1. Penn State Nittany Lions (24-2, 16-0 Big Ten)
Previous Ranking: 1
Summary: Top-ranked Penn State had an easy time on the road last week with two straight-game victories against Northwestern and Michigan State. The Wildcats were no match for outside hitter Nicole Fawcett, who put down 17 kills from the left side, while redshirt freshman Blair Brown was virtually unstoppable on the right with 14 kills at a .450 clip. Middle blocker Christa Harmotto made it difficult for attacks to cross the net, rejecting seven balls to lead all players, while libero Roberta Holehouse contributed 16 digs in the winning effort. Against the Spartans, setter Alisha Glass was quick to find the hot hitters on the court, collecting 49 assists on the way to a .396 team hitting percentage. Megan Hodge was business as usual at the antennas, notching a team-high 16 kills, while Fawcett chipped in 12 kills. Harmotto complemented the outside attack with 14 kills and five blocks, while Brown had a solid game with eight kills sand five blocks. Penn State is only four wins away from an undefeated conference season, though Wisconsin and Illinois will do their best to put a blemish on that record this weekend.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (23-1, 15-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 3
Summary: After suffering its first loss to Texas two weeks ago and struggling to victories against Missouri and Kansas State, Nebraska finally looked like its old self after demolishing Colorado and Iowa State last week. Jordan Larson looked like the All-American that she is with 17 kills and 17 digs against the Buffaloes, hitting a blistering .414 on the night. Opposite Sarah Pavan and outside hitter Christina Houghtelling gave the Huskers plenty of firepower from the antennas, churning out 12 and 11 kills, respectively. On defense, Pavan and middle blocker Kori Cooper each had a match-high four blocks, while Houghtelling was rock solid in the back with 16 digs. On the road against the Cyclones, freshman Kayla Banwarth made her homecoming a successful one, starting as the libero for the first time in her career and finishing with a match-high 19 digs. Pavan was the leading attacker for head coach John Cook, hammering out 16 kills at a .483 rate. Senior Tracy Stalls and Cooper kept the defense honest with eight kills each out of the middle, while Houghtelling and Larson kept the outsides a threat with a combined 16 kills. Nebraska will look to peak as the postseason draws near with games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma this week.
3. Stanford Cardinal (24-2, 13-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 5
Summary: Having not won up in Seattle since the 2002 season, Stanford faced a daunting task against Washington, but managed to pull out a thrilling five-game victory last Friday. In her debut in the Bank of America Arena, outside hitter Alix Klineman came out with her guns blazing and ended with a match-high 21 kills. Her 14 digs enabled her to record her sixth career double-double, while outside hitter Cynthia Barboza notched her 15th double-double of the season with 14 kills and 18 digs. Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo was unstoppable at times after putting away 17 kills, while opposite Erin Waller continued her strong play after downing 14 kills at a team-high .379 clip. Libero Gabi Ailes came away from the match just two digs shy of tying her school record after digging 29 bombs, while Bryn Kehoe's back-row skills allowed her to add 13 digs to her stat line to go along with her career-high tying 70 assists. Stanford's win over Washington State was pretty ho-hum, except for the fact that it was head coach John Dunning's 200th victory during his tenure on The Farm. Akinradewo only played in two games, but still managed to put down a team-high 12 kills at a .733 rate. Klineman chipped in 10 kills in the sweep of the Cougars, while sophomore Janet Okogbaa and redshirt sophomore Alex Fisher each added four kills. Ailes again patrolled the back row for the Cardinal, posting 11 digs, while Klineman wasn't far behind with 10 saves of her own. Stanford plays in Maples Pavilion for the rest of the regular season, with matches against Arizona State and Arizona coming up this Friday and Saturday, respectively.
4. Texas Longhorns (20-3, 15-1 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 4
Summary: Texas continues to roll through the Big 12 Conference with a dominating victory over Kansas. With the victory over the Jayhawks, the Longhorns established a new school record for consecutive three-game wins, at nine. Jumping beast Destinee Hooker was a force up at the net with 13 kills and eight blocks. Brandy Magee and Lauren Paolini proved to be effective weapons at putting the ball away, teaming up for 19 kills at a .692 clip. Michelle Moriarty dished out 44 assists while leading her squad to a .408 hitting percentage. Against Texas A&M, freshman Juliann Faucette powered her way to 20 kills on a .375 clip to pace the Texas offense. The 6-1 outside hitter added 10 digs for a double-double, one of four Longhorns to achieve do so. Hooker (22 kills, 10 digs) and opposite Ashley Engle (16 kills, 11 digs) were all-around threats on the court, while Moriarty pushed her team to a .431 hitting percentage while pitching in 67 assists and 12 digs. With only two more weeks left in regular season play, Texas hosts in-state rival Texas Tech on Wednesday before heading off to Baylor on Saturday.
5. Washington Huskies (23-2, 12-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 2
Summary: The streak is over. After recording 39 straight victories in the Bank of America Arena, Washington battled Stanford to a fifth stanza after trailing two games to one, only to fall 15-10 in the fifth. Middle blocker Jessica Swarbrick was the hot hitter for setter Jenna Hagglund, pounding 14 kills at a match-high .478 hitting percentage, while outside hitters Stevie Mussie and Christal Morrison combined for 24 kills in the losing effort. Swarbrick also led the Huskies on the defensive end up at the net with a game-high eight blocks, while super libero Tamari Miyashiro collecting a 30 digs. Washington started a new winning streak the following night with a much-needed 3-1 triumph over California, avenging a five-set loss back in October. Morrison's all-around game boosted her team to victory after dropping the first game to the Golden Bears, notching 17 kills, eight digs, two blocks and two aces. Becky Perry was solid on the right side after recording nine kills and five blocks, while Mussie chipped in seven kills. Swarbrick led the charge on defense with six stuffs, while Mussie had a team-high 14 digs. Washington continues its difficult schedule when it travels to Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA this weekend.
6. USC Trojans (21-4, 10-4 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 6
Summary: Southern California had no answer for Oregon's Gorana Maricic 29 kills and ended up losing on the road in four games. Taylor Carico did her best to spread out the offense from pin to pin, as Asia Kaczor led the way with 25 kills at an impressive .326 hitting percentage, while Geena Urango and Jessica Gysin put forth a combined 27 kills. Middle blocker Zoe Garrett did her best to get involved on the offensive end, contributing nine kills on a .421 clip. Libero Alli Hillgren continued to play well in the back row, chipping in a team-high 23 digs, while Carico pitched in 11 digs to go with her 56 assists. USC bounced back against Oregon State behind the tough serving of Kaczor, as the 6'5" right side hitter broke a school record with her eight aces. She also had no trouble with the Beavers defense, downing 22 kills at a .439 clip, while Gysin put away 11 kills at a .409 hitting percentage. Carico ran an efficient offense against Oregon State, dishing out 42 assists while setting up her teammates to put the ball away at a .348 rate. Southern California looks to upset another Top 5 team this weekend when Washington comes to town on Friday, followed by a date with Washington State the following evening.
7. Florida Gators (24-1, 17-1 SEC)
Previous Ranking: 8
Summary: Florida earned its 17th-straight Southeastern Conference title after taking Tennessee down on the road in three games last Friday. Senior Marcie Hampton posted her 13th double-double of the season with 18 kills and 16 digs to lead the way from the outside. Classmate Angie McGinnis also notched a double-double with 55 assists and 11 digs while quarterbacking the Gators to a .378 hitting percentage. Freshman Callie Rivers had a solid game from the antennas after pounding down 13 kills, while Amber McCray was golden from the right side, putting down the ball on over half her swings for 11 kills. Hampton continued her torrid play from the left side against Kentucky, leading Florida with her 17 kills, .421 hitting percentage, 19 kills, and three blocks in its seventh straight sweep over Kentucky. McGinnis handed out 50 assists and set up her team to hit .340 against the Wildcats. Up at the net, middle blockers Kisya Killingsworth and Kelsey Bowers both hit over .400 while chipping in 10 kills apiece, while libero Elyse Cusack did her part in the back row with a 15 digs and solid passing. With another conference crown all sewed up, Florida's motivation for victories against Alabama and Mississippi State will be for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
8. California Golden Bears (20-6, 10-5 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 7
Results From Last Week: at Washington State (W, 3-0); at Washington
This Week's Matches: vs. Arizona (Fri.); vs. Arizona State (Sat.)
Summary: California made the trip up to the Pacific Northwest, hoping to repeat its earlier performance against Washington, but ended up dropping a tough four-game loss to the home team. Outside hitters Angie Pressey and Hana Cutura were the leading attackers for the Golden Bears with a combined 33 kills, though the duo had difficult putting the ball away and finished the night with a .117 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Ellen Orchard did a great job up at the net with a match-high seven blocks and also notched 10 kills on a .421 clip. Libero Kristen Kathan headlined the back-row defense with 18 digs, with Pressey and Cutura digging up 11 and 10 balls, respectively. The previous night, California scored a victory over winless Washington State, thanks in part to the offense of Cutura and Morgan Beck, as they put away 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Freshman Carli Lloyd had a fine all-around game directing the Golden Bears offense, recording 48 kills, six digs, three blocks, and two kills on her way to leading the team to a .328 hitting percentage. California will look to host its final home games of the year when Arizona and Arizona State come to town this week.
9. Wisconsin Badgers (22-3, 14-2 Big Ten)
Previous Ranking: 10
Results From Last Week: vs. Illinois (W, 3-0.); vs. Michigan (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches: at Penn State (Fri.); at Ohio State (Mon.)
Summary: With victories over visiting Illinois and Michigan this past weekend, Wisconsin clinched second place in the Big Ten, though its aspirations of a conference crown are out of its hands and will need some help from other teams to take Penn State. Against the Fighting Illini, playmaker Jackie Simpson ran an efficient offense to the tune of 42 assists and an overall team hitting percentage of .362 in the sweep. Middle blocker Taylor Reineke found herself on the receiving end of many of Simpson's sets, putting away a match-high 13 kills, while blocking four attacks. Outside hitter Caity DuPont stepped out of classmate Brittney Dolgner's shadow to be the leading offensive outlet on the outside with 11 kills; Dolgner chipped in eight kills of her own, one of her lowest outputs of the year. Two days later, the Badgers overcome a match point from the Wolverines in the fifth game to escape with the "W". Trailing 14-13 in the final stanza, Dolgner got a kill to tie up the game and a solo block from Simpson put her team ahead. The match was won on a bad set from Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman. Dolgner had a team-high 24 kills, while middles Audra Jeffers and Reineke teamed up for 27 kills and nine blocks in the winning effort. Jocelyn Wack paced the back-row defense with 22 digs, while defensive specialist Amanda Berkeley acquired 18 digs. Wisconsin will have a chance to gain some ground on Penn State when the two teams duke it out on Friday, followed with a nationally televised duel at Ohio State on Monday.
10. UCLA Bruins (17-8, 7-7 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 9
Results From Last Week: at Oregon State (W, 3-1); at Oregon (L, 3-0)
This Week's Matches: vs. Washington State (Fri.); vs. Washington (Sat.)
Summary: UCLA avenged an earlier loss to Oregon State last week up in the Pacific Northwest, taking the match in four games thanks to a great all-around team effort. Junior Nellie Spicer spread the ball across the net, resulting in four players collecting at least 11 kills. Outside hitters Ali Daley (19 kills, 17 digs) and Kaitlyn Sather (13 kills, 14 digs) notched a double-double in the victory, while middles Rachell Johnson and Katie Mills put down 15 and 11 kills, respectively. The ball-clampin' duo also led the way with a combined 17 rejections, while libero Jessica Fine racked up 30 digs in the back row. Going into its match against Oregon, it would be a good bet that UCLA would come away with a victory, considering it had won the last 40 matches against Jim Moore's club. However, Gorana Maricic came out swinging and her match-high 25 kills doomed the Bruins to a straight-set loss. Ali Daley and Kaitlin Sather each tallied 10 kills each, but they were only able to the put the ball down at a .107 rate. Mills defended the net well against the Ducks' attack, posting a game-high nine blocks, while Sather bolstered the defense with 10 digs and five blocks. After dropping six out of its last eight matches, UCLA will have a chance at redemption with a victory over Washington this Saturday, though it must take care of business first against Washington State the previous night.
11. Kansas State Wildcats (21-7, 13-5 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 11
Results From Last Week: vs. Texas A&M (W, 3-2); at Baylor (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches: vs. Kansas (W, 3-1); vs. Colorado (Sat.)
12. Oregon Ducks (18-9, 7-8 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking: 15
Results From Last Week: vs. USC (W, 3-1); vs. UCLA (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches: vs. Oregon State (Fri.)
13. San Diego Toreros (20-7, 10-3 WCC)
Previous Ranking: 12
14. Ohio Bobcats (23-4, 15-1 MAC)
Previous Ranking: 14
15. Cal Poly Mustangs
Previous Ranking: NR
Results From Last Week: vs. UC Santa Barbara (W, 3-1); at UC Riverside
This Week's Matches: vs. UC Riverside (Fri.); vs. UC Irvine (Sat.)
Dropped: Duke (13)
Player of the Week Honors
Gorana Maricic, Oregon, 6-3, OH, Jr.
- vs. USC – 29 kills, .436 hitting percentage, and 14 digs
- vs. UCLA – 25 kills, .327 hitting percentage, and 12 digs
- For the Week – 7.71 kills and 3.71 digs per game; .382 hitting percentage
Big Ten Conference:
Brook Dieter, Minnesota, 6-1, OH, Fr. (Offensive)
- vs. Indiana – 24 kills and .409 hitting percentage
- vs. Purdue – 23 kills and .326 hitting percentage
- For the Week – 6.70 kills per game and .367 hitting percentage
Juli Pierce, Indiana, 5-8, L, Sr. (Defensive)
- vs. Minnesota – 14 digs
- vs. Iowa – 21 digs
- For the Week – 5.83 digs per game
Big 12 Conference:
Ashley Engle, Texas, 6-3, OPP, Soph. (Offensive)
- vs. Kansas – Nine kills, .375 hitting percentage, three digs, four blocks, and two aces
- vs. Texas A&M – 16 kills, .593 hitting percentage, 11 digs, two blocks, and two aces
- For the Week – 3.57 kills, 2.00 digs, .86 blocks, and .57 aces per game;
.512 hitting percentage
Angie Lastra, Kansas State, 5-6, L, Sr. (Defensive)
- vs. Texas A&M – 29 digs
- vs. Baylor – 36 digs
- For the Week – 6.50 digs per game
Gorana Maricic, Oregon, 6-3, OH, Jr.
Angie McGinnis, Florida, 5-11, S, Sr. (Offensive)
- vs. Tennessee – 55 assists and 11 digs; .378 team hitting percentage
- vs. Kentucky – 50 assists and nine digs; .340 team hitting percentage
- For the Week – 17.50 assists and 3.33 digs per game; .358 hitting percentage
Ashley Miller, Arkansas, 5-9, L, Sr. (Defensive)
West Coast Conference:
Amy DeGroot, San Diego, 6-2, OH, Soph.
- vs. Loyola Marymount – 16 kills, 17 digs, and two blocks
- vs. Pepperdine – 25 kills, eight digs, and three blocks
- For the Week – 4.10 kills, 2.50 digs, and .50 blocks per game
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