After a busy few days that wrapped up the third weekend of conference play, this seems the right time to break down what’s happening around the country in NCAA Division I volleyball.
We’ll start with the Power 5 conferences — ACC , Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — and cover all the rest Wednesday.
It would be an understatement to say that the first two parts of the season — pre-conference and then the start of conference — have been unpredictable, minus Texas, Louisville and Nebraska. After that, everyone seems to be open for business and truly, cliche or not, anything can happen on any day.
Welcome to the continuing college volleyball world of experienced fifth- and sixth-year standouts, transfers galore, and freshmen who come in ready to take over.
AVCA POLL: Texas, Louisville, Nebraska and San Diego stayed 1-2-3-4, but Wisconsin is up two spots to No. 5.
Ohio State stayed at No. 6, Stanford is up a spot to No. 7, Pittsburgh is up a notch to No. 8, and Purdue fell four spots to No. 9. Minnesota is up a spot to No. 10, trading places with Georgia Tech.
The biggest drop was by Oregon, which went from No. 12 to 18th, after losing two five-set matches on the road.
Click here for the complete AVCA Division I Coaches Poll.
AVCA POW: Skylar Fields of USC is having a tremendous season and last week was magnificent. The transfer from Texas hit on all cylinders in USC’s two-victory trip to Arizona. Against Arizona,the 6-foot-2 product of Missouri City, Texas, had 22 kills, hit .333 an had 13 digs and two blocks, one solo. Two days later at Arizona State Fields had 27 more kills, hit .429, and had an ace, a solo block and 12 digs.
Fields overwhelmingly leads the Pac-12 in kills (308) and kills per set (4.89).
For Fields’ sake, hopefully she’ll fare better than last week’s honoree, Delaware’s Lani Mason. Mason ran into the buzzsaw that is unbeaten Towson, which swept the Blue Hens in back-to-back matches last weekend. In the first match, Mason had 10 kills and 12 errors in 38 attacks and hit minus .053, and then in the second match had 13 kills and hit .235. For the season, Mason is averaging 5.47 kills/set and hitting .262 and is sixth in the NCAA with 316 kills.
Louisville may have lost middle Anna Stevenson, who’s with the USA national team in the FIVB World Championships, but the second-ranked Cardinals haven’t lost a beat after advancing to last year’s national semifinals. They’re tied with Pittsburgh atop the standings at 6-0, both two games ahead of five teams — Georgia Tech, Florida State, much-improved Wake Forest, NC State and Syracuse.
The first Louisville-Pitt match is October 23 in the Iron City, the rematch November 18 in Louisville. Pitt, 16-2, has lost only to San Diego and unbeaten Towson.
Louisville is hitting .316 as a team — second only to Texas (.322) in the NCAA — and 37 percentage points better than Pittsburgh.
Louisville, which has won 10 in a row, lost only to Ohio State. In pre-conference play the Cardinals Western Kentucky, San Diego, Purdue, Kentucky and Stanford. Both they and Pittsburgh beat Georgia Tech. The Cardinals have a ton of weapons, starting with Claire Chaussee, who has 201 kills (3.72/set), 68 more than her next closest teammate, Aiko Jones (133 kills, 2.46/set). The program got a big boost from USC transfer setter Raquel Lazaro, who is having her best season.
Amaya Tillman is also having a tremendous season for Louisville. She leads the conference in blocks per set (1.42, 71 total) and is seventh in hitting percentage (.345). And a big reason they might not miss Stevenson? Phekran Kong is second in blocks at 1.34.set.
The two biggest surprises of the ACC season have to be Pittsburgh’s Courtney Buzzerio and the Wake Forest team.
Buzzerio, a 6-foot-5 graduate-student transfer from Iowa, led Iowa in kills (436) and aces (30) last season. This year, she’s already got 227 kills, is eighth in the ACC in hitting percentage at .342 and has 11 aces. She’s also got 46 blocks. She had 42 last season for Pitt. Teammate Valeria Vazquez-Gomez has 187 kills after getting 95 last year in the Panthers’ national semifinals run.
Wake Forest is 12-5 overall and coming off a weekend in which the Deacons beat North Carolina and NC State, both in four sets. It’s the first time Wake has won both ACC matches in a weekend since 2018 and its first win over NC State wince 2014. In the spring of 2021, Wake Forest went 1-15, all in the ACC. Last season the Deacons were 15-14, 6-12. Paige Crawford leads with 165 kills and Peyton Suess has 162. Emma Farrell leads the ACC in digs per set (4.77).
NC State’s Riley Shaak and Boston College’s Julia Haggerty leads the league with 82 blocks apiece.
The conference kills leaders might surprise you — after Julia Bergmann, of course. Georgia Tech’s 6-5 Brazilian outside hitter leads the league with 267 kills (5.24/set). Syracuse’s Polina Shemanova is second at 4.76, more than a full kill per set behind.
Clemson’s Camryn Hannah is third with 256 kills, followed by North Carolina’s Mabrey Shaffmaster (239), Virginia’s Grace Turner (232) and Buzzerio.
Worth noting is that Boston College’s Kate Brennan leads the ACC in hitting percentage at .424, ahead of Pitt’s Serena Gray .402). Miami’s Savannah Vick leads in assists (10.27),
It’s early, of course, but in the latest NCAA RPI just four teams are in the top 30, No. 2 Louisville, No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 25 Georgia Tech and No. 30 Florida State. Clearly No. 48 Miami has its work cut out for it.
The next ACC match is Wednesday when Clemson goes to Georgia Tech. Friday, there’s a full seven-match slate, including Louisville home for Virginia Tech, Pitt home for Miami and Georgia Tech at Duke.
There’s Texas and the rest, seemingly both in the nation and the Big 12. But Baylor, with a rebuilt team and staff, might be as big a surprise as any team in the country. And TCU is off to a much better start than could have been imagined after the Horned Frogs were picked to finish seventh in the coaches preseason poll.
Texas with its loaded roster is 12-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12. Baylor is a game back in the loss column at 4-1 and TCU is 3-2. Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State are all 2-2, and Kansas, once ranked, is 2-3.
Not surprisingly, Texas leads in hitting percentage (.322), well ahead of Baylor (.281), and leads in fewest kills by an opponent per set (11.07). What is suprising is that for all of its height, Texas ranks ninth of nine in blocks (1.98). Iowa State leads with 2.61/set.
Texas outside Logan Eggleston leads in kills per set (4.57), but is eighth in total kills. The Big 12 leader is Kenna Sauer of Texas Tech (253), followed by the powerful pair from TCU, Audrey Nalls (229) and Julia Adams (216), and Iowa State’s Eleanor Holthaus (216).
Worth noting is Oklahoma’s Megan Wilson, who is fifth in kills (206) and first in aces (37, tied for seventh in the NCAA). Baylor’s Kara McGhee leads in hitting percentage (.447) and by far in blocks (100, 1.61/set).
Certainly the RPI is not the only indicator, but right now the Big 12 looks at best like a three-bid NCAA Tournament league unless Texas Tech can turn it on. Texas is No. 1, followed by Kansas (29), Baylor (31) and Texas Tech (44).
Next up for the conference are six matches Wednesday, including Texas at home for Kansas State and Baylor stepping out of league play to go to No. 22 Rice of Conference USA.
Not surprisingly, the B1G is dominating the NCAA RPI. Ohio State is No. 3, followed by Nebraska (6), Minnesota (7), Wisconsin (8), Purdue (19), Penn State (20), Michigan (23) and Northwestern (34). There’s a big drop to No. 62 Illinois, but in the Big Ten there is a chance for quality wins that can allow a team to move up in a hurry.
We knew going in that match-in and match-out the B1G would be up for grabs. Nebraska has held form at 6-0, but still has to play Wisconsin twice, Purdue twice, and Penn State and Minnesota.
Three teams — Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State — are tied for second at 5-1, Minnesota is 4-2, and Penn State, Michigan and Illinois are 3-3.
The star of the B1G season so far has been Purdue freshman Eva Hudson. She leads the conference in kills with 280 (4.83/set) and her next closest teammate, Raven Colvin, has 134 kills (2.31/set). Hudson has 15 aces, is averaging 2.02 digs, and has 31 blocks.
Northwestern’s Temi Thomas-Ailara is second in total kills with 263. More on the Wildcats in a second.
Minnesota’s Taylor Landfair has established herself as an offensive force with 240 kills and is second in kills per set at 4.62. She’s tied in total kills with Indiana’s Mady Saris.
Michigan’s Jess Robinson (.483) is by far the hitting percentage leader. Northwestern’s Leilani Dodson is next at .385. Maryland Rainelle Jones has 116 blocks (1.76/set), overwhelmingly more than the next up, Wisconsin’s Danielle Hart (69, 1.64/set). Hart is a great story, because she missed Wisconsin’s championship run after blowing out her knee last season.
Northwestern is also a great story. The Wildcats (13-5, 2-4) are no longer a gimme and got a signature win at Minnesota last month. If the RPI is any indication, Northwestern has a shot at getting an NCAA bid for the first time since 2010.
Worth noting is that Nebraska may not have individuals with great numbers but it certainly has balance. Madi Kubik (172 kills), Whitney Lauenstein (160) and Lindsay Krause (100) ensure that no opponent can zero in on one Husker. And defense? Opponents are hitting ridiculously low .117 against Nebraska, bouyed by Kubik and the standout defensive specialists Lexi Rodriguez and Kenzie Knuckles. Next best is Towson at .135 and then Wisconsin at .145.
There are two Big Ten matches Wednesday, highlighted by Ohio State at Minnesota. Rutgers plays at Illinois. Friday’s schedule includes Penn State at Nebraska.
What a logjam at the top. Washington, which survived a five-set home victory against Oregon on Sunday night, is tied with USC and Stanford at 5-1. Colorado, Oregon and Washington State are a game back at 4-2, and Utah is 3-3.
Colorado is a mild surprise, but not as much as UCLA struggling early. The Bruins started 0-4 and last weekend bounced back with wins at Arizona State and Arizona.
As noted above, Fields overwhelmingly leads the conference in kills (308) and kills per set (4.89). She ranks No. 8 nationally the highest of any Power 5 player. Washington’s Claire Hoffman, having yet another great season for the Huskies, is next in kills (243), while Utah’s Madelyn Robinson is second in kills per set (4.31).
Colorado’s Meegan Hart is hitting an incredible .442, fourth in the NCAA and just ahead of Washington’s Marin Grote (4.38).
Under different circumstances, we would likely be talking about Oregon outside Mimi Colyer as a favorite to be national freshman of the year. But while she’s been outstanding, no freshman can match what Eva Hudson is doing at Purdue. And it’s easy to get less noticed on a team that has Brooke Nuneviller. Nonetheless Colyer is averaging 3.71 kills and seemingly always comes through when the Ducks need her. Nuneviller? She’s leading Oregon with 4.16 kills/set (third in the Pac-12), is hitting a career-best by far .285, and is second in digs at 3.44/set, which ranks eighth in the conference.
Worth noting are the leading blockers, UCLA’s Francesca Alupei at 1.53/set, Stanford’s Sami Francis (1.52), Washington State’s Magda Jehlarova (1.39, and Oregon’s Kiari Robey and Colorado’s Alexia Keuhl, both at 1.37. And Stanford’s Kendall Kipp is having a season that should keep her in the POY discussion, leading her team with 216 kills (4.16/set) and 28 aces and is third in blocks with 51.
In the RPI, Stanford is at No. 4, followed by No. 15 Oregon, No. 16 Washington, No. 17 USC, No. 36 Colorado, No. 40 Utah and No. 42 Washington State. UCLA is at No. 50 needing to come on strong to get in the NCAA Tournament hunt.
The next matches are Friday when Stanford goes to Arizona, Oregon is at USC, Washington State goes to Colorado, Cal is at Arizona State and Oregon State is at UCLA.
The perennial leaders remain the same, Florida and Kentucky, but surprising Auburn is tied with them at 5-1 atop the conference. Auburn might have played a Power 5-less pre-conference schedule, but the Tigers have come through thus far. They only play Florida once, at home on October 26, and then go to Kentucky for two matches. Speaking of which, the Florida-Kentucky series is not until November 19-20 in Gainesville.
There are two teams a game back, Mississippi State and Tennessee, and then comes the surprise of the conference, LSU at 4-4. The Tigers got everyone’s attention with a five-set home win over then-No. 20 Arkansas and then went to Kentucky three days later the knocked off the then-No. 15 Wildcats. Then they dealt Auburn its first loss, a five-setter at home last Wednesday. Last weekend, LSU lost twice at Florida, including in five this past Sunday. Sanaa Dotson leads with 282 kills (3.92/set, fifth in the SEC), by far the best season for the outside who played two years at Oklahoma and is in her second year at LSU. She’s No. 16 on the NCAA list, second only to USC’s Fields among Power 5 players.
Madison Bowser of Texas A&M is by far the hitting percentage leader at .454, while Tennessee’s Morgahn Fingall and Kentucky’s Reagan Rutherford lead in kills per set at 4.11, just ahead of A&M’s Caroline Meuth (4.04). Alabama’s Abby Marjama had 41 aces, sixth in the NCAA. Kendal Kemp of Auburn leads the SEC with 99 blocks, 11 solo, at 1.48/set. Worth noting is South Carolina’s Ellie Ruprich, who had 87 blocks, 20 solo.
Merritt Beason is having a tremendous season for Florida. Beason, who averaged 2.24 kills last year as a freshman, leads the Gators with 187 kills (3.53/set), has 23 aces, and has 47 blocks.
In the RPI, Kentucky leads the SEC pack at No.12, followed by No. 18 Florida, No. 18 Mississippi State, No. 26 Arkansas, No. 32 Auburn and No. 35 LSU. Georgia (49), Texas A&M (51) and Tennessee (53) have an uphill battle.
The next SEC matches are Wednesday when Kentucky plays host to Ole Miss and Missouri goes to Alabama. Friday’s schedule includes Florida at Mississippi State.
Our look at the American Athletic, ASUN, America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Conference USA, Colonial Athletic, Horizon, Ivy League, MAAC, Mid-American, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, NEC, Ohio Valley, Patriot, SWAC, Southern, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, WAC and WCC.