Last week saw the top two teams in the nation go down, with Texas getting its first loss of the year after an undefeated start to the season. A new team took over the top spot with the Nebraska Huskers back at No. 1 for the first time since the preseason. Now the new top dog will be challenged in its very first week atop.
Week 10 features four ranked matchups, and three of them are Big Ten matchups. So, we have a Big Ten special this week.
OK — Nebraska takes over the No. 1 slot then immediately faces a challenger in a top-five matchup. And on top of that... this is a REMATCH of the 2021 DI women's volleyball national championship. Remember the one where Wisconsin won its first-ever title in program history in a five-set thriller? Yes, that one. I couldn't be MORE excited for this matchup.
The Huskers have a lot of familiar faces from last year's team, but Wisconsin looks fairly different. The Badgers do, however, still have the MOP of the national championship match — Anna Smrek, along with a few other players like Devyn Robinson, Jade Demps, etc. The new faces include Caroline Crawford, Sarah Franklin and could also include Danielle Hart, who was on the team last season but was injured.
Nebraska has been rolling through its opponents so far this season. The Huskers are unbeaten in the Big Ten so far and have only one loss on the season to a top-10 team in Stanford. They have swept their last six opponents, and three of them were ranked. They have looked really balanced offensively and just overall have cleaned up their game as the season has progressed. Wisconsin has won eight since its loss to Minnesota earlier in Big Ten play. The Badgers are the second-best blocking team in the nation, but Nebraska leads in opponent hitting percentage. I think the match is going to come down to offense and execution.
BACK ON TOP: Nebraska volleyball returns to No. 1 in new Power 10
Now for a rematch between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Badgers are ranked higher than the Gophers this season now that Minnesota has notched six losses — but Minnesota has the head to head win over Wisconsin (in a sweep, too). But really important to note here, is the Badgers were right there with them most of the time despite registering a crazy amount of errors — 20 on the match. Obviously, this is something that can be fixed, and the Badgers have gotten a lot cleaner as the season has gone on.
The Badgers have won eight straight since the loss to Minnesota, and will likely be looking for redemption here. Plus, they will be coming off of either a HUGE win over Nebraska — or a loss. Minnesota has been on the come-up with three straight wins since its loss to Ohio State. The Gophers just pulled off a big four-set win over Purdue after getting swept by the Boilermakers earlier in the season. They certainly have been inconsistent this season, but they have showed a lot of promising signs from time to time. Get ready for the second Border Battle this season!
Now for our third Big Ten matchup of the week, we have a rematch again between Ohio State and Penn State. Ohio State is similar to Minnesota in that they do have quite a few losses on the season for a top-10 team — five to be exact. But this team played the most difficult non-conference schedule of anyone and has been extremely impressive lately. They also have five ranked wins, and every single loss was to a ranked, good team. Lately, they have won eight straight since a five-set loss to Nebraska, the new No. 1 team. So this is a really impressive team.
Penn State, on the other hand, surprised most this season with a really great start — 12-0 with two wins over Stanford and Oregon. Stanford, to give that perspective, is a top-10 team and the only team to beat Nebraska this year. After that, Big Ten play began and the losses started to rack up. They were swept by Michigan and Wisconsin, lost to Ohio State then were swept by Nebraska. Three of the losses were via sweep, except for the five-set loss to OSU.
Ohio State looked like they would pull off a sweep over PSU before Kashauna Williams and the Lions sparked a HUGE comeback effort. I am excited to see them face off again. One stipulation, Penn State and Taylor Trammell announced that she will be out for the rest of the season due to injury. That will be a big loss for Penn State.