The NCAA women’s volleyball season starts in two weeks and teams are a few days into practice with an eye on what should be a blockbuster opening weekend. 

ESPN has announced its volleyball schedule for its family of network, including matches on ESPN2, ESPNU, the ACC Network, the SEC Network and Longhorn Network. 

Four of the Power 5 have announced their preseason all-conference teams and coaches’ picks for order of finish, and we have some links to some of the fun teams have been having in the first week of practice.

ESPN volleyball coverage

Most of the matches, of course, will be seen this season on ESPN+. But on the networks, things get going August 26 with Troy at Georgia on the SEC Network. The next day, the SEC Network has San Diego at Texas A&M, and on Sunday Ohio at Kentucky. There are two showcase matches later that week with Stanford at Florida on the SEC on Tuesday and Minnesota at Texas on Wednesday on the Longhorn Network. 

Other matches of note on ESPNU throughout the season: Louisville at Kentucky on September 14, Nebraska at Kentucky on September 18, Washington at UCLA on September 25, Stanford at Utah on October 9, Oregon at UCLA on October 16, and San Diego at BYU on November 22.

There are only four Big Ten matches on ESPNU: Rutgers at Illinois on October 12, Minnesota at Iowa on October 19, and Michigan at Ohio State on October 26. 

Wisconsin plays at Michigan on October 23 on ESPN2.

ESPN’s coverage includes play-by-play by Jay Alter, Kevin Barnett, Krista Blunk, Drew Carter, Tyler Denning, Eric Frede, Sam Gore, Alex Loeb, Courtney Lyle, Bill Spaulding and Paul Sunderland. 

The list of analysts includes VBM contributor Emily Ehman, Nicole Branagh, Kelly Burke, Shelby Coppedge, Amy Gant, Katie George, Jennifer Hoffman, Holly McPeak, Courtney Thompson, Missy Whittemore and Christine Williamson.

Here’s a link to the ESPN news release with the complete broadcast schedule.

About that opening weekend

The showcase matches have perennial Big 12 power Texas at the Big Ten’s Ohio State on back-to-back nights. Don’t be surprised to see a rematch very late in the NCAA Tournament.

The B1G’s Minnesota goes to the Big 12’s Baylor and TCU and the B1G’s Purdue plays at Tennessee against MAC-champion Bowling Green. The Boilermakers also play Tennessee, which should contend for the SEC title.

The ACC’s Pitt goes to Texas A&M, where it plays the WCC’s San Diego and the Big West’s Hawai’i, the ACC’s Georgia Tech plays at Ole Miss of the SEC, which made the NCAA Tournament last year, and also plays Illinois of the Big Ten. There’s an intriguing matchup when ACC-champion Louisville plays at Summit League power South Dakota.

Big 12 matches of note include Iowa State against the Big East’s Creighton, Kansas vs. Utah Valley and Utah, and Baylor vs. the Big Ten’s Wisconsin.

Ella May Powell, cradling the 2021 PAC-12 championship trophy, is getting to play at home in Arkansas this season/Stephen Burns photo

In the Pac-12, among the matches is Washington playing back-to-back at Arkansas of the SEC, a chance for senior setter Ella May Powell to play in her hometown. 

And in the SEC, the first weekend includes Marquette vs. Kentucky, Bowling Green vs. Tennessee and Mississippi State vs. the ACC’s Notre Dame. 

The conference coaches polls 

Nothing from the ACC — we’ve tried — but the results are in for the Big 12, B1G, Pac-12 and SEC. 

BIG 12 — Texas got eight of the nine first-place votes in the Big 12. Baylor, which lost 11 seniors and both assistant coaches, got a vote and was picked to finish second. Iowa State was third and Kansas fourth. 

Texas senior outside Logan Eggleston, last year’s national player of the year, was a unanimous choice as the league’s preseason player of the. Top freshman was Baylor setter Averi Carlson. 

BIG TEN — Defending national-champion Wisconsin, which lost two of the country’s best players in middle Dana Rettke and setter Sydney Hilley, was still picked to be No. 1, followed by Nebraska — the team it beat in the NCAA championship match — Minnesota and Ohio State.

The B1G didn’t have a player or freshman of the year on its 15-player team, but incredibly  Nebraska senior outside Madi Kubik was the only unanimous choice. 

PAC-12 — Four teams got first-place votes, eight for Washington, which was picked No. 1. Stanford (two votes) was second, followed by UCLA and Oregon, which got a vote each. 

Washington had three players on the all-preseason team, middle Marin Grote, outside Claire Hoffman, setter Ella May Powell. Stanford had three players, outside Caitie Baird, right side Kendall Kipp and setter Kami Minor. Washington State, UCLA and Oregon had two players each.

SEC — Kentucky got 10 of the 13 first-place votes and was picked No. 1, followed by Florida (two votes) and Tennessee (one). 

Not surprisingly, Kentucky had the most players on the all-preseason team, four: Libero Eleanor Beavin, setter Emma Grome, right side Reagan Rutherford and middle Azhani Tealer. Tennessee had three players: Right side Morgahn Fingall, setter Natalie Hayward and middle Danielle Mahaffey.

Creighton’s Iron Chefs

The Bluejays should be pretty good on the court this year, but off it, well, they have enthusiasm:

Buckeyes, Brutus go door to door

The Ohio State volleyball team visited homes in Columbus and some of those fans were quite surprised:

Cincinnati and Winston Hills kids at the zoo

The kids really had some fun:

From the volleyball media world

Our pal Emily Ehman, who is a staple on the Big Ten Network and will be working ESPN matches this season, has been ranking the top 20 Big Ten players. Most recently she had Minnesota’s Taylor Landfair at No. 14. Who was No. 20-15 and who is coming up? Follow @emilyehman on Twitter.

A few others to follow on Twitter include @DennisPunzel, who covers Wisconsin; and the guys who cover Nebraska, Lincoln Arneal, @lincolnOWH; and Brent Wagner, @LJSSportsWagner.’s Michaela Chester has been hard at work and offered a couple of takes, including her preseason top 10 and four teams that could become first-time NCAA champions like the last two, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Here is her piece on the rankings and here are her thoughts on those four teams.

And Daniel Gillman of @SixRotations gathered four coaches at Big Ten media days last week, Wisconsin’s Kelly Sheffield, Purdue’s Dave Shondell, Ohio State’s Jen Flynn Oldenburg, and Michigan State’s Leah Johnson. 

They covered a handful of topics and had some laughs along the way:

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