NCAA volleyball: Stanford back to No. 1, league play begins Tuesday, POWs report

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NCAA volleyball 9/24/2019-Cortney VanLiew-FGCU
FGCU's Cortney VanLiew is the ASUN offensive player of the year/Brad Young photo

The voters still think Stanford is the top team.

The Cardinal (6-2), despite losing at home to BYU, moved back to No. 1 in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll after a week at No. 2, while unbeaten Baylor (9-0) moved up to No. 2, its highest ranking ever.

Nebraska (8-1), which lost at home to Stanford, dropped from the top spot it held for a week to No. 3, while Pittsburgh (11-1), which split with Penn State (7-2) moved up two notches to fourth and Penn State moved up a spot to No. 5.

Texas (6-2), which lost at Rice, dropped three spots to No. 6. 

Minnesota (9-1) stayed seventh, while Washington ( 9-1) jumped two spots to No. 8, BYU (9-2) moved up three spots to ninth and Marquette (10-2) moved up one spot to 10th.

Hawai’i (10-1), despite losing at Baylor, moved up two spots to No. 11.

There were two big jumps as Purdue went from 21st to No. 15 and Colorado State also jumped five spots to No. 17. 

New this week is the aforementioned Rice (11-1) at No. 22, ranked for the first time in program history. 

“This is something we’ve been working towards for a while now,” said Rice coach Genny Volpe, whose team was getting votes the past few weeks. “We have performed well and have taken advantage of the opportunity to play some quality non-conference matches. We are definitely looking to continue to build on this and use it as a stepping stone rather than an end point. 

“There is a lot of season still to play, but this definitely reflects the talent, hard work and dedication of this team.”

Wisconsin dropped four spots to No. 13, Oregon dropped 10 places to No. 24, and previous No. 25 Louisville dropped out.

Tuesday’s schedule: Even though conference play begins this week, non-conference matches abound, including a battle in Texas when Baylor plays host to Texas State of the Sun Belt. 

The SEC has its first league match when Alabama goes to Texas A&M.

Four Big West matches are on tap as Long Beach State goes to Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton plays at UC Riverside, UC Davis is home for UC Irvine and CSUN goes to UC Santa Barbara.

There are three ASUN matches as Kennesaw State goes to NJIT, Stetson is at Jacksonville and FGCU goes to Liberty.

The Big Sky season kicks off with Montana State at Montana. There’s an Ohio Valley match between UT Martin and Southeast Missouri State. In the Southland, Lamar goes to New Orleans. A Summit League match has Western Illinois at Fort Wayne.

Among the other non-conference matches Tuesday, Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley goes to Western Kentucky of Conference USA, and Valparaiso of the Missouri Valley goes to Milwaukee of the Horizon.

Power-5 POWs: Washington senior Kara Bajema, scheduled to do a VolleyballMag.com video interview later this week, is the offensive POW for the second straight week for averaging 5.43 kills per set while hitting .356 in the Huskies’ back-to-back wins over Wisconsin. She also averaged 2.71 digs and 1.14 blocks. Teammate Avie Niece is the defensive POW, while Stanford’s Kendall Kipp is the top freshman … 

Not surprisingly it was Baylor-Baylor-Baylor in the Big 12. The offensive honoree went to junior setter Hannah Lockin, the defensive award to senior libero Tara Wulf, and the rookie is freshman middle Kara McGhee …

The SEC offensive POW is Tennessee senior outside Tessa Grubbs, who averaged 5.0 kills and hit .415 in a 3-0 week. The defensive honor went to Florida senior libero Allie Gregory, the setter is Tennessee senior Sedona Hansen, and the freshman is Georgia outside Kacie Evans … 

The Big Ten POW is Purdue sophomore outside Grace Cleveland, who averaged 3.9 kills and hit .344 in two wins and 1.3 digs and 16 blocks. The defensive POW and co-freshman is Ohio State libero Kylie Murr, the other freshman is Michigan State’s Biamba Kabengele, and the setter is Purdue’s Hayley Bush … 

And in the ACC, Pittsburgh’s Chinaza Ndee and Lexis Akeo grabbed a couple of awards. Ndee is the POW for hitting .404 in the two matches with Penn State while averaging 3.5 kills and 1.62 blocks, while Akeo shared the top-freshman honor with Wake Forest’s Peyton Suess.

POWs of note: As if there would be any doubt about who would get the Missouri Valley award. It’s Rachel Tams, the Evansville senior outside who had 106 kills (6.63 per set) in a 4-0 week. She had 39 kills against Tennessee Tech and then 35 more against UT Martin … 

Along the same lines, the same could be said for the American Athletic Conference, where Jordan Thompson averaged 7.64 kills. The Cincinnati senior  had 41 kills against Louisville … 

The Sun Belt setter of the week is Troy’s Amara Anderson, who averaged 12.10 assists per set … Patriot League defensive POW Katie Forsythe, a Loyola Maryland sophomore libero, had 99 digs in four matches, 6.6 per set … 

Cortney VanLiew of FGCU won the ASUN POW honor for the fifth time as the junior outside hitter averaged 4.6 kills and hit .330 in a 3-0 week. She shared the award with Kennesaw State junior middle Quin Sutphin, who averaged 4.1 kills and hit .477 against Alabama, Maryland and South Carolina … 

Grand Canyon junior libero Teagan DeFalco is the WAC defensive POW for the second straight week … 

The Mid-American Conference has two divisions and six awards. Most impressive were MAC East offensive POW Tia Jimerson, a junior middle for Ohio, who averaged 4.18 kills and 1.36 blocks in three matches, and MAC West defensive POW Megan Kern, the Central Michigan senior libero who averaged 7.09 digs per set … 

Dayton’s Jamie Peterson averaged 4.58 kills and is the Atlantic 10 offensive POW … The Southland defensive POW is Central Arkansas junior libero Emily Doss, who had back-to-back 31-dig efforts for the Sugar Bears … 

It was two-for-two in the Mountain West, where Colorado State’s Breana Runnels is the offensive POW and Nevada’s Kayla Afoa is the defensive honoree for the second straight week … 

Olivia Lohmeier continues her strong season for Morehead State. The junior outside had 65 kills and hit .379 in a 3-0 week and is the Ohio Valley offensive POW … 

And BYU senior outside McKenna Miller is the West Coast Conference player of the week after averaging five kills per set and hitting .319 in wins over Utah and Stanford.

Columbia College player dies: Shelby Meyer, a junior libero at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, died Saturday when she apparently fell off a ladder attempting to climb to the roof of an apartment according to the Columbia Missourian newspaper.

Meyer, 21, was from Festus, Missouri, and transferred to Columbia from Mineral Area Community College. She had played in every set of the team’s 12 matches this season.

B1G ratings: Last Wednesday’s volleyball match between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Stanford was the most-watched volleyball match in Big Ten Network history, according to Nielsen, the Big Ten Network reported. The rematch of last season’s national championship averaged 226,765 viewers, which eclipsed a mark previously set by the Nebraska vs. Minnesota match in October of 2018.

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