Courtesy: American Athletic Conference
American Athletic Conference teams return to action with at least one match every day this week. The Week 2 slate proves to be a challenging one, as conference teams prepare to face seven nationally ranked foes, including five top-10 teams in the latest AVCA Coaches’ Poll (No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 USC and No. 9 BYU). The American enjoyed an historic opening-day record, going 14-3 on Friday, August 24, to earn its best start to a season in the conference’s six-year history. The league holds a 24-11 (.686) nonconference record, as it prepares for 44 matches this week.
Four teams in the conference possess 3-0 records, as Houston, USF, Tulane and Wichita State went undefeated through their first week of the 2018 season. UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, ECU and Tulsa join them with winning records following their first three matches.
- Wichita State is receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll for the second-straight week, following three wins on the road against 2017 NCAA tournament teams. The Shockers outlasted James Madison in a five-set thriller to open the season on Friday, defeated Howard 3-1 on Sunday and took down VCU 3-2 on Monday. Giorgia Civita leads the conference with 6.57 digs per set after turning in a pair of 30-plus dig matches. The Shockers will face three more teams that had postseason bids this weekend in Provo, Utah, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 9 BYU and West Virginia.
- Tulane has swept each opponent it has faced this season, winning nine-straight sets to start the year while hosting the I-10 Challenge. The Green Wave will put its perfect record on the line on Tuesday night when it hosts in-city rival New Orleans. Tulane leads the league in assists (15.78), kills (15.89), blocks (3.28) and opponent hitting percentage (.119). The Green Wave will then head to Georgia Tech from Thursday-Friday, taking on Wofford, South Alabama, Alabama State and Georgia Tech on the ACC Network Extra.
- Houston is 3-0 to begin the season for the first time since 2011. Outside hitter Megan Duncan was named MVP of the UNO Invitational last weekend and averages a .270 hitting percentage and 4.27 kills per set, ranking third in The American. The Cougars will host Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night for their home opener and travel to Lafayette, La., for the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic over the weekend.
- USF will look to carry its momentum from a 3-0 start to Baton Rouge, La., taking on Duke, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi and LSU this weekend. The Bulls are coming off a strong outing at their home tournament to get things started in 2018. Newcomers Jac’cara Walker and CC Clausen had standout debut weekends in Tampa, earning tournament MVP and All-Tournament honors, respectively. Walker recorded a double-double of 20 kills and 21 digs against 2017 America East champion Stony Brook on Saturday.
- After going 2-1 at the Sunshine State Classic, UCF is set to face Louisville, No. 7 USC and No. 4 Florida at the Bulby Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend. Freshman McKenna Melville was tabbed the first conference Offensive Player of the Week in 2018, with three matches in double-figure kills and a pair of double-doubles. She finished the weekend with a .358 clip at the net, 5.50 kills and 3.50 digs per set.
- Cincinnati outside hitter Jordan Thompson returned to the court, picking up where she left off in 2016, after redshirting last season. The three-time conference Preseason Player of the Year leads the conference with 73 kills and 5.62 kills per set. She had at least 20 kills in each of the Bearcats’ three matches and enjoyed two double-doubles. Cincinnati went 2-1 at the Miami Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational to begin the year and will travel to Fort Collins, Colo., to face host No. 25 Colorado State, TCU and Florida State.
- UConn had five-set wins over Wright State and Georgia Southern last weekend. The Huskies welcome Quinnipiac to Gampel Pavilion for their home opener on Tuesday night before hosting New Hampshire, Iona and Syracuse in the UConn challenge this weekend. Head coach Kris Grunwald will be searching for his 100th career win with UConn this week, as he’s two victories away from reaching the milestone.
- ECU went 2-1 in Hattiesburg, Miss., winning its first six sets of the season with sweeps over Spring Hill and Alcorn State. The Pirates are led by Bri Wood, who averages 3.25 kills and 2.62 digs per set. ECU will continue its road action this weekend when it takes on Hampton, USC Upstate and Tennessee Tech at the Golden Eagle Invitational.
- Tulsa’s sole loss of the season came to No. 23 Purdue, following a 3-0 win over Bowling Green and a 3-1 win over Wofford on opening day. Up next, the Golden Hurricane travel to Nashville, Tenn., for matches against East Tennessee State, Belmont and UMBC. Tulsa leads the conference with 16.80 digs per set.
- SMU will be looking to bounce back from a 0-2 start, hosting NC State, Arkansas State and No. 15 Creighton this weekend. After going 1-2 in its home tournament, Temple will travel to State College, Pa., to face three opponents, including a match against the host No. 6 Penn State. Memphis also had a 1-2 start, while hosting in opening weekend and will stay in state this weekend for the Skyhawk Invitational.