Will momentum stick with Nebraska or Michigan State with first place in Big Ten at stake?
One team will stand alone atop the Big Ten heap after an early-season volleyball showdown on Wednesday between No. 14 Michigan State (11-2) and No. 4 Nebraska (11-3) in Lincoln. Ten spots separate them in the rankings, but two weeks into conference play, both boast unlikely 4-0 marks.
Nebraska swept its first two Big Ten opponents: Penn State at University Park and a Minnesota team that held the top spot in the AVCA poll for three weeks. The bubble looked ready to burst in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Devaney Athletic Center on Saturday night when Wisconsin snagged the first two sets. After the Cornhuskers rallied for the third, Wisconsin rebounded in the fourth, but had a critical challenge call overturned that put Nebraska ahead 22-21. The Cornhuskers held on to win the set 25-23 and dominated the fifth 15-8.
Last week's espnW player of the week, Annika Albrecht, was sensational again, pacing Nebraska with 18 kills and 12 digs. Mikaela Foecke had 15 kills and nine digs and Briana Holman added 13 kills and four blocks.
The Huskers, who started the season 0-2, have knocked off three top-10 opponents (Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin) in a nine-day span, a first in program history.
Coach John Cook was emotional when he talked to the Cornhuskers after Saturday's win about the string of upsets. "It's never been done before; it's never been done at Nebraska," he said in the locker room. "I don't even know how to put it into words."
As for the Spartans, they downed Wisconsin and Minnesota the weekend before on the road, defeating a pair of top-five opponents back-to-back, also a program mark.
After sweeps of Maryland and Ohio State over the weekend, Michigan State has now won six in a row. Ten of the team's 11 victories have been in straight sets. However, the Spartans are 0-9 in Lincoln.
We're a ways from Christmas, but the red and green will make for a pretty special matchup in volleyball come Wednesday.
espnW Player of the week
Two weeks, two Pac-12 offensive player of the week accolades for USC senior Brittany Abercrombie, who is also the espnW national player of the week.
The opposite recorded back-to-back matches with 13 kills to lead the Trojans past Washington State and Washington, snapping the Huskies' 11-game win streak. Against Washington, Abercrombie posted a .310 hitting percentage with a season-high eight digs.
Washington (13-2), previously ranked sixth, dropped to No. 9 in this week's poll. USC (12-3) improved from 20 to 15.
The Carlsbad, California, native shared her thoughts on:
The upset of Washington: "We just kept grinding. Our goal all week was pushing through the grind and outhustling teams in our own gym. We proved that we could beat the best teams. This is our new standard."
Her Red Cross experience: "I had an internship with the Red Cross this summer in their international services department. I wanted to see what the nonprofit sector was like. I loved seeing the impact they make and the people they help. I love the big hearts my co-workers had."
Her idol: "I really respect Kerri Walsh Jennings. She has such a great drive and she's really smart when she plays."
Her spare time: "I'm into redecorating my apartment, but I'm not an interior designer. I get all my ideas from Pinterest."
Her other team: "I'm still a Chargers fan, but now that they are in L.A., it's a little disappointing."
USC, where she committed after her sophomore year of high school: "I was talking to some older girls who helped me. They told me I should be able to see myself at the school without volleyball because if I get injured or something happens and I can't play, would I still love the school, love the campus? Staying close to home was a blessing. My parents come to every game, and I hug them before every game."
Her game: "I'm a lot stronger when I hit this year. That helps a lot. The ball gets to the floor faster. I feel like a more powerful and strong player."
Indulgence: "I watch a lot of documentaries instead of Netflix. I feel like it makes me smarter. I watch a lot of 'Vice' documentaries."
The game you've circled on USC's schedule: "Stanford!" (The reigning champ heads to Galen Center on Oct. 15.)
Making the rounds
• No. 11 Kansas rallied from 0-2 down for the first time since 2013 to defeat No. 20 Iowa State. Senior Madison Rigdon's 20-kill, 15-dig performance was her seventh double-double of the season. Kelsie Payne hammered 22 kills, including the match winner.
• No. 18 Purdue 6, Indiana 0. The Boilermakers swept the Hoosiers twice in four days, continuing to show off their dynamic offense, second in the Big Ten to Penn State. Talk about consistent performances: Boilermakers senior Danielle Cuttino had 14 kills with one error in each match.
• Unranked Colorado stunned Oregon 3-1 to improve to 12-3 in the Pac-12. Oregon transfer Frankie Shebby had 16 kills, nine digs and three blocks against her former team. The Buffaloes (12-3) moved back into the poll at No. 25; Oregon is 16th.
• Cal defeated Arizona and Arizona State over the weekend to improve to 11-4.
We're down to one
Undefeated team, that is.
Miami, Towson, James Madison and top-ranked Florida started last week unbeaten. Louisville swept the Hurricanes on Sunday to cap a stellar weekend for the Cardinals. On Friday, it defeated Florida State, which had been the lone ranked team in the ACC.
Hofstra swept Towson in the Make Puerto Rico Shine Again event. Towson's Julymar Otero, Carola Biver and Jocelyn Kuilan, all Puerto Rico natives, collected batteries, flashlights and other donations to send to their home island.
JMU dropped a heartbreaker in its home gym to CAA preseason favorite College of Charleston. The Dukes dropped the first two sets, won the next two and fell 17-15 in the fifth.
Florida (11-0) stands as the only team in Division I that has not dropped a match. The Gators swept LSU on Sunday to remain perfect.
One side note: Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of the Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville, where the Gators would have faced Michigan State.
Florida meets Texas A&M on Wednesday on ESPNU.
No. 6 Minnesota at No. 7 Wisconsin: Two of the Big Ten's heavyweights clash on Wednesday, each looking to rebound from a loss at Nebraska.
No. 11 Kansas at West Virginia: Texas needed five to outlast the Mountaineers. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have won 17 straight over conference opponents. Kansas has won all 12 in the series, which continues on Wednesday.
No. 17 Utah at No. 9 Washington: The Huskies will look to rebound on Friday from the loss to USC, but they'll have to tame Utes senior Adora Anae, the No. 2 all-time leader in kills for Utah.