Nebraska rebounds to topple Penn State
You'll see emotions on display every single point in volleyball. But even in such an emotional sport, the ups and downs Nebraska experienced this past weekend were quite powerful.
Actually, we should say downs and ups, because they came in that order. The Huskers went from being chagrined and disappointed Friday night to exhilarated and redeemed late Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska had an alumni celebration weekend -- and when you have a few decades' worth of alumni who were very successful at your program, the pressure is on to perform for them. The current Huskers no doubt felt that Friday night when they hosted Ohio State. Plus, try as they might it was hard for the Huskers to completely avoid looking ahead to Sunday's showdown with No. 1 Penn State.
The Buckeyes pounced, getting a 3-1 upset of Nebraska. That put all the more pressure on the Huskers to come back with their own upset of the Nittany Lions.
They did that in a very entertaining match, winning 3-2 after a huge comeback to win the second set 32-30 after trailing 18-10. The Huskers were blown out in the first set 12-25, got the crucial rally in the second set, lost the third 19-25 and won the fourth 25-23. Then in front of a frenzied full house (as always) the Huskers prevailed 15-10 in the fifth.
This is the Huskers' last season in NU Coliseum, the old building that's been the home of Nebraska's volleyball program since it began in 1975. It's a very special place but realistically now is outdated and too small. Still, it's hard to say goodbye to the building. That was also part of the emotion of the weekend, which could have been a total downer had Nebraska lost back-to-back matches at home.
Instead, it won against Penn State, and paved the way for a new No. 1 team in the AVCA poll: Stanford. The Cardinal are the fourth team to hold the top spot in the coaches' rankings this year, along with UCLA, Nebraska and Penn State.
1. Stanford (20-2)The Cardinal swept Arizona and beat Arizona State 3-1 last week, moving to 12-0 in the Pac-12. This weekend is a biggie in terms of Stanford trying to maintain its perfect perch in the league: The Cardinal is at Oregon State on Friday and Oregon on Sunday, the latter now the second No. 1-versus-No. 2 matchup in Pac-12 play this year. Previously, UCLA and USC met as 1-2 on Sept. 19. It's only the second time the Pac-12 has had two 1-versus-2 meetings in the same season. The other was 1992, when the league was still the Pac-10, and both of those meetings were between UCLA and Stanford.
2. Oregon (20-1)The Ducks beat Colorado and Utah last week, and have won five of their last six matches in sweeps. Now comes a huge weekend at home. Oregon went the distance at Stanford on Oct. 5, but the Cardinal prevailed 15-10 in the fifth set. That is Oregon's lone loss this season, so there is sure to be a raucous crowd on hand in Eugene on Sunday to try to help the Ducks get revenge. But Oregon knows it can't look past Cal on Friday. Yes, the Bears are just 11-11 overall and 5-7 in the Pac-12, but they are still dangerous and hope to catch the Ducks thinking ahead.
3. Texas (18-3)Are the Longhorns really the third-best team in the nation? Maybe not but they got a jump up to No. 3 in our power rankings this week just because things are going so well in Austin (Texas is No. 7 in the AVCA poll). After victories last week against Baylor and Oklahoma, Texas moved to 10-0 in the Big 12. In a crushing sweep of the Sooners on Sunday (25-23, 25-10, 25-8), the Longhorns had just two hitting errors for the program's second-best hitting percentage ever in a match: .571. The school record of .590 came in 1982.
4. Penn State (21-2)The Nittany Lions were irritated to let the second set get away at Nebraska. Holding onto that would have put them up 2-0, and that may have been insurmountable. But in the grand scheme, Penn State still leads the Big Ten at 11-1. And the Nittany Lions play six of their last eight regular-season matches at home, including four in a row starting Friday with Minnesota, which is tied with Nebraska for second in the league at 10-2.
5. Nebraska (18-3)Any loss at home is excruciating for the Huskers, and last Friday's was particularly painful with the special guests -- 63 alumni and former coach Terry Pettit -- present. But the bounce-back against Penn State definitely saved the weekend for Nebraska, which got 52 assists and 18 digs from Lauren Cook. One of her "digs" was a ball that bounced off her head in the second set and changed the momentum for Nebraska, which also got 11 kills and a career-high 27 digs from fellow senior Hannah Werth. The Huskers travel to Michigan and Michigan State this weekend.
6. UCLA (17-4)Senior Tabi Love was a killing machine in victories over Washington State (24 kills) and Washington (25 kills) last week. Those performances earned Love the Pac-12's offensive player of the week award, and the wins kept the Bruins tied with city rival USC for third place in the Pac-12 at 9-3. UCLA is at Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Saturday.
7. USC (21-3)Junior libero Natalie Hagglund continues to be a rock for the Trojans; she was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after a career-high 34 digs in a 3-2 victory against Washington last week. She had 20 digs in a subsequent sweep over Washington State. USC visits Arizona State and Arizona on Friday and Sunday.
8. Hawaii (19-2)Emily Hartong keeps on powering the Rainbow Wahine. The California native returned to her home state and led Hawaii to victories at Long Beach State and UC Irvine this past weekend, the latter a five-setter. Hartong, a junior from Los Alamitos, Calif., totaled 62 kills and 31 digs in the two matches. The Rainbow Wahine are in control of the Big West at 12-0, with UCSB and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo visiting Honolulu on Thursday and Saturday.
9. Washington (17-4)The Huskies' trip to Los Angeles last week resulted in two losses, 3-2 to USC and 3-1 to UCLA. So after starting the season 16-0, the Huskies have lost four of their last five. But that's how it is playing in the Pac-12: Washington's losses are to the four league teams currently ranked in the AVCA's top six. Colorado and Utah visit Seattle on Friday and Sunday.
10. Florida State (21-2)Last week was big for the Seminoles, who beat SEC leader Florida for the first time since 1994. And it was a sweep, no less, ending a 21-match losing streak against the Gators. Then the Seminoles returned to ACC play and swept Virginia and Virginia Tech. FSU and Miami lead the ACC at 12-1; the Hurricanes won the teams' first matchup in September. They end the regular season facing each other in Tallahassee on Nov. 23.
• It's likely going to be more tricks than treats for Big 12 newcomer TCU, which hosts league head honcho Texas on Halloween in Fort Worth. The match will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. Texas leads the series 4-0, including a sweep of the Horned Frogs in Austin on Oct. 3.
• Kansas fell to Iowa State last week, but is still in second place in the Big 12. On Monday, the Jayhawks swept West Virginia, moving KU to 8-2 in the league. KU is 13-0 at home this season and is host to Texas on Nov. 10. Meanwhile, Kansas State and Iowa State are tied for third in the league at 7-3. The Wildcats face Texas at 8 p.m. ET Friday on The Longhorn Network.
• Louisville, Marquette and Notre Dame are all tied atop the Big East at 10-1, but only the Cardinals (21-3 overall) are ranked, coming in at No. 12 in the AVCA poll this week. The three teams are responsible for each other's conference losses: Notre Dame beat Louisville, which beat Marquette, which beat Notre Dame. Marquette, which hosts the league tournament, still has to play the other two again in the regular season: Nov. 9 at Louisville and Nov. 11 at home versus Notre Dame.