1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-1, 12-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Summary: After her team was thoroughly manhandled by host Texas last Wednesday, senior Sarah Pavan summed up the match perfectly: "We got our asses kicked. There's nothing more than that. If you lose a game 3-0, you got it handed to you." Pavan did her best to give her team a boost, hammering out 17 kills, but received absolutely no support from anyone else. At one point, middle blocker Tracy Stalls was hitting -.600, way below her season average of .495, and finished with a .077 clip off of eight kills to six errors. The Longhorns continually served to outside hitter Jordan Larson to take her out of her offensive flow and the strategy paid off, as she only managed four kills at a -.045 hitting percentage. Despite almost garnering a double-double of nine kills and 10 digs, redshirt senior and former AVCA Player of the Year Christina Houghtelling was mainly a non-factor throughout the match. As the last team to fall from the unbeaten ranks, Nebraska is still a very talented team, but how it responds next week against Missouri and Kansas State could be very telling indication of how deep of an NCAA Tournament run it can make in December.
2. Penn State Nittany Lions (20-2, 12-0 Big Ten)
Previous Ranking: 3
Summary: Playing on the road proved to be no trouble at all for Penn State this week; they demolished Minnesota and Iowa this past weekend on their home courts. Outside hitter Megan Hodge was a force of nature against the Golden Gophers, hitting .607 while putting away 19 kills and adding 12 digs, two blocks, and two aces to her stat line. Nicole Fawcett complemented Hodge well at the antennas, powering 13 kills past the Minnesota blocks, while middle blocker Christa Harmotto had her usual solid match with six kills and a match-leading six blocks. Against the Hawkeyes, sophomore Blair Brown posted a career-high 17 kills at a .739 rate on the right side, propelling the Nittany Lions to their 17th straight conference win, dating back to last season. Alisha Glass ran a balanced offense, recording 48 assists while getting Hodge (15 kills), Fawcett (12 kills), and Harmotto (10 kills) great swings against the Iowa block. Libero Roberta Holehouse did a great job in the back row, saving 22 attacks, while Harmotto was the leading blocker with seven stuffs to her credit. An undefeated Big Ten season is not out of the question and two more wins should pile up for Penn State this week as it hosts Purdue and Indiana.
3. Washington Huskies (20-1, 9-1 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 4
Summary: Washington continued to shine at home, easily disposing of Washington State in three games for its 39th straight win in Seattle. Redshirt freshman Becky Perry was an attacking machine for head coach Jim McLaughlin, pounding down a match-high 13 kills at a .526 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Christal Morrison, fresh off of two consecutive Pac-10 Player of the Week honors, contributed 12 kills, four digs, three blocks, and two aces to the winning cause. Up at the net, Perry notched a team-high four blocks, while middle blockers Alesha Deesing and Jessica Swarbrick rejected three attacks apiece. In the back row, Tamari Miyashiro played like the superstar libero that she is, passing nails and digging 17 balls. Washington will travel to the desert to take on a struggling Arizona squad Thursday night, before meeting up with Arizona State the following evening.
4. Texas Longhorns (17-3, 13-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 5
Summary: About a month ago, Nebraska's Sarah Pavan had some choice words for Texas, telling reporters, "You can see how cocky they are when they walk in here. You just want to beat them handily every time." Of course, the Longhorns have a right to be cocky, especially after the 30-22, 30-25, 30-20 hurt they put on the Huskers in Gregory Gym last Wednesday. Sophomore jumping bean Destinee Hooker powered her team past the defending national champions, posting 17 kills on a .455 hitting percentage, while freshman Juliann Faucette tattooed 13 balls into the floor. However, it wasn't just Hooker and Faucette's bombs from the antennas that did the damage – it was the play of everyone who took to the court. Whether it was excellent floor defense by libero Alyson Jennings and opposite Ashley Engle, the unstoppable slides of quick hitter Brandy Magee, the clamp down blocks of middle blocker Lauren Paolini, or the brilliant playmaking from setter Michelle Moriarty, the Longhorns handled the Huskers easily because it was a total team effort. Texas did not suffer a let down on Saturday, as it continued to sweep the competition after taking down host Colorado. Faucette recorded a team-high 17 kills, followed by Engle who collected 11 kills. Paolini had a stellar match after banging down 10 kills and stuffing seven balls, while Moriarty quarterbacked the Longhorns to a .348 hitting percentage after handing out 47 assists. Next up for Texas are two home matches, one against Big 12 rival Oklahoma on Wednesday, and an out of conference date with Florida A&M on Friday night.
5. Stanford Cardinal (20-2, 9-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 2
Summary: Southern Californian transplants Alix Klineman and Cynthia Barboza helped propel Stanford past UCLA in four games, as the pair combined for 30 kills, 27 digs, and 10 blocks. Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo did some damage of her own, putting the ball down at a .545 rate for 16 kills and five blocks. Franci Girard was also an effective weapon for setter Bryn Kehoe to use out of the middle, as the 6'1" senior pounded down 11 kills and rejected four attacks. Only a freshman, Gabi Ailes has rapidly proven to be a huge difference maker in the backcourt with her stellar defense, notching a game-high 20 digs in the match. The following evening, Ailes continued to go all out in the back and coming up with the goods, amassing an incredible 31 digs which broke Lisa Sharpley and Kerri Walsh's shared school record set in 1997 for digs in a single match. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it couldn't capitalize on Ailes' stingy defense, falling to the Trojans in four games. Bryn Kehoe had a solid night, dishing out 66 assists while setting up five players to finish with double-digit kills. Akinradewo was the team's leading hitter, smashing 20 balls into the hardwood, followed by Barboza (18), Klineman (14), opposite Erin Waller (11), and Girard (10). Klineman and Barboza took the most swings out of anyone on the team (46 and 45 attempts, respectively), but they only managed to score a point only one-fifth of the time. With the postseason still only a month away, it isn't too late for Stanford to start getting its mojo back and it all begins this week with home games against Oregon and Oregon State on tap.
6. USC Trojans (19-3, 8-3 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 6
Results From Last Week: vs. California (W, 3-2); vs. Stanford (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches: vs. UCLA (Fri.)
Summary: Southern California accomplished an impressive feat this past weekend by beating the deadly one-two combo that is California and Stanford, though it wasn't easy. The Trojans were extended to five games by the Golden Bears, but a career-high 21 kills from outside hitter Geena Urango pushed them over to a huge home win. Stepping up her game to fill in for Kimmee Roleder and Diane Copenhagen, the freshman was the necessary third offensive outlet for Taylor Carico to utilize. Asia Kaczor had a match-high 24 kills, while outside hitter Jessica Gysin added 18 kills into the mix. Carico had one of her best offensive performances of the season, posting a double-double of 65 assists and 10 kills to go along with six digs and three blocks. Against Stanford, it was the Kaczor Show, as the Polish import recorded a career-high 28 kills on a .328 hitting percentage to guide USC to the four-game upset. Complementing the right side attack was once again Gysin, who helped polish off the Cardinal with 16 kills, nine digs and four blocks. Libero Alli Hillgren was a digging machine for head coach Mick Haley after racking up a team-high 26 digs, while Kaczor showed off her defensive skills with 13 saves of her own. Southern California is hitting its stride after an ok start to the Pac-10 season and will have a chance to avenge one of its early losses when it hosts UCLA on Friday.
7. Wisconsin Badgers (19-2, 11-1 Big Ten)
Previous Ranking: 8
Summary: Wisconsin came dangerously close to dropping its second Big Ten match of the year, overcoming a feisty Indiana squad to win out in five games, including a 16-14 fifth game victory that ended on a well-formed block by middle blocker Audra Jeffers and opposite Katherine Dykstra. As usual, outside hitter Brittney Dolgner was the go-to hitter for head coach Pete Waite and finished with a double-double of 21 kills and 19 digs. Middle blocker Taylor Reineke and Jeffers did a great job minding the net, combining for 13 blocks and 31 kills. Freshman Alison Wack did an excellent job at the second outside hitter position, posting 19 kills on a .353 clip, while older sister Jocelyn notched a team-high 21 digs. Wisconsin finished out its weekend on the road with a 3-1 victory over Purdue thanks to great defense on both ends of the court. Reinke and defensive specialist Kim Kuzma set career highs, notching 14 blocks and 18 kills, respectively, while J. Wack set the standard with a match-high 26 digs. As a team, the Badgers held the Boilermakers to a .067 hitting percentage due to 21 team blocks and 70 digs. Dolgner chipped in a team-high 17 kills, eight digs, and four blocks in the winning cause. Only one game behind Penn State, Wisconsin looks to keep pace with the defending Big Ten champions with matches against Michigan State and Northwestern coming up this weekend.
8. California Golden Bears (17-5, 7-4 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 7
Results From Last Week: at USC (L, 3-2); at UCLA (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches: vs. Oregon State (Thu.); vs. Friday (Fri.)
Summary: California dueled host Southern California to the limit last Friday, but ended up on the short end of the match after losing in five games, including two stanzas that went 39-37 and 35-33 in favor of the visitors. Senior Angie Pressey did her best to give the Golden Bears a boost, blasting a career-high 29 kills to pace the offense. Fellow outside hitter Hana Cutura only hit .045, but did manage to put down 14 kills in the loss, while middles Kat Reilly and Ellen Orchard each pitched in 10 kills. On the defensive end, libero Kristen Kathan racked up a personal-best 29 digs, while Orchard and opposite Morgan Beck put up a wall that resulted in nine and eight blocks, respectively. Despite the disappointing setback, California bounced back in a big way by rallying to beat UCLA for the first time ever in Pauley Pavilion. Pressey again led the charge with 26 kills, nine digs, and three blocks, while Cutura recorded 21 kills and seven digs. Despite only registering four kills on the night, Orchard picked up the slack on defense with 11 blocks and now has 444 career blocks, a new school record. Beck had a great outing in the winning effort, stuffing her stat line to the tune of 18 kills, .424 hitting percentage, six digs, and six blocks. Kathan continued her great defensive play in the back after picking up 25 digs, while setter Carli Lloyd chipped in with 13 digs from the right side. With the confidence of winning at UCLA for the first time ever still running through its veins, California will look to build momentum and take out the Oregon schools this weekend.
9. Florida Gators (20-1, 13-1 SEC)
Previous Ranking: 10
Summary: Angie McGinnis' collegiate career is coming to a close and she's determined to take Florida to the Final Four no matter what teams get in her way, as LSU and Mississippi found out last weekend. McGinnis was near perfect against the Tigers in a straight-game victory, posting 45 assists and nine digs while guiding the team to a .361 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Marcie Hampton finished with a match-high 14 kills, while middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth and opposite Amber McCray pitched in 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Libero Elyse Cusack paced the Florida back row with 20 digs, while quick hitter Kelsey Bowers and Killingsworth rejected five blocks apiece. McGinnis quarterbacked Florida to another sweep on Sunday, this time against visiting Mississippi. The 5'11" setter recorded her fourth double-double of the season after handing out 36 assists and producing 12 digs. Freshman Callie Rivers put down 10 kills from the antennas, while Killingsworth was a difference maker out of the middle nine kills and seven blocks. Cusack was again rock solid in the backcourt, as she and Hampton tied for match-high honors with 13 digs each. Holding a two-game lead in the SEC, Florida will look to avenge its only loss of the season when it hosts Arkansas on Sunday, but not before taking on South Carolina on Wednesday.
10. UCLA Bruins (16-6, 6-5 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 9
Results From Last Week: vs. Stanford (L, 3-1); vs. California (L, 3-2)
This Week's Matches: at Southern California (Fri.)
Summary: UCLA started off the second half of the Pac-10 season on a rocky note, dropping two contests to its Bay Area rivals this past weekend. Kaitlin Sather had a season highs in both kills (20) and digs (18) against Stanford, but it wasn't enough as her team fell in four games. Middle blocker Rachell Johnson pounded 15 kills out of the middle, while junior Ali Daley chipped in 12 kills and nine digs from the left side. The Machado sisters, Jade and Jazmin, teamed up for 33 kills to lead the back-row defense, while frosh Katie Mill manned the net with a team-high four blocks. The following night against California, UCLA looked to be in control after leading two games to one and a 16-12 advantage in the fourth game. However, the Golden Bears stepped up its play from that point on and ended up taking the final two games. Johnson was the leading attacker for head coach Andy Banachowski, putting away 18 kills, while Daley and Sather combined for 27 kills. As usual, the Bruins back-row defense was superb as five players ended up with at least 10 digs, with Daley leading the charge with 17 saves. Up front at the net, Johnson and Mills each had a team-high five blocks. UCLA's chances for a high seed are slowly slipping away, but it can still save its season with a victory at Southern California on Friday.
11. San Diego Toreros (16-6, 6-2 WCC)
Previous Ranking: 11
Results From Last Week: at San Francisco (L, 3-0)
This Week's Matches: at Saint Mary's (Thu.); at Santa Clara (Sat.)
12. Kansas State Wildcats (18-6, 10-4 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Oregon Ducks (16-7, 5-6 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 13
Results From Last Week: at Oregon State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches: at Stanford (Thu.); at California (Fri.)
14. Duke Blue Devils (18-4, 13-1 ACC)
Previous Ranking: NR
15. Ohio Bobcats (19-4, 11-1 MAC)
Previous Ranking: NR
Dropped Out: Colorado State (12), Minnesota (15)
Player of the Week Honors
Asia Kaczor, USC, 6-4, OPP, Sr.
- vs. California – 24 kills, .222 hitting percentage, 17 digs, and five blocks
- vs. Stanford – 28 kills, .328 hitting percentage, 13 digs, and one block
- For the Week – 5.78 kills, 3.33 digs, and .67 blocks per game; .277 hitting percentage
Big Ten Conference:
Laura DeBruler, Illinois, 5-11, OH, Fr. (Offensive)
- vs. Purdue – 24 kills
- vs. Indiana – 23 kills
- For the Week – 6.71 kills per game
Kaila Calhoun, Ohio State, 5-10, OH, Fr. (Defensive)
- vs. Iowa – 13 digs and one block
- vs. Minnesota – 17 digs and nine blocks
- For the Week – 3.80 digs and 1.30 blocks per game
Big 12 Conference:
Lauren Paolini, Texas, 6-5, MB, Jr. (Offensive)
- vs. Nebraska – Four kills, .455 hitting percentage, and six blocks
- vs. Colorado – 10 kills, .667 hitting percentage, and seven blocks
- For the Week – 2.67 kills and 2.17 blocks per game; .577 hitting
Anna Breyfogle, Baylor, 6-0, MB, Soph. (Defensive)
- vs. Texas Christian – Eight blocks
- vs. Texas Tech – Six blocks
- For the Week – 2.33 blocks per game
Asia Kaczor, Southern California, 6-4, OPP, Sr.
Angie McGinnis, Florida, 5-11, S, Sr. (Offensive)
- vs. LSU – 45 assists, nine digs, and four kills
- vs. Mississippi – 36 assists, 12 digs, and six kills
- For the Week – 13.5 assists, 3.5 digs, and 1.67 kills per game
Hannah Lawling, South Carolina, 5-11, OH, Jr. (Defensive)
- vs. LSU – 25 digs
- vs. Mississippi – 17 digs
- For the Week – 5.25 digs per game
West Coast Conference:
Sarah Mandala, San Francisco, 5-10, OPP, Fr.
- vs. San Diego – 18 kills, .300 hitting percentage, five digs, and four blocks
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