Along with the two matchups that caught my attention on Wednesday, this is shaping up to be a huge week in college volleyball.
Here are my top college volleyball matchups of the week, broken down:
Another big Nebraska matchup this week after a tough setback at Wisconsin at home on Wednesday. This time, against Stephanie Samedy and the Gophers. Minnesota has been so hot and cold this season, but have played one of the toughest schedules in volleyball. Plus, as I mentioned, they have Samedy, one of the most explosive players in the country.
The Gophers just took down Ohio State last weekend behind a 22-kill performance from Samedy. Head coach Hugh McCutechen said that is was such an important win for his team in relation to where they want to be by the end of the year — so they just might be clicking and heading in the right direction. Aside from Samedy, Airi Miyabe totaled 16 kills while CC McGraw led the way on defense with 24 digs. This team has strong players throughout the entire lineup, and they can be dangerous when they put it all together start to finish.
Nebraska will be coming off its match against Wisconsin, looking to get redemption after its first Big Ten defeat of the season.
The Washington Huskies are moving on up in my book, at No. 8 in my latest Power 10 rankings. They just swept Stanford last weekend for an impressive victory and its eighth consecutive win. For a team that was known for its comeback wins last season, they put it all together from start to finish against the Cardinal.
Washington will face UCLA this Sunday (happy Halloween), for the second time this season. The first go-around, we saw a five-set win for Washington. It came down to the wire in the final set, with the Huskies pulling it out 15-13. And guess what is was .... a comeback victory for Washington, its first comeback win from an 0-2 deficit since its win over Pittsburgh in the 2020 NCAA tournament quarterfinals. With their most recent win over Stanford, it looks like the Huskies have turned a new leaf, but we will see if they can make it happen again. In the win over UCLA, Claire Hoffman tied her season-high with 20 kills and hit .308 with a couple aces, and Samantha Drechsel hit .433 with 15 kills plus nine digs and four blocks.
UCLA has had a great season with just three losses so far and one of them to Washington. It too took down Stanford, but in five sets, and took down Oregon and Utah. The Bruins could really use a win over a top-10 team, though. In their win over Oregon, Mac May led with 24 kills and freshman Charitie Luper, the three-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week winner, posted 16 kills and four-in-a-row at the end of the match. She was an integral part of their win. This is a great team that is capable of a lot, and it will be fun to see the matchup again.
Plus, the NCAA DI women's volleyball committee will reveal is top 10 at halftime. This top 10 will give us a sneak peak as to how they are viewing the teams ahead of Selection Sunday and about halfway through the season. So, you want want to miss that.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs No. 6 Nebraska | Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on BTN — Wisconsin won in sweep
Alright, here is that late Wednesday night matchup that I couldn't be more excited for. Nebraska vs. Wisconsin. This is going to be a good one. I will be live-blogging this entire match with in-game analysis and updates, FYI. First of all, the Huskers are now 10-0 in the Big Ten. They are the last undefeated Big Ten team and just took down Purdue last weekend, knocking the Boilermakers out of the AVCA top 10. They have been on an upswing ever since they solidified their lineup and got Lauren Stivrins back from injury — their leader and All-American middle blocker. The Huskers have been looking good all around: Madi Kubik has been performing at a high level, they are getting great production out of the middle, and Lexi Rodriguez has been killing it in the backcourt as of late. But they have not faced Wisconsin yet, the No. 3 team in the nation.
In past years, especially in 2019, Wisconsin was the Huskers' Achilles heel. They just couldn't get past them, falling to the Badgers three times that season. In fact, all three losses were sweeps. That was the year Wisconsin made it to the national title match before falling to Stanford.
The Badgers have been dominant since then, and they were the No. 2 team this year before they fell in a surprising and uncharacteristic loss to Maryland. You might be able to credit that loss to 19 service errors for the Badgers ... practically a whole set worth of points in errors. That has not happened again. They have dominated everyone else they've faced. We all know Dana Rettke leads this team — she is a powerful force at the net and a big-time leader — so we always love to see her and Lauren Stivrins face-to-face. Julia Orzol has also risen as a key factor for the Badgers. When she's on, they are usually looking really good. She has a wicked jump serve as well.
I think the Badgers will immediately look to attack the Huskers from the service line, get them out-of-system and off the net. But, you know John Cook will be expecting this and getting his Huskers ready for it this week in the gym. Nebraska is looking to prove themselves as the Big Ten volleyball leader, agains the No. 3 team in the nation. Let's see how it pans out.
No. 5 Kentucky vs No. 21 Tennessee | Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU — Kentucky won in sweep
I don't want to fail to mention this other Wednesday night matchup in the SEC. We've got Kentucky vs. Tennessee in a great mid-week matchup. The reigning champ, Kentucky, was just pushed to five sets TWICE by Arkansas last weekend. The Wildcats look to prove themselves big time over a ranked opponent this week.
But Tennessee is a sleeper pick this year, for sure. The Vols might only be No. 21 in the AVCA poll, but I predicted the committee would have them as a top 16 seed, largely due to their high RPI. Also, they took down Baylor this year for an upset and pushed Pittsburgh to five sets ... not so bad.
This could be a really big challenge for the Wildcats, led by Madi Skinner and Alli Stumler. And we don't have to wait long to see it.