Women's college volleyball is back, with games starting on Friday, January 22. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many teams are playing only conference matches, with back-to-back games against the same team. So instead of top games to watch this weekend, we've got top series to watch.
Here are the two big series I will be watching this weekend:
No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Purdue | 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 22 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23 | Big Ten Network
What better way for the No. 1 team in the country to start out the regular season than with a ranked matchup? The Badgers are the team to beat — at least as we get going. Wisconsin is getting right to it on opening week with its very first test. We know what the Badgers have to offer, with four returning All-Americans on this stacked roster, and now we will finally get to see them back in action after a very long wait since the 2019 national title game.
The Badgers have a balanced offense, a great blocking game, and so much trust in each other. Let’s just say the 2019 Big Ten Setter of the year Sydney Hilley knows how to work pretty well with Dana Rettke, the 2019 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year. This group is well-seasoned, and I expect little to no adjustment period when they are back on the court.
But the Boilermakers will be no easy task. They are No. 13 for a reason. This group returns outside hitter Grace Cleveland, who was a 2019 AVCA Third Team All American as a sophomore last year, and their leading scorer from last season, Caitlin Newton, an All-American honorable mention. Their setter, Hayley Bush, is also back. This group made some noise last season, taking down teams like Louisville and even Nebraska once.
No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 24 Michigan | 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23 | Big Ten Network +
(NOTE: This series has been postponed out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff)
Penn State finished the 2019 season ranked No. 7 in the AVCA poll. Russ Rose and the Nittany Lions return First Team All-American middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord and their setter Gabby Blossom, a 2019 Third Team All-American. Penn State also brings back honorable mentions Serena Gray and Jonni Parker, who carried a pretty big load of offensive production last season. Aside from losing Tori Gorrell and their star libero, Kendall White, this team hasn't changed too much — and can only grow from here. The Nittany Lions were knocked out of NCAA tournament by the eventual national champions, the unstoppable Stanford Cardinal.
Michigan comes into this year at No. 24, with its leading scorer back in Paige Jones, a 2019 Third Team All-American. The Wolverines do have some new incoming talent. However, there are not too many “off days” in the Big Ten, and they’re getting right to it against a volleyball powerhouse.
Other matchups to keep an eye on:
No. 15 Creighton will face UNI this Sunday to get some competition started. Nebraska has its first game against Indiana this Friday. The Pac-12 unveiled its schedule and also starts this week, but Stanford’s first four matches have been cancelled due to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department's current emergency directive.