It’s rare to have a slate of games on one night in the middle of the week that feature two of the most anticipated matchups in Division I women’s volleyball this season. Even more unlikely — an upset that might’ve put a team into the tournament field for the time being. Yet, that’s what happened on Halloween night.
Here are three takeaways to provide context for the remainder of the season.
1. The Indiana Hoosiers knocked off their first top-25 team this season in No. 14 Michigan, 3-1 in Bloomington.
Why it matters: Indiana now sits in eighth place at 6-7 in the Big Ten, 15-9 overall, with only two more games against unranked opponents. Getting that first top-25 out of the way is a huge step for the Hoosiers which haven’t been back to the NCAA tournament since 2010. At 72nd in the current RPI rankings, the win against the Wolverines (13th in RPI) will certainly boost the Hoosiers and likely will place them ahead of Maryland (71st in RPI), which they are also battling against for the eighth spot in the Big Ten. Why does the eighth spot matter in the conference? Only twice since 2010 has the Big Ten had less than eight teams in the NCAA tournament.
2. No. 12 Kentucky looked dominant at home against No. 11 Florida, sweeping the Gators in Lexington.
Why it matters: The Wildcats are now in firm control of the wheel for the SEC championship and a national seed. This is the best win right now on Kentucky’s resume and it certainly picked a good time to make an impression by beating last year’s national runner-up 25-15, 25-18, 25-20 on national television. At 12-0, a full two games above every other team in the conference, it’s difficult to see the Wildcats not winning the conference outright. For Florida, it fell into a tie with Missouri (10-2) and a tie in losses with Tennessee (9-2) in the conference. Could the Gators really finish fourth in the SEC? Doubtful, but they certainly made it a possibility.
3. No. 3 Minnesota remained unbeaten in Big Ten play with a comeback, four-set road win at No. 5 Wisconsin.
Why it matters: In October alone, the Golden Gophers beat Nebraska twice, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s truly incredible what Minnesota is doing this year in undoubtedly the best conference in volleyball this season. The Gophers have just two more ranked teams on its schedule, including a road trip to Rec Hall against the Nittany Lions, standing in its way of a perfect 20-0 conference slate. What was most impressive in this match was after losing the first set 25-16, Minnesota hit .333 the rest of the match and cruised to a win. Don’t be surprised if the Gophers receive some first-place votes soon.