Two weeks. That’s how long teams have to make an impression before the bracket for the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball tournament is unveiled on Nov. 25.
We’ll highlight some top matches this week among ranked teams, but also include a couple matchups that involve teams that might be on the bubble as it stands.
Here are the five matchups we’re watching for the weekend of Nov. 16-18 in women’s college volleyball.
No. 6 Nebraska at No. 12 Purdue, 7 p.m. ET, Friday, BTN Plus
The Cornhuskers (20-6, 11-5) have rebounded nicely since losing four of five games by winning its past four. The Boilermakers (21-6, 10-6) are the final ranked team on Nebraska’s schedule and might be out to prove that their lone ranked win in the Big Ten — at Penn State — wasn’t a fluke.
Purdue’s Sherridan Atkinson and Nebraska’s Mikaela Foecke are two of the best senior hitters in the country. In the middle, Blake Mohler versus Lauren Stivrins will be a great matchup as well.
No. 14 Southern California at No. 24 Arizona, 8 p.m. ET, Friday, WATCH
After beating a ranked opponent last weekend without three starters, the Trojans (19-8, 11-5) have to be feeling good about themselves. If Brooke Botkin, Khalia Lanier and Reni Meyer-Whalley all return this week, that’s just icing on the cake.
Now going on the road, Southern Cal likely will need contributions from arguably the best hitting duo in the country and its starting defensive specialist against a fierce Arizona Wildcats team (19-9, 8-8) that is looking for another signature conference win. Kendra Dahlke, the Pac-12 leader in kills, sat out the Wildcats’ four-set loss to USC earlier this year with a concussion but she will be back for this game.
Arizona currently sits 41st in RPI, which is within the typical range for bubble teams. Another win here should guarantee the Wildcats a spot in the NCAA tournament.
No. 2 Stanford at No. 18 Washington State, 10 p.m. ET, Friday, WATCH
Stanford (24-1, 16-0) eliminated any potential drama late in the Pac-12 season by beating every opponent it played and letting the rest of the conference beat up on each other. There are still plenty of goals for the Cardinal after winning the conference title last weekend, including a No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Washington State, however, has goals of its own. The Cougars (19-7, 10-6) have lost just one game on their floor this season and have the motivation of fighting for a national seed. They’re ranked 11th in RPI going into the weekend, meaning one more big win could guarantee they’re one of 16 teams that host the first weekend of NCAAs.
San Diego at Saint Mary’s, 4 p.m. ET, Saturday
Here’s a matchup that won’t jump out at the casual viewer because of lack of numbers next to the names. For those that are watching the RPI and bubble teams, this should might be the most intriguing game of the weekend.
San Diego (16-10, 13-3 WCC) is 40th in the latest RPI rankings. Saint Mary’s (17-9, 9-7 WCC) is 44th. Based on recent analyses of the RPI, these teams certainly fit the criteria for being on the bubble of the NCAA tournament. This game is about as high stakes as possible this late in the season.
San Diego middle Addie Picha ranks fourth in the nation in hitting percentage (.427) and leads the WCC in blocks per set (1.46). Saint Mary’s third-leading hitter Lindsey Calvin had 17 kills on 44 attempts in the Gaels’ five-set win against the Toreros earlier this season.
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 23 Missouri, 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, WatchESPN
Kentucky (21-4, 15-0) can clinch at-least a share of the SEC championship with a win Sunday while the Missouri Tigers (22-6, 12-4) can only spoil the SEC title after losing to No. 22 Tennessee on Wednesday.
The Wildcats and Tigers rank first and second in the SEC in hitting percentage and rank third and second, respectively, in opponent hitting percentage. If there’s one area Missouri can take the advantage, it’s blocking (Wildcats rank sixth and the Tigers are second). But the Tigers will have to stop All-American outside hitter Leah Edmond, who is second in the conference and 13th in the nation with 4.48 kills per set on nearly 1,000 attempts heading into the week.
Other notable games: No. 4 Texas at Baylor (Friday), Colorado (50th RPI) at No. 16 Oregon (Friday), No. 2 Stanford at No. 20 Washington (Sunday), No. 25 UCLA at No. 24 Arizona (Sunday).