As Week 3 arrived in women's volleyball, it brought with it a new team atop the AVCA Coaches poll, with Minnesota replacing Stanford following the Cardinal’s loss to Penn State last weekend. However, Stanford will get its second chance at the Nittany Lions a little over a week later on Saturday in a match that is just one of a number featuring top-ranked opponents.Here are four matches to keep an eye on this weekend:
No. 4 Stanford vs. Illinois/No. 3 Penn State (Sept. 8/Sept. 9)
As the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge gets underway this weekend, defending national champion Stanford will look for revenge against Penn State. The two met last weekend at the Texas A&M Invitational, with the Nittany Lions winning a four-set match (26-24, 25-17, 18-25, 25-19).
However, before it gets its chance at the rematch, the Cardinal will face Illinois, where coach Kevin Hambly spent the last eight seasons. The Illini are off to a 6-0 start in 2017, dropping only one set in the process while posting 3.79 blocks per set, which leads the nation. Illinois' defense will try to slow down All-American outside hitter Kathryn Plummer, who ranks second in the NCAA in kills per set at 5.38.
No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Texas (Sept. 8)
New No. 1 Minnesota is going to get tested right away when it travels south to face Texas in the American Campus Classic. The Longhorns, meanwhile, are looking to carry their momentum after rattling off four consecutive wins (two against teams currently ranked in the top 15) since dropping its season opener to No. 2 Florida.
Senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu has returned to the Longhorns in a big way, ranking in the top 10 nationally (seventh) in blocks per set along with fellow middle blocker Morgan Johnson (fourth). Golden Gophers freshman opposite Stephanie Samedy, named tournament MVP of the Diet Coke Classic last weekend, will need to continue her form alongside Big Ten Setter of the Week Samatha Seliger-Swenson, as both teams look to gain an advantage in an all-time series that sits even at 4-4.
No. 9 Creighton vs. No. 7 Kansas (Sept. 9)
The Creighton Bluejays will go for their third straight tournament championship this weekend, following titles at both the Husky Invitational and Bluejay Invitational. Reigning Big East Player of the Year Lydia Dimke and company will face a familiar foe in Kansas, who, led by senior All-Americans Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili, have the NCAA’s most lethal attack (15.69 kills per set).
These two programs played twice last season. The Jayhawks won the regular season matchup in five sets while the Bluejays got revenge with a five-set win of their own in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 12 Nebraska (Sept. 8/Sept. 9)
UCLA will put its perfect start on the line when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, this weekend to play two games with the Cornhuskers. The Bruins are entering the series following a win in the NM State Springhill Suites Invitational, sweeping New Mexico State and UNLV without dropping a set. In the finale against UNLV, outside hitter Mac May continued her impressive start to her freshman campaign, recording 16 kills to just one error.
The Bruins will face a Nebraska team that got back on track last weekend following an 0-2 start to the season, winning all three games in the Ameritas Players Challenge without dropping a set. Senior middle blocker Briana Holman, reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, will be the one student-athlete to watch for the Cornhuskers, as she leads the team in blocks per set and ranks third in kills per set.