BYU, coming off a weekend in which the 8-0 Cougars beat USC, Syracuse and Marquette, is the new No. 1 in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll.
BYU moved up two spots after No. 1 Minnesota lost twice and No. 2 Wisconsin also got knocked off.
Stanford is No. 2, followed by Texas — Stanford and Texas play twice this week — Nebraska and Penn State. BYU got 54 first-place votes, while Stanford got the other 10. BYU beat Stanford in five on August 31 in Provo.
“I think it’s exciting for our team,” said fourth-year BYU coach Heather Olmstead. “I think our team has earned the right to be respected by the coaches with the work they’ve put in and to have beaten everyone we’ve played so far.
“It’s pretty cool. I’m happy for the team and the work they’ve put it but we’re still the same team and we’re going to continue to build off our previous success.”
The rest of the top 10 shows Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Creighton. Alabama, 9-0, is new at No. 25, while Colorado dropped out. This is Alabama’s first appearance ever in the poll.
For the first time in program history, Alabama is ranked in the @AVCAVolleyball top 25, coming in at No. 25 in this week's poll
— Alabama Volleyball (@AlabamaVBall) September 10, 2018
There was a lot of movement. Among the biggest moves up was Pittsburgh going from No. 13 to ninth, Creighton from 14 to 10, and Oregon from No. 18 to 12th. Marquette also jumped four spots to No. 21.
The AVCA reported that BYU has been ranked No. 1 four times in program history, all of them in 1986, which included that season’s final poll.
The last mid-major (not from the power-five conferences of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) to be ranked No. 1 was Hawai’i on November 22, 2004.
BYU has compiled quite a resume this season. The Cougars won back-to-back matches at Duke, then beat West Virginia at home before beating then No. 1 Stanford in five sets. They also swept Wichita State.
Last season, BYU was 30-3, 17-1 in the West Coast Conference. The Cougars beat American and Oregon in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Kentucky in the regional semifinals.
“We’re always building off our previous successes and we have seasoned veterans who understand what it’s like to be in the discussion of being a top program in the country,” Olmstead said. “So we’ve got kids who have been there done that.
“That’s not new, but obviously the No. 1 ranking will be new and I’ll be interested to see how our team handles it.”
BYU was eighth in the preseason poll, No. 9 in the season-opening poll, and moved up to third last week, getting seven first-place votes.
BYU boasts two of the better players at their positions in the country in senior outside Roni Jones-Perry and junior libero Mary Lake. Junior McKenna Miller is a strong second outside and the middles combo of 6-foot-4 freshman Heather Gneiting and 6-5 sophomore Kennedy Eschenberg is as imposing as anyone’s and senior setter Lyndie Haddock-Eppich runs the show.
The Cougars play host to in-state rival Utah on Thursday before playing at another in-state team, Weber State, on Saturday. West Coast Conference play begins September 20 when Pacific comes to Provo.
Obviously, there’s a lot of volleyball to be played.
“It’s September 10th,” said Olmstead, who was with the BYU program as an assistant before taking over as head coach in 2015. “But it’s very cool and I’m excited for the girls.”