After two top-5 teams fell in a four-day span, including the country’s final undefeated team, there was bound to be movement in this week’s AVCA. That much was inevitable.
Poll: The latest AVCA Top 25
And, indeed, only five teams in the Top 25 held their positions from the previous week. However, as we dive headlong into the second half of October, it’s becoming more and more clear who are the 25 best teams in the country. The latest AVCA Top 25 poll marks the first week of the season in which no teams dropped out of the Top 25, and thus no new teams joined the fray.
Women's volleyball: Wisconsin snaps three-game losing streak in upset over Nebraska
With Florida’s four-set loss to Kentucky (more on the Wildcats in a minute), and the Gators’ subsequent fall to No. 4 this week, the Top 5 saw a re-shuffling of the country’s most elite teams. Penn State claimed the No. 1 spot in the country after statement win over No. 10 Michigan State, with Stanford right behind at No. 2 following the Cardinal’s win over No. 13 UCLA. Only 46 voting points separate the two teams.
Texas also hopped past the Gators in the poll; after early-season stumbles, the Longhorns are back to No. 3, even garnering a first-place vote this week.
(Florida, for its troubles, still landed two first-place votes after its first loss of the year.)
One of the most interesting developments in this week’s poll is the continued ascension (on the heels of its win over Florida) of new No. 6 Kentucky, which reached its highest ranking in 24 years this week. The Wildcats leapt both BYU and Nebraska in the polls, and earned a first-place vote in the process, which is no small feat for a team ranked sixth, behind powerhouses like No. 1 Penn State (48 first-place votes) and Stanford (12 first-place votes).
With Florida and Kentucky in the Top 6, the SEC is the second-best-represented conference in the AVCA’s Top 10. Sunday’s showdown marked just the third time in SEC history that two Top 10 SEC teams faced off during the regular season, a big moment for the conference. The Big 10, of course, owns the Top 10, as it has for much of the season, with five teams making appearances. But the SEC is not to be discounted this season, as the Gators and Wildcats have proven worthy of the country’s best competition.
Women's volleyball: Kentucky takes down No. 1 Florida for Gators' first loss of the season
Elsewhere, a Thursday matchup with Top 10 implications, then-No. 11 Wisconsin’s upset of then-No. 4 Nebraska, proved a big influence on this week’s rankings. The Badgers climbed back into the Top 10, slotting in at No. 9, while the Cornhuskers fell three spots to No. 7.
Meanwhile, BYU dropped one spot because of Kentucky’s heroics despite closing in on being the first team in the country to win 20 matches. The Cougars are simply leagues above the rest of the West Coast Conference, as was discussed last week, and they should hang in the Top 10 for the rest of the season.
Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Texas were the only three teams to move up more than one spot in this week’s rankings, which highlights just how traffic-jammed the Top 25 is at this point. Top to bottom, these are good volleyball teams, each with their strengths, weaknesses, and identities. Numbers will be traded over the next few weeks, but don’t expect a gigantic shakeup of the volleyball landscape unless something unexpected happens before the tournament.
This week’s lone major faller is Northern Iowa, which fell from No. 20 to No. 25 after a five-set loss to Missouri State, but even that loss wasn’t a shocker. Missouri State received 32 votes in this week’s poll, and is the country’s unofficial No. 28 this week.
And, of course, as we wrap up, let’s look at the best matchups of this week:
No. 11 Kansas vs. No. 24 Baylor
No. 14 Washington vs. No. 2 Stanford
No. 12 Utah vs. No. 13 UCLA
No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 17 Purdue