six stuffs, followed by five for Pavan.  After roughing up Texas Tech on Wednesday night, Nebraska strives for perfection in the Big 12 against Oklahoma on Saturday.

2. Stanford Cardinal (19-2, 10-1 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  3

Results From Last Week:  at Arizona State (W, 3-0); at Arizona (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at California (Fri.)

Summary:  Sophomore Foluke Akinradewo reinforced the fact that she is one of the top offensive middle blockers in the country this past weekend, guiding Stanford to sweeps against hosts Arizona State and Arizona.  Against the Sun Devils, the 6-3 quick hitter nailed the opponent for 15 kills at a .571 rate, adding three blocks and three digs to her stat line.  The following evening in Tucson, she improved upon her earlier performance with a match-high 17 kills on 20 swings with no attack errors for an unheard of .850 clip.  Of course, having a setter like Bryn Kehoe never hurts a hitter, and the 5-10 junior racked up 16.17 assists per game while guiding the Cardinal to a hitting percentage of over .350 on both nights.  Erin Waller continued to play well on the right side, providing offense to take the pressure off of Kristin Richards and Cynthia Barboza on the left side.  Stanford will hope to increase its lead in the Pac-10 on Friday night, taking on host California.  Pay particular attention to the play of Barboza, as she tore her ACL a year ago up in Haas Pavilion.

3. UCLA Bruins (22-2, 9-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  4

Results From Last Week:  at Washington State (W, 3-0); at Washington (L, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  Arizona State (Fri.); Arizona (Sat.)

Summary:  With the season series tied at 1-1 after dropping a four-game match up in Seattle this past Friday, UCLA still gets the nod ahead of Washington by virtue of its victory over USC at the Lyon Center, a feat that Washington was not able to pull off earlier in the season.  UCLA started off the weekend on a positive note, taking down a hapless Washington State squad in three games.  Four starters registered double-digit kills, led by middle blocker Rachell Johson (14), followed by Nana Meriwether (13), Katie Carter (12), and Kaitlyn Sather (10).  Colby Lyman had a nice all-around game, putting up a stat line of 11 digs, four kills, four blocks, and one ace.  In a highly-anticipated match against the defending Pac-10 and national champions, the Bruins took the first stanza, but were held in check by the Huskies with good defense and timely offense.  Meriwether was the most effective in the match, garnering a team-high 15 kills on a .375 clip while also accounting for 12 blocks in the losing cause.  Carter and Sather teamed up for 21 kills from the left side to give setter Nellie Spicer options to go to when the middle was not available.  Libero Jordan Smith continued her strong conference play, picking up a team-high 21 digs.  Starter Ali Daley, instrumental in UCLA's success all year long, was sidelined with a stomach virus against the Cougars, played only three games against the Huskies, downing four kills and digging five attacks.  UCLA returns to the comfortable confines of Pauley Pavilion with matches against Arizona State and Arizona this weekend.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions (22-1, 11-1 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  2

Results From Last Week:  at Wisconsin (L, 3-0); at Minnesota (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  Purdue (Fri.); Indiana (Sat.)

Summary:  And another unbeaten team goes down, leaving Nebraska as the only undefeated squad left in the nation.  In addition, Penn State had its 41-match Big 10 winning streak snapped when it dropped three consecutive games to host Wisconsin.  Megan Hodge, so strong in recent weeks in the Big 10, really struggled against the Badger defense, putting down 11 balls, but also making 11 attack errors.  Fellow left side swinger Nicole Fawcett led the team in kills with 12, hitting a respectable .269, but it was really the middle that was the most effective, with Christa Harmotto and Melissa Walbridge teaming up for 15 kills at a .462 clip.  The following night, Penn State was in danger of getting swept by weekend opponents for the first time in a long time, outlasting a very determined and improved Minnesota squad in five games, going 15-13 in the final stanza.  Hodge had back-to-back kills for the Nittany Lions in the final frame to end a 13-13 tie and give her squad the hard-earned victory.  In total, the freshman finished with 17 kills, tying Fawcett and Harmotto for match-highs.  Harmotto in particular had an excellent game on both ends of the courts, also stuffing seven attacks to go with five digs and two aces.  Walbridge was also instrumental in the victory, hammering down 14 kills at a .500 hitting percentage in addition to five blocks on the night.  Penn State returns home after a rough road trip to face Purdue and Indiana this weekend.

5. Washington Huskies (19-3, 9-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  5

Results From Last Week:  USC (W, 3-1); UCLA (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at Oregon State (Thu.); at Oregon (Fri.)

Summary:  Washington defended its home court against quality competition this past weekend, giving the L.A. schools identical 3-1 losses and extending its home-match winning streak to 27.  The last time fans at the Bank of America Arena saw the home team suffer a loss was in 2004 to USC.  After getting swept by the L.A. schools earlier in the season, the Huskies calmly reversed the decision to put themselves back into the Pac-10 race.  Against the Trojans, setter Courtney Thompson guided four hitters into double-digit kills, led by outside hitter Stevie Mussie's 18 putaways.  Christal Morrison followed closely behind with 17 kills, with Jessica Swarbrick and Alesha Deesing collecting 16 and 13 kills, respectively.  Deesing and Swarbrick led the Purple and White defense with five blocks apiece, while Morrison's 21 digs were a team high.  Against the Bruins, Thompson again ran a diverse offense, with Morrison pacing everyone with 25 kills, and Mussie added 20 kills to her stat line.  Libero Tamari Miyashiro anchored the back row with a career-high 33 digs, coming up with a strong defensive play time and time again.  Deesing again was the defensive star in the front row, picking up five blocks, while Morrison and Swarbrick each had three stuffs.  Morrison's play was so strong over the weekend, she was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week for the second time this season and third overall in her career.  Washington should have no troubles with Oregon State on Thursday night, but should be wary of a vastly improved Oregon on Friday night, as the Ducks lead the conference in opponent hitting percentage and are among the top Pac-10 squads in blocking.

6. USC Trojans (19-3, 8-3 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  6

Results From Last Week:  at Washington (L, 3-1); at Washington State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Arizona (Fri.); Arizona State (Sat.)

Summary:  While splitting matches up in the Evergreen State doesn't necessarily leave Trojans out of the Pac-10 championship puzzle, USC will need to win the rest of its matches coupled with a few timely losses to the teams ahead of it in the conference standings.  Thursday night did not bode well for Southern California, as Washington handed the visitors a four-game loss.  Outside hitter Diane Copenhagen led the way with 20 kills, though she only hit .197 on the night.  Fellow outside hitter Jessica Gysin chipped in 13 kills, and opposite Asia Kaczor, who was so strong during the preseason, added 12 kills but hit -.024 in the losing cause.  Libero Debora Seilhamer had a stellar match once again, putting up All-American numbers with 28 digs in the back row.  The following night, the Trojans took out their frustrations from the loss on the Cougars, pummeling them in three games, with Kaczor having a much better night with 15 kills at a .353 rate.  Copenhagen had one less kill, but her hitting percentage was outstanding at .522, while middle blocker Katelyn Bishop had 10 kills out of the middle to go along with six blocks.  Seilhamer also recorded 28 digs to lead all players on the defensive end of the court.  Next up for USC will be two home matches against Arizona and Arizona State this weekend.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (17-5, 9-3 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  10

Results From Last Week:  Penn State (W, 3-0); Ohio State (W, 3-0.)
This Week's Matches:  Michigan (Fri.); Michigan State (Sat.)

Summary:  Wisconsin sure has come a long way since its season opening match of the year, a 3-0 drubbing on its own home court at the hands of Texas at the AVCA Showcase.  Fast forward a few months, and Pete Waite's troops are on quite a roll after downing both defending Big 10 champs Penn State and conference power Ohio State in straight games.  Setter Jackie Simpson was absolutely sensational in both victories, and as a result the AVCA announced that the junior playmaker was this week's National Player of the Week.  She ran an efficient offense, averaging 15.2 assists per game while guiding the Badgers to a .321 hitting percentage in six games of work.  Against the Nittany Lions, Simpson's main two guns were outside hitters Maria Carlini and Brittany Dolgner, who combined for 27 kills in the winning effort.  Dolgner, who thoroughly outplayed fellow classmate Megan Hodge, was also effective at the service line, going for four aces while also hitting at a .611 clip.  Middle blockers Taylor Reinke and Amy Bladow, along with Simpson, controlled the net with four blocks apiece, while libero Jocelyn Wack had a match-high 12 digs.  On Saturday, Reinke just went to town on the Buckeyes, garnering 14 kills and seven blocks while hitting at an incredible .722 hitting percentage.  Carlini chipped in with 13 kills from the left side, while Dolgner added nine blasts from the antenna.  Wisconsin hopes to keep up its momentum when it visits the Michigan schools this weekend.

8. Florida Gators (20-2, 13-1)
Previous Ranking:  7

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

Summary:  Kelsey Bowers, a sophomore middle blocker for head coach Mary Wise, recently broke Florida's single game block assist record that stood for 13 seasons.  In a sweep against host Alabama, Bowers helped stuff 13 attacks to break Kim Hale's old record of 11, set back in 1993.  In an earlier match against Auburn, she tallied five blocks.  For her efforts, she was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this year, averaging 2.57 blocks per game.  While Bowers made her defensive presence known this past weekend, Kisya Killingsworth was the offensive star for the Gators, tallying a team-high 21 and 15 kills against the Tigers and Crimson Tide, respectively.  Setter Angie McGinnis continued to put up strong numbers against SEC competition, averaging 14.57 assists, 3.28 digs, 1.28 blocks, and 1.14 kills per game.  An important weekend awaits Florida, as it travels to LSU in a huge match that will help determine this year's SEC champions.  Currently, Florida holds a one-game lead over LSU, and road victories in Baton Rouge and Fayetteville will help in its quest for a 16th conference crown.

9. Texas Longhorns (16-5, 11-3 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  8

Results From Last Week:  at Texas Tech (W, 3-1); at Colorado (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Kansas (W, 3-0); at Baylor (Sat.)

Summary:  The scary thing about freshman outside hitter Destinee Hooker is that volleyball may not even be her favorite sport.  A superb track & field athlete who captured the 2006 NCAA Outdoor high jump title, Hooker's ceiling is virtually unlimited out on the hard court, and that's scary news to the Big 12 and the rest of the country.  A dominating terminator, Hooker earned her second Big 12 Player of the Week honor after leading Texas to two road victories.  She averaged 4.83 kills per game at a stellar .404 clip to go along with 1.17 blocks per game.  In a four-game victory over the Red Raiders, Hooker had 15 kills, only one behind fellow classmate Ashley Engle.  Middle blocker Jenn Todd had a solid game at the net, posting nine kills and a team-leading five blocks.  Against the Buffaloes, it was the young guns who again provided the offense, as Engle and Hooker teamed up for 29 kills.  Todd also filled up her stat line with 10 kills on a .533 hitting percentage and a match-high seven blocks.  Playmaker Michelle Moriarty guided the Longhorns to a .325 clip while dishing out 48 assists.  Texas hosted Kansas Wednesday night and handed the visitors a 3-0 loss, but Saturday's contest with host Baylor should prove to be more challenging.

10. Utah Utes (20-2, 11-0 MWC)
Previous Ranking:  9

Results From Last Week:  BYU (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at TCU (Fri.); at New Mexico (Sat.)

Summary:  The new queens of the Mountain West Conference were essentially crowned last Friday, with first-place Utah downing second-place Brigham Young in three games in front of a sell-out home crowd of 1,100.  Airial Salvo and Whitney Webb were quite the 1-2 punch at the antennas, throttling the Cougar block for 14 and 13 kills, respectively.  What was more impressive was the fact that the duo hit a combined .431 in the winning effort.  Emillie Toone was a monster out of the middle, pounding down 11 kills while stuffing eight attacks to lead the Utes defensive effort up front.  Sydney Anderson dished out 46 assists and did her part on defense with nine digs, tied with Salvo for second highest on the team only behind Connie Dangerfield's 15 digs.  With two victories over BYU, the conference's second-strongest squad, Utah is in clear control, and visits to Texas Christian and New Mexico this weekend should be no problem.

11. California Golden Bears (17-5, 6-5 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  11

Results From Last Week:  at Arizona (W, 3-1); at Arizona State (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:
  Stanford (Fri.)

12. Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-6, 10-2 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  15

Results From Last Week:  Ohio State (W, 3-0); Penn State (L, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  at Michigan State (Fri.); at Michigan (Sat.)

13. Purdue Boilermakers (19-4, 9-3 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  12

Results From Last Week:  Indiana (W, 3-0); Iowa (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Penn State (Fri.); at Ohio State (Sat.)

14. San Diego Toreros (19-4, 9-0 WCC)
Previous Ranking:  13

Results From Last Week:  Saint Mary's (W, 3-0); San Francisco (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at Loyola Marymount (Thu.); at Pepperdine (Sat.)

15. BYU Cougars (19-3, 9-2 MWC)
Previous Ranking:  14

Results From Last Week:  Utah (L, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at New Mexico (Fri.); at Texas Christian (Sat.)


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