NCAA Volleyball: 5 Things You Need To Know
It's officially autumn, and conference play is getting underway. Here are five things to take note of this week in the world of kills, blocks and digs.
1. Blackbirds' big upset
You may not think of Brooklyn and volleyball going together, but Long Island University has been a very good program for the past dozen years.
The Blackbirds have finished first or tied for it in the Northeast Conference seven times, won eight league tourney titles, and played in the NCAA tournament eight times in that stretch. That's particularly impressive for a program that didn't start until 1993 and didn't win a match until 1995.
LIU Brooklyn had a losing record each of its first nine seasons but has finished below .500 only once in the 12 years since. Coach Kyle Robinson is in his seventh season with the Blackbirds, who've gone unbeaten in NEC play the past two years.
Still, a team from the NEC beating a team from the mighty Big Ten is a significant upset -- especially on the favorite's home court. That's what happened Friday, when LIU Brooklyn knocked off then-No. 25 Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, in five sets. It was the Blackbirds' first victory over a nationally ranked program.
Later that day, LIU Brooklyn fell to Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- it was tough to avoid a letdown after such a big upset -- but the Blackbirds then regrouped and beat Western Kentucky on Saturday to win the Spartan Invitational.
Senior Annika Foit had 22 kills and 23 digs against Michigan State, and she totaled 47 and 40 for the tournament for the 9-4 Blackbirds. A native of Germany, Foit has been the NEC's Player of the Year the past two seasons and is one of eight LIU Brooklyn players who are from outside the United States -- a diversity that certainly reflects the Big Apple.
2. Toppling favorites
There was another notable upset involving the Big Ten last week when then-No. 11 Purdue fell 3-2 to Saint Louis. And in a surprise involving the SEC favorite, then-No. 7 Florida fell 3-2 to Marquette.
So is taking a match the distance the key for an underdog in volleyball? Well, it seems like that's often the case. Since the fifth set is first to 15 instead of 25, that can work in the underdog's favor. But, clearly, you really have to be playing well to even push a favorite that far.
3. Longhorns leave Lincoln happy ... again
Texas stayed unbeaten despite Nebraska's best effort to dislodge the Longhorns from that status Saturday. The No. 2 Longhorns were pushed to a fifth set by the Huskers but prevailed 15-8.
The capacity crowd of 8,312 in the Devaney Center went wild when Nebraska won the fourth set 25-23, but that's when the Longhorns really buckled down. Haley Eckerman led Texas with 20 kills, while teammate Amy Neal had 15 kills and 15 digs.
Last year, Texas also won the teams' regular-season meeting in five sets in Austin. Then, in the regional final in Lincoln, the Longhorns swept Nebraska. Texas has now won six of its past seven matches against its former Big 12 rival.
Texas (8-0) starts Big 12 play Wednesday at West Virginia (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU).
The Huskers (6-3) are ranked No. 8, with all their losses against teams in the top six. They open Big Ten play facing Iowa in back-to-back matches, Wednesday at Nebraska and Saturday in Iowa City.
4. Battle of Oregon
They call it the "Civil War" when Oregon meets Oregon State, and the first of two volleyball versions of that will be Wednesday in Eugene (10:30 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network).
No. 13 Oregon (9-0), one of nine undefeated teams left in Division I, will host Oregon State (10-1). The Ducks lead the series 68-42-1, with the Beavers' last victory coming in 2011.
Seniors to watch are multisport star Liz Brenner for Oregon, and Oregon State's Arica Nassar, who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Oh, and the Civil War rematch is the teams' regular-season finale, Nov. 28 in Corvallis.
5. Keep an eye on ... the ACC
The league's two ranked teams -- No. 6 Florida State and No. 12 North Carolina -- meet Friday in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles are 11-0, the Tar Heels 9-1.