Top 10 Above the Net

It has been a quiet week in women's volleyball since we last brought you Above the Net - a record low movement merely flips the #4 and #5 teams in our new rankings. That changes now, with marquee matches in the next 24 hours between #2 Washington and #3 Stanford (Fri.) and #1 Nebraska and #8 Texas (Sat.). NCAA Tournament seedings and the hotly contested Pac-10 title are on the line.

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (26-1, 18-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  1

Results From Last Week:  Texas A&M (W, 3-0); Baylor (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Kansas (W, 3-0); Texas (Sat.)

Summary:  Nebraska won a share the Big 12 title last weekend with sweeps of Texas A&M and Baylor and took the conference crown outright with a dominating performance against Kansas.  It is the Big Red's 11th Big 12 title in school history.  After its shocking loss to Colorado, Nebraska is looking like the top-ranked team in the country again, hitting over .435 in three victories over the Aggies, Bears, and Jayhawks.  Sarah Pavan led the way in all three matches for her squad, averaging 6.44 kills, 1.00 aces, and .78 blocks per game while hitting at an unbelievable .495 clip.  For her efforts, she was named the Big 12 Player of the Week, the fifth time in her career and second this season that the 6'5" opposite has earned the weekly accolade from the conference office.  Redshirt freshman Rachel Holloway had an excellent week directing the potent ‘Husker offense, dishing out 14.67 assists per game while leading the team to a .453 hitting percentage.  With the conference crown all wrapped up, a victory over Texas on Saturday will now give Nebraska a better chance at securing the overall No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.

2. Washington Huskies (24-3, 14-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  2

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

Summary:  Courtney Thompson, the girl that no one wanted to recruit because she was too unathletic, too slow, and too short, stamped her name into the record books last weekend as the Pac-10's all-time career assist leader.  With 46 assists against Arizona State, Thompson totaled 6,238 assists and enabled her to surpass UCLA's Erika Selsor with two conference matches remaining.  Against the Sun Devils, Thompson's favorite target was none other than All-American Christal Morrison, who put down 17 kills from the left side while hitting at a .515 clip.  Fellow outside hitter Stevie Mussie also chipped in 15 kills and tied with Morrison with eight digs in the win, second highest on the team only behind freshman Tamari Miyashiro's match-high 26 digs.  Jessica Swarbrick continued her strong sophomore campaign with a match-high eight blocks.  The previous night against Arizona, Washington dropped the third game to the 4-13 Wildcats but managed to regroup and win the match thanks to the right arm of Morrison, who collected 28 kills and 17 kills in the win.  Morrison's offensive and defensive contributions also led to her third Pac-10 Player of the Week honor this season.  Defense was also important in the win, as four players tallied over 10 digs, led by Miyashiro's 30 digs.  The Pac-10 title and a possible No. 1 seed comes down to Friday's match-up against host Stanford, though Washington must be wary of California the following day, as the Golden Bears are hungry to upset a Top 10 team for the first time this season.

3. Stanford Cardinal (23-3, 14-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  3

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

Summary:  Stanford prepared for this Friday's epic battle with Washington by traveling up to the Pacific Northwest and taking down both Oregon and Oregon State in three games.  The Ducks tried to overcome a late-season funk by mightily challenging the Cardinal, evidenced by the second stanza that went 36-34 in favor of the visitors, but Cynthia Barboza and Kristin Richards teamed up for 29 kills to prevent any type of upset.  Foluke Akinradewo, sidelined with a shoulder ailment last week against UCLA, chipped in eight kills and eight blocks in the win, while Jessica Fishburn was the top back-row defender with 11 digs in the winning effort.  The following evening against the Beavers, Barboza filled up her stat line to the tune of 12 kills, 11 digs, and a .370 hitting percentage.  Erin Waller had a solid night on the right side, racking up six kills and a match-high three blocks, while middle blocker Franci Girard and Richards each notched nine kills apiece.  Stanford tunes up for the postseason with a tough homestand against co-Pac-10 leader Washington on Friday night, though it will have a much easier time against Washington State on Saturday.

4. UCLA Bruins (27-3, 13-3 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  5

Results From Last Week:  USC (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Pepperdine (W, 3-2); Oregon State (Fri.); Oregon (Sat.)

Summary:  Unable to beat a less than healthy Stanford squad on the road, UCLA rebounded with a straight-game thumping of cross-town rival USC.  Defense was the name of the game, as the Bruins held the Trojans to a .138 hitting percentage and also collected 15 team blocks to their rival's four.  Outside hitter Katie Carter led the block party with eight, including three solo, while middle blocker Nana Meriwether and setter Nellie Spicer accounted for six blocks.  Colby Lyman tried her hand at the libero position and had much success in the process, digging 17 balls.  Carter led the way on offense, pounding down 14 kills from the antennas, while Kaitlin Sather and Meriwether chipped in 12 and 11 kills, respectively.  UCLA geared up for its final Pac-10 pow-wow of the year against the Oregon schools with a Monday night showdown with West Coast Conference power Pepperdine.  The two teams tussled for nearly two and a half hours, though the Bruins dominated the fifth game 15-5 to win the match, gaining momentum for this weekend.

5. USC Trojans (23-4, 12-4 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  4

Results From Last Week:  at UCLA (L, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:
  Oregon (Fri.); Oregon State (Sat.)

Summary:  After having such a great weekend up in the Bay Area, sweeping both Stanford and California on their home courts, USC suffered a meltdown of epic proportions, dropping three games in limp fashion to UCLA.  As she has done all year long, Asia Kaczor led the Trojan offense with 18 kills, followed by Diane Copenhagen's 12 kills.  Jessica Gysin, the super-talented outside hitter who had been hit hard with injuries the past two years, continued to struggle, producing six kills at just a .105 clip.  Libero Debora Seilhamer was the lone bright spot in the loss, continuing her All-American campaign with 22 digs on the night.  Southern California looks to end the regular season on a high note and looks to garner victories over Oregon and Oregon State this weekend.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (27-2, 16-2 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  6

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

Summary:  Penn State inched closer to a fourth consecutive Big 10 title with victories over hosts Michigan State and Michigan.  Megan Hodge was the leading attacker for the Nittany Lions in a sweep against the Spartans, tagging the hosts for 13 kills and four blocks.  Next in line were right side Cassy Salyer and middle blocker Christa Harmotto, with nine kills each.  Alisha Glass had 37 assists in the victory, in addition to a career-high seven blocks on the right side.  The next night, the outside tandem of Nicole Fawcett and Hodge combined for 29 kills to tame the Wolverines in three games.  Fawcett also tallied four aces, tying her with Roberta Holehouse for match-high honors.  Holehouse also had a match-high 14 digs to stabilize the back-row defense, while Harmotto had four blocks to seal off the attack up front.  With victories over visiting Illinois and Northwestern this weekend, Penn State can win the conference title outright and lay claim to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

7. Florida Gators (26-2, 19-1 SEC)
Previous Ranking:  7

Results From Last Week:  at Tennessee (W, 3-1); Kentucky (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Marquette (Fri.); St. John's (Sat.)

Summary:  With victories over Tennessee and Kentucky last weekend, Florida finished off the Southeastern Conference on quite a roll, picking up its 17th and 18th consecutive win to secure its 16th straight league title.  Freshman Elyse Cusack was once again the star for the Gators, producing 19 and 22 digs against the Lady Vols and Wildcats, respectively, to earn SEC Freshman of the Week, the sixth time this season the precocious libero has earned the honor.  Helping Cusack take down Tennessee in four games was middle blocker Kelsey Bowers, who continues to be a force out of the middle with 15 kills and six blocks, hitting at a .414 clip.  However, it was opposite Amber McCray who dominated the competition with her match-high 21 kills; she also added four digs and four blocks to her credit.  Kisya Killingsworth and Marcie Hampton also chipped in 12 and 11 kills, respectively.  Against the Wildcats, it was the outside hitting trio of Hampton, Killingsworth, and McCray who did the most damage with a collective 33 kills from the antennas.  Bowers was once again a monster at the net, stuffing nine attacks, while setter Angie McGinnis did her part on the right side with six blocks of her own.  Florida is next in action at the Conference Challenge, with matches against Marquette on Friday and St. John's the following day.

8. Texas Longhorns (21-5, 16-3 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  8

Results From Last Week:  at Kansas State (W, 3-1); Iowa State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Nebraska (Sat.)

Summary:  Senior Day came and went, and with it, so did another Texas victory, as Jennifer Todd had a solid outing in her last regular season performance at Gregory Gym, helping take down Iowa State in three games.  The 6'3" transfer from Washington State had 14 kills, tying her with Destinee Hooker for match-high honors, while hitting at a tremendous .571 hitting percentage.  Ashley Engle had another great all-around effort against the Cyclones, posting 10 kills and 10 digs, while sophomore Lauren Paolini did a great job up at the net, collecting seven blocks in the win.  Earlier in the week, Engle shouldered most of the load for the Longhorns, putting down 20 balls, while Paolini and Todd protected the net well with six blocks each.  Michelle Moriarty dished out 55 assists and led her team to a respectable .256 hitting percentage.  Though the Big 12 title is out of reach, beating Nebraska on Saturday will do wonders for its seeding hopes in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-7, 15-3 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  9

Results From Last Week:  at Wisconsin (W, 3-1); Iowa (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at Purdue (Fri.); at Indiana (Sat.)

Summary:  Minnesota took sole control of the Big 10 with victories over Wisconsin and Iowa last weekend and is finding its stride late in the season.  A balanced attack by the Golden Gophers spelled doom for the Badgers, as Mike Hebert had four players collect double-digit figures in kills.  The middle attack was particularly potent, as Meredith Nelson and Jessy Jones dominated with a combined 32 kills, while outside hitter Meghan Crumpston and opposite Kelly Bowman added 12 and 11 kills, respectively.  Nelson also ruled the net with seven blocks, while outside hitter Kyla Roehrig and setter Rachel Hartmann helped out with four blocks each.  Against the Hawkeyes, Hartmann did another excellent job spreading out the offense, this time with five players tallying double-digit figure kills.  Crumpston and Nelson kept the defense honest, producing 17 and 16 kills, respectively.  Outside hitter Rachelle Hagerty had 13 kills, while Bowman and Jones chipped in 12 each.  Libero Marcie Peniata was absolutely terrific on defense, accumulating a match-high 36 digs.  After a 17-dig performance against Wisconsin, Peniata was named the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week, the third time this year she has earned such accolades.  Minnesota can finish the season strong with a good showing on the road at Purdue and Indiana this weekend.

10. Wisconsin Badgers (22-6, 14-4 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  10

Results From Last Week:  Minnesota (L, 3-1); Iowa (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Indiana (Fri.); at Purdue (Sat.)

Summary:  Despite dropping a tough four-game match to Minnesota, Wisconsin rebounded nicely with a sweep of Iowa on Senior Night, sending Amy Bladow, Maria Carlini, and Katie Lorenzen off on a good note.  Carlini was the leading attacker in her final home match at The Fieldhouse, notching a game-high 18 kills and 11 digs, while Bladow had 12 kills at a .450 rate.  Defensively, Amanda Berkley was the leading digger with 14, followed closely with Lorenzen at 13.  Brittany Dolgner and Carlini added to the dig total with 12 ups each.  While Dolgner only accounted for nine kills against Iowa, she put up an incredible 25 kills in the loss to Minnesota.  Audra Jeffers also had a strong offensive game, hitting .407 while putting down 13 balls.  Wack had a great outing in the back row with 20 digs.  With road trips to Indiana and Purdue this weekend, Wisconsin will look to solidify its position as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

11. Utah Utes (26-2, 16-0, MWC)
Previous Ranking:  11

Results From Last Week:  at Air Force (W, 3-0); at Colorado State (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  Mountain West Conference Tournament

12. San Diego Toreros (24-5, 13-1 WCC)
Previous Ranking:  12

Results From Last Week:  at Santa Clara (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Cal State Fullerton (W, 3-0)

13. California Golden Bears (19-8, 8-8 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  13

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

14. Oklahoma Sooners (25-5, 16-3 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  14

Results From Last Week:  at Missouri (W, 3-2); Colorado (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  at Baylor (Sat.)

15. Cal Poly Mustangs (22-5, 13-1 Big West)
Previous Ranking:  15

Results From Last Week:  at UC Davis (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  No Matches This Week

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