Catching up: Washington, Minnesota, Louisville, polls and RPI

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I feel time warped. A long weekend in Puerto Rico to play water polo was hampered by two things, not the least of which was running a fever from before I left through most the time I was there. Water polo is a hard game for an old guy to play when healthy … And the other was the pitiful internet connection at my hotel. It was so bad that I couldn’t post video to this site, watch streaming video of matches or post new content, all of which were in my plans. So, back at the home office, here are a few thoughts about what will be a busy week, starting off with a video chat later today with Washington’s Liana Sybeldon. The Huskies are en fuego and the senior middle from Folsom, Calif., is no small reason why. When Washington beat Stanford on Thursday, Sybeldon had 17 kills, hit .517 and for the season is hitting .486, which is just sick. And the Huskies are 24-2 overall, 14-2 in the Pac-12, and are riding a seven-match win streak, started after they lost at Stanford in five on October 21 and capped off by the four-set victory the other day. The only other loss they have is at USC, another one they avenged. Accordingly, USC is still atop the league at 15-1 and may hold on, but there is no hotter team in the nation right now than Washington. Although … There are a couple of other teams who have risen above in their respective conferences. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the nation is Minnesota, which swept Penn State last week to take what appears to be a commanding two-game lead in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota is 23-3, 15-1 — 15-1 in the Big Ten! — and has a two-game lead over Penn State (24-3, 13-3) and Nebraska (22-4, 13-3). Wisconsin is a game back at 20-6, 11-5. Minnesota had a crowd of 5,335 for the Penn State match as it beat the two-time defending NCAA champions for the first time since 2010. There are no gimmes in the Big Ten, but clearly a schedule that finishes the regular season with Maryland, Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana favors the Gophers. A roster that features Santana Daly, Hannah Tapp, Paige Tapp, Sarah Wilhite and super freshman setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson may have become the team to beat. And then there’s the ACC, where Louisville (21-5, 15-1) has emerged as the leader after winning at Florida State on Sunday. North Carolina — remember the Tar Heels? — has suddenly taken second place, an overall record of 17-8 offset by a 14-2 ACC mark. And Florida State (20-7, 13-3) has dropped to third. It’s worth noting that Louisville beat FSU despite hitting .148 with 38 attack errors. Which is why I love this quote from Anne Kordes, the Louisville coach: “I looked at the stats and saw nothing that would indicate that we won the match except the score. It was an exciting match pitting two polar opposite styles of volleyball. They are the type of team that imposes their physical wills on to their opponent with their blocking. We won that on grit and leadership. “I think Molly Sauer is flying under the radar as a great libero. Katie George flat out refused to lose that match and was creating offense out of nothing.  She changed the momentum and then didn’t let her team back down. It was an amazing opportunity  to get to play a phenomenal FSU team in a hostile environment. I expect them to go deep in the NCAA tournament.” What’s great in that in the three months that this site has existed we’ve had good coverage of those teams, Washington, Minnesota and Louisville. If you missed it, we interviewed first-year Washington coach Keegan Cook back on October 5. We also had a story about Minnesota’s Dalianliz Rosado and her sister, who plays for San Jose State. And just we also had a feature on Louisville setter Katie George, a beauty queen, TV personality and a heck of a setter. And speaking of stories we did, DVB featured Juniata a while back and now that the Division III tournament is underway, we can report that this weekend the Eagles lost in the regional final to Whittenburg to finish 33-2. Here’s the NCAA DIII bracket. The new AVCA Division I poll is out and USC is back on top, followed by Washington, Minnesota, Penn State, Texas, Nebraska, Stanford and Hawai’i. Kansas is No. 9, a notch ahead of Wisconsin. But while the poll is nice, the RPI is more relevant, and this week’s shows Minnesota at the top, followed by Texas, USC, Florida (ranked 14th in the AVCA), Kansas, Washington, Wisconsin, Penn State, Nebraska and Ohio State (16th in the AVCA). It’s not an exact science. Click here for the full rankings,  which, most importantly, show that my Southern Illinois Salukis are up to No. 42! SIU has never made the NCAA Tournament, so maybe this is the year not only that happens but coach Justin Ingraham finally gets me a Salukis volleyball T-shirt or warm-up.

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