This past weekend was riddled with upsets, including two top-five teams, and a couple Big Ten teams recorded marquee road wins to jump in the new NCAA Division I volleyball rankings.
Here are five takeaways from the new AVCA coaches poll.
Biggest jump: Purdue
The Purdue Boilermakers went into Rec Hall at Penn State — a place where few teams come out with a win — and stunned the Nittany Lions in a five-set thriller that ended 20-18 in the fifth set.
The Big Ten headlines have mostly been dominated by Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State. But the Boilermakers (19-4, 8-4) are certainly on the national radar too and could give the Big Ten six or seven national seeds — the other being Michigan. From the loss, the Nittany Lions dropped three spots, clearly illustrating the voters still think very highly of Russ Rose’s squad.
Largest drop: Cal Poly
When looking at Cal Poly’s schedule, it wasn’t improbable to think that it might lose just one game this season to Pittsburgh in the first weekend. Well, following an 18-game win streak after that initial loss, the Mustangs (19-2, 9-1 Big West) lost to unranked Hawaii and subsequently had the largest drop of the week — from No. 11 to No. 17.
In the grand scheme of things, this loss doesn’t matter too much since the Mustangs will almost certainly make the NCAA tournament. The question now is whether or not they will receive a national seed.
Is Illinois the next best Big Ten challenger to Minnesota?
Illinois (20-3, 9-3 Big Ten) won for the first time at Nebraska since 2014 and was rewarded with a jump to No. 4 following previous-No. 4 Penn State’s home loss. Now the Fighting Illini were the higher-ranked team in Saturday’s matchup in Lincoln, but to think Illinois was the clear favorite is to be mistaken given how tough Nebraska has been on its home court over the years.
There looks to be a clear top three teams in BYU, Stanford and Minnesota, but it’s clear Illinois impressed a lot of voters with its win against the Huskers. Consider this: Penn State was 131 points behind No. 3 Minnesota last week at No. 4. Illinois is less than 100 behind the Gophers.
Pittsburgh stays in top 10
One of the best stories in volleyball had to end at some point this season. It just so happens that Pittsburgh’s (23-1, 11-1 ACC) incredible run would end at 23 games, having lost to Duke on Sunday for its first loss of the season.
There was going to be significant drop after that. The question was just how far the Panthers will drop. The fact that they stayed within the top 10 indicates the voters believe Pittsburgh is for real and that’s completely justifiable. Sure, the ACC isn’t as tough as other conferences, but even the best teams in weaker conferences don’t win 23 straight games.
Stanford gains six first-place votes
Of all the developments this past week, Stanford (20-1, 12-0 Pac-12) gaining six first-place votes was the most stunning to me even though the Cardinal have proven they are a much improved team from early in the season.
I mean, just look at Stanford’s opponents in Pac-12 play and how it has handled them. Since its loss to BYU on Aug. 31, Stanford has lost six total sets and beaten 12 ranked teams — including four top-five teams — in its 18 game-winning streak. The Cardinal is proving again why it might be the best team in the country.
Other notable takeaways:
This was the most movement the AVCA coaches poll has had in weeks, so there were a few teams that should be mentioned here. Missouri (20-4, 10-2 SEC) jumped four spots to No. 20 and won its eighth game in a row. Now with Tennessee in the rankings at No. 25, the Tigers have two late-season games against the Vols and No. 12 Kentucky that could put them in contention for a national seed and potentially an automatic bid as the SEC champion.