Wednesday night was an exciting night in the DI women’s volleyball ranks as we saw No. 2 and undefeated USC defeat the defending national champion, No. 1 UCLA 3-1 (28-26, 25-20, 24-26, 25-17). It was the second time in the history of the rivalry when the schools have locked up ranked No. 1 and No. 2. The other occasion took place Oct. 19, 1984, when No. 2 UCLA beat No. 1 USC on the road 3-2.
In similar fashion, No. 4 Penn State (11-1) earned a 3-1 (23-25, 28-26, 25-17, 26-24) victory against No. 3 Nebraska (8-2) at Rec Hall. Three Nittany Lions posted double-digit kills against the Huskers.
And Then There Were Eight
With Central Arkansas and Nebraska falling last week, there are now eight undefeated teams left in the country. They are…
Oregon: The Ducks leads the nation in assists (14.35) and kills (15.45) per set, thanks in large part to the play of Lauren Plum, who ranks number one in assists per set herself (12.55).
Washington: Washington ranks sixth in the country in blocks per set with 3.04. Senior outside hitter Kylin Munoz has started in every game for the Huskies and is a second generation UW volleyball player. Her mom April played for Washington in 1989 and 1990.
USC: Prior to its big win against UCLA, the Women of Troy recorded their sixth undefeated pre-conference tournament season under head coach Mick Haley. The Trojans are off to their best start to a season since the 2006 squad.
Michigan State: Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski leads the country in aces per set (0.75) and is tied for the lead in total aces (30). The Spartans also are second in the country in hitting percentage (.336).
Kansas State: Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was named AVCA National Player of the Week earlier this week. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is the winningest coach in the history of the school. The Wildcats are off to the best start in school history.
BYU: The Cougars are off to their best start since 2005 and are coming of four consecutive tournament wins as they enter conference play against No. 14 Pepperdine and Gonzaga.
South Carolina: Junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin earned the Southeastern Conference Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week. Her strong play helped the Gamecocks break the program record for best start to a season with a 13-0 mark, besting the 1983 team’s 12-match winning streak to start the year. South Carolina is one win away from tying the longest winning streak in the team’s history, again held by the 1983 squad.
Northwestern: With last Friday evening’s win against Saint Louis, the Wildcats surpassed the 1987 squad for the best start in program history. Northwestern’s 11-match winning streak is the longest at any point in a season since 1983 when the ‘Cats rattled off 12 consecutive victories between Oct. 19 – Nov. 19.
Notable Performances from Around the Country
• Several Florida Atlantic Owls are making strides this season, including Alessia Pizzocheri, who set a new career high in kills twice this week. She had 18 in a five-set win against Stetson, then had 19 in a five-set loss to UC-Riverside. In the match against Stetson, Pizzocheri also had a career high 21 digs. In addition, freshman setter Jelena Jovanovic entered last week 10th in the nation in service aces per set and added nine in the Owls’ five matches this week.
• Hofstra recently got a pair of outstanding performances as senior libero Kylee Maneja, the program’s all-time leader in digs, set a new career-high with 37 digs against Rhode Island. In the same match, senior setter Catalina Charry had a triple double with 44 assists, 16 digs and 10 kills. It was her first career triple double.
• Texas A&M extended its win streak to nine after opening its inaugural SEC volleyball campaign by going 2-0 with home wins against both Ole Miss and Auburn. The conference-opening sweep against Ole Miss marked A&M’s first SEC victory in any sport. Texas A&M is 10-1 overall, tying the school record for best start after 11 matches.
Virginia Commonwealth Off to Best Start
VCU is off to its best start in school history with a 12-1 record thus far. The Rams have won seven consecutive matches and have captured victories in all four of the non-conference tournaments they’ve participated in this year. Freshman middle blocker Martina Samadan, who has been named to all four all-tournament teams this season, was selected MVP of the West Point Challenge last weekend. Up next for VCU is their debut in the Atlantic-10 conference as they take on Duquesne and at George Washington.
Conference Play Gets Underway
Action heats up across the country for the remaining conferences with numerous matchups between ranked teams. In addition to their Super Wednesday contests, No. 2 USC hosts No. 8 Oregon on Friday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. ET. and No. 3 Nebraska continues its road trip with a visit to No. 23 Ohio State on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. ET. In-state Pac-12 rivalries also highlight the opening weekend of conference play with No. 5 Washington taking on Washington State, and No. 8 Oregon going up against Oregon State.
Other conference matches among ranked teams:
• No. 12 Minnesota visits No. 20 Illinois, Friday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. ET
• No. 17 Purdue visits No. 25 Michigan State, Friday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. ET