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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | August 12, 2021

The top 25 matches we're looking forward to early in the NCAA volleyball season

College volleyball rankings: Preseason Power 10 for 2021

Only two weeks until volleyball season. And a super season at that, with so many super seniors and star-studded athletes returning for another go-around. A lot of the athletes will be utilizing their extra year of eligibility. 

Nebraska returns Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun. Wisconsin is bringing back Dana Rettke and Sydney Hilley. Caitilin Newton, Kayla Lund, Ella May Powell, Stephanie Samedy ... the list goes on and on. They are all coming back. 

With that being said, there is even MORE to be excited about this season. We are just coming off of a weird 2020 spring season that primarily saw in-conference schedules only. Out-of-conference schedules are back, and we have a lot to be excited about.

We took a look at some of the big matchups to look forward to early in the season. These are all before each team hits in-conference schedules.

Friday, Aug. 27

Welcome to opening weekend, and Friday, Aug. 27 will be our own opening day for the 2021 volleyball season. There are two big matchups that should be on your radar. 

  • Pittsburgh vs. Rice โ€” Pitt is ranked No. 7 in our preseason Power 10 rankings. Kayla Lund and Chinaza Ndee are back in 2021 after pulling off a string of upsets in the 2020-21 NCAA tournament. The Panthers have a few big matchups before they reach conference schedules, but Rice will be their first test. Rice, led by Nicole Lennon, had a big upset over Texas during the regular season four months ago. Unfortunately, its season was cut short in the NCAA tournament due to COVID-19. Now the Owls are back for 2021 and have a tough opponent in Pitt right away. 
  • Baylor vs. Minnesota โ€” Baylor absolutely loaded its out-of-conference schedule to start the season, and Minnesota is just the beginning. This match will be a big debut for both teams. For one, we will see the combination of Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner for the first time, plus we will see how the Gophers filled in the spots previously occupied by Regan Pittman and Adanna Rollins. 

Saturday, Aug. 28

Onto day two and more good matchups. 

  • Baylor vs. Wisconsin โ€” Told you Baylor loaded its out-of-conference schedule. These two teams met in the 2019 semifinals, with the Badgers advancing to the national title match. If you need another reason to watch this one, how about the thought of Pressley going up against Rettke again at the net?
  • Washington vs. Ohio State โ€” Here is another great matchup. Ohio State emerged last season as a strong team in the Big Ten with the dominance of freshman Emily Londot. And Washington made it to the national semifinals before falling to the eventual champs in Kentucky. For the Huskies, this should be their toughest out-of-conference matchup on their schedule, so you won't want to miss it.  

Tuesday, Aug. 31

  • Florida vs. Stanford โ€” We know Stanford looked a little different than we were used to in the 2020-21 spring season. After losing the legendary senior class led by Kathryn Plummer following three championships in a four-year span, the Caardinal fell out of the top 25 rankings entirely last season. It was a tough season though in the midst of COVID-19 protocols, cancellations and delays for a new group, as specified by head coach Kevin Hambly last season. This season, they bring in another great incoming freshman class and should have a much more normal preseason for preparation. On top of that, they loaded up their out-of-conference schedule and will have an extremely good Florida team early in the season.

Wednesday, Sept. 1

  • Texas vs. Minnesota โ€” The Longhorns are ranked No. 1 in our preseason Power 10 rankings after making it to the title match in the spring. Their first big matchup of the season will be against Samedy and the Gophers. 

RANKINGS: Preseason Power 10 rankings for DI women's volleyball

Thursday, Sept. 2

  • Oregon vs. Rice โ€” Here is another huge Rice matchup and a great way to see Oregon against a tough opponent early in the season. Brooke Nuneviller returns for the Ducks this season. 

Sunday, Sept. 5

  • Texas vs. Stanford โ€” In 2016, Texas and Stanford played for the national title. Situations are extremely different now. But Texas will come into this season as one the best teams in the country. If Stanford wants to prove themselves to be a national power again, this is certainly one way to do it. 
  • Florida vs. Minnesota โ€” The Gophers have a super tough out-of-conference schedule and this is certainly one of them. The Gators taking on the Gophers could possibly be an incredibly tight matchup. 

Friday, Sept. 10

  • Kentucky vs. Wisconsin โ€” If you want to star a matchup on this list, this might be the one to do. The reigning national champs, Kentucky, taking on Wisconsin, one of the semifinal teams on the other side of the bracket in the last tournament. 
  • Pittsburgh vs. BYU โ€” The Cougars have a brand new addition to their team this year as well with Kenzie Koerber joining the roster.
  • Florida vs. Baylor โ€” Yet another tough matchup on Baylor's packed out-of-conference schedule.
  • Louisville vs. Purdue โ€” Here are two new teams on this top matchup list. The Cardinals bring back Aiko Jones and their leading scorer from last season, Anna DeBeer, who is now only a sophomore. Purdue brings back Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton after a really strong 2020-21 spring season as well. Could be a really interesting matchup. 
  • Penn State vs. Oregon โ€” Penn State has lost Serena Gray this season but they gained Adanna Rollins from Minnesota. Jonni Parker and Kaitlyn Hord will be back as well and Annie Cate Fitzpatrick, who emerged as a big-time player for them last season, is just a sophomore. Oregon will be one of the toughest out-of-conference foes for Penn State early in the season. 
  • Minnesota vs. Stanford โ€” A Minnesota-Stanford matchup is another one we are not used to seeing after the in-conference schedules last season. The Gophers have Baylor, Texas, Florida, Stanford and Oregon before they start Big Ten play. 

Saturday, Sept. 11

  • Florida vs. Baylor (round two) 
  • Penn State vs. Stanford
  • Minnesota vs. Oregon
  • Nebraska vs. Utah

Tuesday, Sept. 14

  • Nebraska vs. Stanford โ€” Before Stanford fell off in 2020, this would have been a matchup for the ages. It will be interesting to see the team Stanford has this year against so many tough opponents. 

Wednesday, Sept. 15

  • Kentucky vs. Louisville

Thursday, Sept. 16

  • Baylor vs. Rice
  • BYU vs. Utah โ€” Former Utah star Kenzie Koerber transferred to BYU for this season, and will be facing former teammates, including Dani Drews who is back for her last season with the Utes. 

Saturday, Sept. 18

  • Nebraska vs. Louisville โ€” The Huskers do not have as tough of an out-of-conference schedule as some of the other teams on this list, so it will be great to see them against a strong team like Louisville. 

Wednesday, Sept. 22

  • Texas vs. Rice โ€” Rice was the ONLY team to beat Texas last season in the regular season. That makes for a great matchup. 

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