Two weeks, everyone. Two more weeks of the regular season in college volleyball. Selections are right around the corner, as we will find out the tournament field on Nov. 27. Clearly, a lot of the next two weeks' matchups are going to have serious implications on seeding and making the tournament in general.
For that reason, it was impossible to pick, but here are my three biggest matchups to watch this week:
No. 7 Pitt vs No. 4 Louisville | Friday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. ET on ACCN
Alright. Here is, hands down, the BIGGEST matchup of the week. Pitt and Louisville will rematch for not only ACC standings implications, but perhaps a more than favorable top-four seed in the NCAA tournament come selections. These two teams already faced off once this season and we saw a five-set thriller that Pitt came out on top of. The win was the Panthers' highest-ranked victory in program history. Courtney Buzzerio led Pitt with 22 kills and five blocks. The Panthers hit .225 as a team while holding the Cardinals to a .131 clip. If you remember the match, though, Louisville came out flat and Pitt came out on absolute fire. They absolutely dominated the first two sets 25-15, 25-13. It was quite the comeback and turnaround for the Cardinals to even force a fifth.
Sound familiar, Cards fans? It just happened last week too. Louisville started out the match slow against Georgia Tech before switching gears and winning the thing in five. Claire Chaussee turned on the jets and ended up with 27 kills on stellar hitting efficiency after a slow start. In the post-game speeches, Dani Busboom-Kelly mentioned that this cant keep happening, they NEED to come out strong. This team can't keep climbing an uphill battle every single match. They will need to start out against Pitt the way they typically end. This is a HUGE ACC rivalry, a big rematch after Louisville's heartbreaking loss, and a match with huge tournament implications. You cannot miss this one.
No. 18 Kentucky vs No. 10 Florida | Saturday, Nov. 19 at 4 p.m. on SECN+
No. 18 Kentucky vs No. 10 Florida | Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. ET on SECN
Next, we have a similar situation over in the SEC. Kentucky and Florida are the top two teams and they are facing off twice this week for the first time this season. This is always a huge conference rivalry, and this year there the results will be really important for seeding. The Gators have a big win over Wisconsin this season, and they pushed Stanford to five sets as well — hence the higher ranking in the AVCA poll. The Wildcats, who won the national title just two years ago, have a win over Southern Cal and Creighton, and pushed Louisville to five sets.
Kentucky leads the SEC in hitting percentage, assists and kills. That is largely in part due to their more than impressive setter, Emma Grome. She averages over 12 assists per set, and her main targets are Reagan Rutherford and Adanna Rollins. Florida on the other hand leads the SEC in blocks. That is because of their two big middles in Bre Kelley and Gabbi Essex. The Gators also have a fantastic setter (who is a freshman) Alexis Stucky. Merrit Beason and Marina Markova are the two main pieces offensively. This should be a really great matchup with a lot of added factors going into it.
No. 11 Creighton vs No. 16 Marquette | Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. ET on FloSports
Lastly, there were plenty of choices for my third matchup. Texas is taking on Baylor again, and both Wisconsin and Minnesota have a matchup against Penn State. But I had to go with the matchup with the most tournament implications. Creighton and Marquette will face off, and both teams have the potential to host a regional in the NCAA tournament. The outcome of this matchup will decide who gets the higher seed in the tournament. It is ALSO possible that they play again after this in the Big East Conference championship — so there is that too.
Unlike Florida and Kentucky, these rivals have already played once this season. Creighton came out on top of a five-set thriller. On top of that, it was a reverse sweep. Sophomore Norah Sis had a match-high 21 kills and freshman Ava Martin added season-highs with 18 kills and 12 digs for the Bluejays. Marquette was led by outside hitters Jenna Reitsma and Aubrey Hamilton, who each posted 13 kills, while setter Yadhira Anchante had 47 assists and 16 digs for her team-leading ninth double-double of the year. A rematch will not only be fun, but really important. These end of the season matches are big time. You won't want to miss any!
Here are a few more matchups to keep your eye on:
- No. 9 Minnesota vs No. 14 Penn State (BTN)
- No. 15 Baylor vs No. 1 Texas (LHN)
- No. 3 Wisconsin vs No. 14 Penn State (BTN)
- No. 19 Purdue vs No. 6 Nebraska (BTN)