NCAA Women's Volleyball: 5 Things You Need To Know
Women's college volleyball is back in session, and we got a little insight into just how on (or off) the preseason rankings were. The biggest jump came from a program very familiar with the top 10. Here are five things to take note of this week in the world of sets, kills, blocks and digs.
1. USC makes quick climb
USC -- which has won three NCAA titles and been to the final four an additional seven times -- had a very strong opening weekend. The Trojans beat visiting North Carolina, Chicago State and Brigham Young, which prompted a leap in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
USC went from a preseason ranking of No. 22 all the way to No. 8, boosted by knocking off the then-No. 7 Tar Heels and then-No. 11 Cougars. Senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio had a combined 58 kills and 32 digs in the three matches.
If it seems as if Bricio has been playing for coach Mick Haley's Trojans forever, that's because she's had such a big role since coming to USC in 2012 as a 17-year-old freshman from Guadalajara, Mexico. She's the team's captain this season, and has been an AVCA second-team All-American the past two years.
2. Big Ten stumbles
The Big Ten experienced a couple of upsets, including a loss by one of the league's four top-10 teams in the preseason poll. That was then-No. 5 Wisconsin, which won the Big Ten title last season.
The Badgers were knocked off 3-1 by visiting Western Kentucky on Friday. The Hilltoppers went on to make it quite a weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, also beating College of Charleston and Colgate on Saturday, and getting Western Kentucky coach Travis Hudson to a milestone victory total. He is now 500-192 at his alma mater, and has had a winning record in 18 of his previous 20 seasons.
Western Kentucky tied UT San Antonio for the Conference USA regular-season title last year and then won the league tournament. The Hilltoppers, who were picked to repeat as conference champion in 2015, were unranked in the preseason poll and are now No. 20.
Meanwhile, Ohio State, which was ranked No. 14 in the preseason, lost its opener at Wyoming 3-1. The Cowgirls, incidentally, were picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West.
3. ACC tumbles
All three ACC teams ranked in the preseason poll lost on opening weekend. There was the aforementioned North Carolina loss to USC; the Tar Heels also fell to BYU and dropped 11 spots to No. 18 this week.
Florida State, which opened at No. 9, lost at then-No. 24 Colorado, and is now No. 14. And Duke, which had been No. 25, dropped out of the poll after a loss to Long Beach State.
The Tar Heels, Seminoles and Blue Devils were picked to finish 1-2-3 in the ACC this season. Some good news for the league? Miami, picked to finish fourth, went 3-0 to start the season.
4. Showdown at Rec Hall
No. 1 Penn State (3-0) and No. 2 Stanford (2-0) both swept their opening opponents and will face off Saturday at the Nittany Lions' home gym. The match, at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
That's the marquee meeting in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in University Park, Pennsylvania. But neither team will be looking ahead, considering the challenges both face first on Friday. Penn State will take on No. 21 Colorado, while Stanford meets No. 6 Illinois.
Penn State has seven NCAA titles; Stanford has six. The teams met in the NCAA tournament the past two seasons, with the Nittany Lions winning both: in five sets in the 2013 regional final and in four sets last year in the national semifinals.
5. Keep an eye on ...
Texas' Gregory Gymnasium, which this weekend is site of the VERT Challenge: four top-25 matchups, all to be televised on The Longhorn Network.
Friday at 4 p.m. ET, Florida, which is tied in the poll with Nebraska at No. 4, will meet No. 11 Oregon. That's followed by a meeting of former Big 12 rivals (before the Huskers moved to the Big Ten), with No. 3 Texas against Nebraska.
Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, it's the Gators' turn against the Longhorns, followed by the Huskers facing the Ducks. Think of it as an early-season final four.