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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | October 7, 2021

Nebraska vs. Penn State volleyball headlines 3 must-watch matches in Week 7

College volleyball rankings: Penn State enters Power 10 for the first time

Is it possible that we are already in Week 7 of college volleyball? It feels like just yesterday that it was opening weekend. We are in conference play now and we've got multiple top matchups to get excited for this weekend. 

Here are the top three matchups you won't want to miss:

No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 13 Penn State | 7 p.m. ET Friday, Oct. 8 on Big Ten Network

Lauren Stivrins Nebraska Volleyball

Lauren Stivrins is back — and the highly anticipated return of the All-American Nebraska star was all it was hyped up to be. Stivrins missed the first 11 matches due to an off-season back surgery, and in the midst of her absence, Nebraska went through a flurry of lineup changes, three consecutive losses, and a drop in the rankings. But she returned on Oct. 1 against Michigan, and she too wanted to earn her spot. Stivrins posted 11 kills on .733 hitting with three blocks in the sweep, Now, the Huskers will face their first ranked opponent since the return of their leader — No. 13 Penn State. 

The Nittany Lions are in the midst of a six-match winning streak following two back-to-back losses to Oregon and Stanford. They looked impressive in a sweep over then-No. 3 Ohio State, and next will face their first ranked matchup since the Buckeyes. Penn State leads the entire nation as a team in blocks per set with 3.32 with Kaitlin Hord ranking second nationally with 1.74 blocks per set. Their offense has been finding its groove as well, led by Jonni Parker and then different names in the mix contributing in Adanna Rollins, Allie Holland, Erika Pritchard and Anastasiya Kudryashova. 

MOVING UP: Penn State crashes the top 10 in the latest Power 10 rankings

As far as Nebraska and Penn State facing off, I expect an insanely loud environment at Rec Hall and some high-level volleyball. The Huskers have a talented freshmen class that in the midst of shuffling around lineups fell to three ranked teams. They've had some time to gel together as a group and will face a big Penn State opponent. When it comes to the history, Nebraska has won nine out of the last 10 matchups between these two teams, but the Huskers' last two wins were at the Devaney Center. Now they will face the experienced Nittany Lions on the road. 

No. 17 Stanford vs No. 14 Oregon | 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 10 on Pac-12 Network

Stanford Volleyball

We've got some big-time matchups in the Pac-12 this weekend and I am super excited for Stanford vs. Oregon. The Stanford Cardinal are so interesting this year as they make their way back after a struggle-filled 2020 campaign. They have had one of the toughest schedules out of anyone in the country this season, and yes, they have four losses because of it. But every single loss is to an extremely good, ranked team — and two of them were in five sets. The tough schedule though means they also have more ranked wins than the average team. The Cardinal have taken down Penn State, Florida and Nebraska this year. If they have anything coming into this matchup, it's experience against tough teams. 

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Kendall Kipp has been pacing the offense aside Caitie Baird game after game, and freshman phenom Sami Francis made her debut a little ways into the season coming off of an injury, and has been making an immediate difference. 

The Oregon Ducks are 12-2 on the season and have a really impressive win over Penn State in a sweep, but also some ranked losses and a few close calls against unranked teams including Harvard and Arizona State. This is a team capable of playing at a super high level though and this Stanford matchup will be a big test. Brooke Nuneviller leads the offense but they are fairly well balanced on the offensive front. 

The Cardinal lead the all-time series 63-4, so a win for Oregon would be just its fifth time ever taking down Stanford. The Cardinal have won the past 13 straight meetings. 

No. 15 Utah vs No. 16 UCLA | 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 10 on Pac-12 Plus

UtahVB

For the third top matchup of the week I had to go with another Pac-12 battle because Utah vs. UCLA is a really intriguing matchup. I look at these two teams as very similar entities, and their side-by-side rankings just prove that point even further. Both are hot and cold teams with top-caliber ranked wins on the season, they both have a star outside hitter, and they both are unfortunately not bullet proof. 

Utah has four top-25 wins on the season over Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and San Diego. That is an impressive resume, and you'd think they'd be ranked higher. But they also have losses, and some surprising ones, to Boise State, BYU and Colorado. It can be confusing, but this is a team that is capable of a lot, clearly, but has its moments of defeat. The Utes are led by Dani Drews, one of the most impressive hitters in the nation over the past few seasons. Drews averages 4.67 kills per set this season and she is their go-to player when they need a point. In their most recent win over then No. 11 Oregon, she had 19 kills. In the big upset over then No. 4 Washington, she had 26. When Drews is doing well, so are the Utes. 

UCLA is led by star outside hitter Mac May. The Bruins are 10-2 on the season with a big win over Stanford and ranked wins over Washington State and Georgia Tech. They have two losses to San Diego and Washington, who they pushed to five sets. The Utes have more ranked wins but more losses, and the Bruins have less ranked wins but fewer losses. Mac May just had an absurd night with 39 kills in the win over Washington State. So again, we have two big-time, go-to offensive weapons on both sides of the net in this matchup. This should be a good one. 

Another match to keep on your radar is No. 18 Georgia Tech vs No. 2 Pittsburgh this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ACC Network. Georgia Tech has been good and challenging teams all season, so this will be a big test for the second-ranked Panthers. 

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