The first week of conference action is in the books. While some teams continued to prove their highly-earned ranking, other teams stumbled for the first time as a new season begins so to speak with everyone starting over at 0-0 in conference play.
With that new season, teams emerged as potential conference title contenders or at the very least put a wrench in the plans of higher-ranked teams. No one was more apparent of that than Michigan State, who took out two top-five teams on the road to not just affect the top of the rankings but also their standing in the poll.
1. FLORIDA GATORS
- 9-0 (1-0, SEC)
- Last Week: #1; Def. #22 Florida State (3-0), at Arkansas (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Tennessee, vs. LSU
- The week started with a match Florida likely had circled on their calendar against Florida State – their rival who upset them in the 2016 NCAA Tournament second round. After dominating that match, they headed to SEC play against an Arkansas team that could very well finish third in the conference and escaped in five sets on the road.
2. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
- 11-1 (1-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #2; Lost vs. #14 Nebraska (0-3); Def. Iowa (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. RV Illinois, vs. Northwestern
- Penn State had high expectations to start its weekly slate in a match against last year’s conference champion Nebraska. Beyond that, they had a chance to redeem their Sweet 16 loss from 2016 but were instead swept on their home floor for the first time in 15 years. Overall, Penn State’s resume is still elite and it’d be difficult to avoid not stubbing your toe in the Big Ten. They also did come back with a win over a potential NCAA Tournament team in Iowa and stay above Stanford for now since they beat them twice on neutral courts.
3. STANFORD CARDINAL
- 9-2 (2-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #5; Def. California (3-0), at #20 Colorado (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Arizona State, vs. Arizona
- The week and Pac-12 play began for Stanford with a clean sweep of rival Cal, but the real test came on Sunday in Boulder against Colorado. The Cardinal trailed 2-1 in the match and had to win the fourth in extras before coming away in five, so they move up the polls as bit but stay behind a Penn State team that they lost to in four and five sets in two matches respectively.
4. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
- 12-1 (1-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #3; Def. #24 Michigan (3-1); Lost vs. RV Michigan State (0-3)
- Upcoming Week: at #10 Nebraska, at Iowa
- Minnesota was one of two top-five victims to a red-hot Michigan State squad over the weekend, as not only did they fall at home but were swept. Of course, teams are going to stumble in the Big Ten and at the very least Minnesota earned a ranked win over Michigan, so they only drop to four for now behind the merit of beating the team below them in Austin.
5. TEXAS LONGHORNS
- 9-2 (1-0, Big 12)
- Last Week: #6; Def. UTSA (3-0), at West Virginia (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #21 Baylor, vs. Kansas State
- Texas had a final non-conference tune-up match before taking on an upstart Mountaineers team on the road at week’s end. West Virginia proved to be tricky in Morgantown and took Texas to the wire before the Longhorns came through with the victory. They have a big one coming up with Baylor this week now against a potential conference dark horse.
6. WASHINGTON HUSKIES
- 12-1 (2-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #7; Def. at RV Washington State (3-1), at Arizona State (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: at #17 UCLA, at #16 USC
- Washington was ready to go for Pac-12 play with a win over rival Washington State as they look for their third straight conference crown. Things didn’t come as easily against Arizona State, as they needed to overcome a 2-0 set deficit but did to keep themselves in the latest top 10.
7. WISCONSIN BADGERS
- 10-1 (1-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #4; Lost vs. RV Michigan State (2-3); Def. #24 Michigan (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Iowa, at #10 Nebraska
- Wisconsin was the second top-five team sniped off by Michigan State, although it did happen in five sets. They rebounded nicely in sweeping a top-25 Michigan team as besides the second set that went to extra points (30-28), the Badgers outscored the Wolverines 50-24.
8. BYU COUGARS
- 13-1 (2-0, WCC)
- Last Week: #10; Def. at Santa Clara (3-0), at San Francisco (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Pepperdine, at #25 San Diego
- The Cougars continue their high ascent into the rankings as they begin West Coast Conference play with a sweep of a Santa Clara squad that actually upset Kansas a week ago. They’ve got a monumental WCC matchup this weekend with their biggest challenge to the conference crown in San Diego on the road.
9. KANSAS JAYHAWKS
- 12-2 (1-0, Big 12)
- Last Week: #9; Def. at Kansas State (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #20 Iowa State, vs. TCU
- The Jayhawks got an off week to prepare for Kansas State and struggled a bit on the road in Manhattan. It was one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12 though, and it was good for Kansas to be tested as the Big 12 should provide deeper competition for the Jayhawks than the past few years – proof in a Kansas State team who upset Northern Iowa a week prior.
10. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
- 9-3 (2-0, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #14; Def. at #2 Penn State (3-0), at Rutgers (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #4 Minnesota, vs. #7 Wisconsin
- After dropping a match to Northern Iowa at the end of the non-conference slate, Nebraska looks ready to roll as the defending Big Ten champions. They not only continued their recent success against Penn State but swept the Nittany Lions on their home floor for the first time in 15 years. Briana Holman was key as the injured middle blocker played through the pain and hit .750.
11. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
- 11-2 (2-0, SEC)
- Last Week: #11; Def. at Missouri (3-1), LSU (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Mississippi State
- The Wildcats look to be the team most adept at challenging Florida in the SEC and showed that by taking down last year’s co-conference champ in Missouri on the road. Then, they swept a 10-win LSU squad in Lexington for a perfect weekend of play.
12. OREGON DUCKS
- 8-2 (0-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #8; Def. Oregon State (3-0); Lost at #15 UCLA (1-3)
- Upcoming Week: at #14 Utah, at #22 Colorado
- The Ducks made their way to number eight in the rankings and looked good in their Pac-12 opener against rival Oregon State. They couldn’t earn the same result on the road against UCLA however as the Bruins hit .308 in the match. They would likely take a split this next week with tough tests at Utah and Colorado, a pair of top 25 opponents.
13. CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS
- 9-4 (2-0, Big East)
- Last Week: #13; Def. Georgetown (3-1), Villanova (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at Seton Hall, at St. John’s
- The good news for Creighton was that they won both of their matches this week as they continue to dominate the Big East. The even better news is that 2016 All-American setter Lydia Dimke played today for the first time in a few matches after she suffered an injury in a loss to Wichita State last week.
14. UTAH UTES
- 11-2 (2-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #16; Def. #20 Colorado (3-1), California (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #12 Oregon, vs. Oregon State
- The Utes big win came at the start of the week when they took down an upstart Colorado team in four sets in Salt Lake City. They stuck around at home for their second match, a sweep of Cal, as still Utah has lost just two matches – both in five sets against top-11 teams.
15. NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS
- 12-4 (2-0, MVC)
- Last Week: #17; Def. at Valparaiso (3-1), at Loyola (IL.) (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Bradley, vs. Illinois State
- Northern Iowa won’t have as many chances to pile up high-level wins as they did in the non-conference when they won four ranked matches, including over a team right below them in USC. Still, they took care of business this week in their Missouri Valley Conference openers.
16. USC TROJANS
- 10-3 (2-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #18; Def. at #15 UCLA (3-2), Oregon State (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. RV Washington State, vs. #6 Washington
- The Trojans had a perfect week as they not only started Pac-12 play 2-0, but did so with a road win against their inner-city rival and top-15 opponent UCLA. The week was finished off with a four-set win over a 10-win Oregon State club as USC now faces the tough task of the two Washington schools in the upcoming week.
17. UCLA BRUINS
- 8-3 (1-1, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #15; Lost vs. #18 USC (2-3); Def. #8 Oregon (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #6 Washington, vs. RV Washington State
- The Bruins fell at home in a rivalry match to USC, but rebounded quite nicely at home with a win against a top-10 opponent in Oregon. That keeps them from falling too far in the rankings, although they do slot below USC now. A big week looms with the two Washington schools coming to town.
18. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
- 9-2 (2-0, Big Ten)
- Last Week: RV; Def. at #4 Wisconsin (3-2), at #3 Minnesota (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs Maryland, vs RV Ohio State
- It’s safe to say the Spartans had a better week than anyone in the country with road wins against two top-five teams in Wisconsin and Minnesota. After stumbling along through non-conference play with losses to Georgia Tech and Notre Dame, Michigan State looks more like the team that earned a top-10 national seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament as they look to be a factor in the Big Ten title race.
19. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
- 11-2 (1-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #12; Def. Northwestern (3-0); Lost vs. Ohio State (1-3)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Indiana, at Indiana
- The Boilermakers suffered just their second loss of the season as they were upset at home to Ohio State. It was a reminder of how difficult the Big Ten can be, as Purdue was strong in non-conference last year as well but went 8-12 in Big Ten play. They’ll look to rebound this week with a pair of matches against Indiana.
20. IOWA STATE CYCLONES
- 10-1 (1-0, Big 12)
- Last Week: #19; Def. Oklahoma (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at #9 Kansas, at Texas Tech
- Iowa State stays firmly at number 19 after only one match against a struggling Oklahoma team. They won the match, but now will be tested a lot more with their first road tests coming at Kansas and in Lubbock against an upstart Texas Tech squad.
21. BAYLOR BEARS
- 12-3 (2-0, Big 12)
- Last Week: #24; Def. at Texas Tech (3-1), at TCU (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at #5 Texas, vs. Oklahoma
- Baylor has now won seven straight dating back to a win over BYU as they continued that trend into Big 12 play. They have a huge opportunity to prove themselves as a matchup in Austin with Texas looms this week for the Bears.
22. COLORADO BUFFALOES
- 10-3 (0-2, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #20; Lost at #16 Utah (1-3), at #5 Stanford (2-3)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Oregon State, vs. #12 Oregon
- Colorado did lose twice in the week, but avoided a long fall in the rankings for a few reasons. For one, they lost on the road to to teams ranked 16th and fifth. Beyond that, they competed in both and even led 2-1 on Stanford before falling in five. They also took down the team right below them on the road a week prior, but will need to prove more in terms of winning results this week.
23. COLORADO STATE RAMS
- 12-2 (0-0, MWC)
- Last Week: #21; Def. New Mexico (3-0), UNLV (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Wyoming, at Air Force
- Colorado State took care of business this week with sweeps of New Mexico and UNLV as they look to be the class of the Mountain West Conference. That should become more clear as they go on the road this week for meetings with Wyoming and Air Force.
24. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
- 8-2 (2-0, ACC)
- Last Week: #22; Lost at #1 Florida (0-3); Def. Virginia (3-1), Virginia Tech (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at Louisville, at RV Notre Dame
- The Seminoles were swept by the top team in the land to open up the week but bounced back nicely with two Virginia schools. With North Carolina dropping from their high expectations, Florida State appears to be the class of the ACC which they showed going 2-0 in conference play for the weekend.
25. SAN DIEGO TOREROS
- 9-3 (2-0, WCC)
- Last Week: #25; Def. at San Francisco (3-1), at Santa Clara (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs Loyola Marymount, vs #8 BYU
- San Diego took care of their first two conference matches, including a road meeting with Santa Clara where they swept the home Broncos – who took down a top-10 Kansas team a week earlier. Now they await a big match with BYU at home as the Toreros will look to establish themselves as a true threat for the WCC title.
On the Cusp/’Receiving Votes’:
Washington State (12-2)
Cal Poly (13-2)
Wichita State (10-3)
Western Kentucky (15-2)
Ohio State (9-4)
*Michigan (10-4) (24)
Notre Dame (10-3)
Others who Dropped Out:
Leave a Reply