There are quite a few options of big volleyball matches in Week 8 to watch. The season is heating up, we are deeper into conference play now and it is all good stuff. Here are three of the top matchups to watch this week — plus a few bonus ones to tune into as well.
I am pumped to watch this matchup and see Washington back at it against a top-caliber volleyball team in Oregon. I have been a little uncertain about Washington and took the Huskies out of my Power 10 rankings after the back-to-back losses to Utah and Washington State. But right after that they took down UCLA in five sets. They have played USC, Arizona and Arizona State since then, and two of those were four-set wins and one was a five-set win, so no cruising as of late. This isn't necessarily surprising for a team that made it to the national semifinals last season after coming back from behind in an absurd amount of matches. They are gritty for sure, and although they don't sweep a lot of opponents, they usually can find a way to win. In the latest five-set win over ASU, Claire Hoffman posted 25 kills and two aces, Samantha Drechsel had 14 kills with four blocks and Madi Endsley chipped in 13 kills — the same offensive crew as last season's semifinal team. Now they will face an incredibly good Oregon team, and I can't wait to see how they match up.
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Oregon is 14-2 on the season with a win over Penn State earlier in the season and Stanford last week. The two losses though are to Utah and Minnesota. So this is a team that can go either way. They are knocking right on the door of my Power 10 as well, and this matchup against Washington is a big one. Oregon rallied to take down Stanford (25-21, 23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11) last weekend. The win was the program's first over Stanford since 2011. Brooke Nuneviller posted 22 kills, Taylor Borup added 19 and Morgan Lewis has 10 kills. Oregon held Stanford to a .172 hitting percentage in Sunday's effort, more than 100 points below its season average.
Washington and Oregon are going to be two very gritty teams facing off, and you won't want to miss it.
We have got a rematch for our second top matchup of the week. No. 6 and No. 7 will face off this Friday for the second time this season after Purdue pulled out a five-set win over the Buckeyes on Sept. 24. The Boilermakers were down two sets to one before rallying to come back behind 15 kills apiece from Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton. Hayley Bush has been a big-time performer for Purdue. In the win over OSU she had 47 assists and 13 digs.
The point is though, that it was a close one, and now we get to see round two. Ohio State has swept its last four opponents since losing back-to-back matchups to Purdue and Penn State, but now it is facing its first highly ranked opponent since the two ranked losses. Purdue, on the other hand, beat Ohio State then loss to Illinois in five sets, then avenged the loss with a five-set win over Illinois the following the week. So both Ohio State and Purdue have something to prove here.
Any top-10 matchup is a good one right now, especially between these two Big Ten teams that have already faced in a tight matchup. You won't want to miss it.
Lastly, I had to go with another Big Ten battle between Penn State and Purdue. Purdue has got a big week in Week 8 with the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. What is interesting here, is that Penn State pulled off a dominating sweep over Ohio State already this season. Penn State did lose a four-set match last week to Nebraska, falling into a tie for second in the Big Ten standings.
But Purdue got all it could handle with the Buckeyes, and now will face a Penn State team that won three consecutive sets against OSU. Penn State has been dominant out of the middle and has been a strong blocking team all season. In their last win over Northwestern, Kaitlin Hord hit .522 with 13 kills and had two block assists and Allie Holland hit .500 with 11 kills, four blocks and one ace out of the middle. And yes, the Nittany Lions still rank second in the NCAA in blocks per set with 3.13.
This could be a big-time Big Ten battle.
There are few other bonus matchups that are very exciting for this week. For one, BYU will be taking on its first ranked opponent in Pepperdine in seven matchups. The Cougars will face off on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. One of the biggest restrictions on BYU's ranking this year is their strength of schedule, so it will be good to see them against a top-25 team.
In the Pac-12, No. 17 Utah will take on No. 18 Stanford on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. These are two teams that are hot and cold against big-time opponents this season and it should be a great matchup. And, a close matchup, considering they are No. 17 and 18.