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|Jose "Keno" Gandara took over the Miami volleyball team after Nicole Lantagne Welch left for UC Santa Barbara after restarting the program in 2001. Gandara has his team at 13-3 and 6-0 in the ACC.|
No NCAA women's volleyball championship team has ever come from the Sunshine State. But you have to figure that eventually it's going to happen.
Will it be Florida, the SEC giant that has been to the NCAA final four seven times? What about Florida State, which became the first ACC team to appear in the NCAA final four in 2011?
How about Miami? The Hurricanes are currently 13-3 and atop the ACC at 6-0. Miami has been to the NCAA tournament five times, including the last four years.
That was all under coach Nicole Lantagne Welch, who left Miami after last season to return to her home state of California and take over at UC Santa Barbara. While she went cross-country for the Gauchos, her replacement did the same thing -- in the other direction -- for the Hurricanes.
Jose Gandara left Washington -- where he was Jim McLaughlin's assistant for eight seasons -- to become Miami's head coach. Gandara -- known by his nickname, Keno -- also now is closer to his home; he is from Puerto Rico. (Interestingly enough, he played collegiately for UCSB and started his coaching career there.)
So far, things have worked well for both coaches. Lantagne Welch's Gauchos just pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the year, beating Hawaii last Friday (more on that below).
And Gandara has the Hurricanes unbeaten in the ACC. That will be tested Wednesday when Miami travels to Florida State (8 p.m. ET on ESPNU). The Hurricanes are followed in the ACC standings by four teams -- UNC, Duke, NC State and Florida State -- that are all 5-1 in the league.
Miami was 25-5 last season, 17-3 in the ACC. The Hurricanes' season was ended by College of Charleston in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It was tough for the program when Lantagne Welch -- who was 243-120 in 12 seasons -- left. In 2001, she had restarted women's volleyball at Miami after the program had been defunct, so she was Miami volleyball. But Gandara seems to have hit the ground running.
However, the Hurricanes are aware that the most difficult part of their ACC schedule is still ahead of them. They have two matches with the Seminoles, two with Duke and one each with North Carolina and NC State.
Now, here are this week's top 10 in the espnW Power Rankings:
Beep-beep! Look out, the Trojans are on a roll. They've won 10 matches in a row since being upset by San Diego on Sept. 13 and show no signs of letting up. They got sweeps on the road against Oregon State and Oregon last weekend, and this week they will try to do the same thing at Arizona State and Arizona. USC is the only team unbeaten in Pac-12 play.
The Longhorns took care of Texas Tech and Kansas last week. The latter was one of the relative few potential "danger" matches on Texas' Big 12 schedule, but the Horns won 3-1 at Lawrence, Kan. This week is sort of a revenge match: Texas is host Saturday to Iowa State, the only team that beat the Longhorns in Big 12 play last year. That 2012 loss to the Cyclones was at Iowa State to end the regular season but didn't deter Texas from winning the NCAA title.
Minnesota and Wisconsin went to State College, Pa., trying to slay the Nittany Lions, but they were Slay-ed instead. Senior Katie Slay had a career-high 16 kills and season-high 10 blocks in a 3-2 victory over the Golden Gophers. She had eight blocks and six kills as the Nittany Lions swept the Badgers. Slay was named Big Ten player of the week, while teammate Micha Hancock won the league's weekly setter honor. Illinois and Northwestern are next, on the road.
You've heard of sweeps weeks on television? Well, it's been sweeps month for the Gators, who last dropped a set on Sept. 14 in a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan. Since then, Florida has won nine matches in a row by 3-0 sweeps, including victories over then-No. 15 Kentucky and Georgia last week. The biggest test, though, might be Sunday, as the Gators play at Missouri, which is 21-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. Before that, Florida faces Arkansas on Friday.
The Spartans are 6-0 atop the Big Ten, the only team with a perfect league record. Last week, they dominated Iowa, as expected, and won a very entertaining match over Nebraska, 3-1. Lauren Wicinski had 20 kills against the Huskers. Want to get a look at the current Big Ten boss? The Spartans will be featured on ESPN2 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET) at Minnesota. Sunday, they travel to Wisconsin. Oh, and next after that will be another biggie: rival Michigan on Oct. 23.
It's a key week at home in Seattle for the Huskies, who face Cal and Stanford. At 5-1, the Cardinal and the Huskies are tied for second in the Pac-12, behind 6-0 USC. Washington is coming off wins over Arizona and Arizona State. The Huskies drew a crowd of almost 4,600 for the win against the Wildcats. Let's see how the UW faithful turn out Sunday for the No. 6-ranked Huskies versus the No. 7 Cardinal.
The Cardinal swept UCLA last week then lost 3-0 to USC. The Trojans were the only team to defeat Stanford in Pac-12 play last year, and they did it again last week. This week, the Cardinal are host to Utah and Colorado, which is coming off an upset of Washington.
Last week, the Huskers beat Michigan 3-2 but fell 3-1 at Michigan State. Nebraska's Kelsey Robinson continued to establish herself as one of the favorites for Big Ten player of the year, with a combined 43 kills and 29 digs in those two matches, which were on the road. Nebraska plays five of its next six matches at home at the Devaney Center. Indiana and Purdue visit this week.
The biggest upset of last week -- and one of the biggest of this season -- happened in Honolulu on Friday. Lantagne Welch's UCSB squad knocked off the Rainbow Wahine in five sets. It was Hawaii's first regular-season league loss since 2008, when the Rainbow Wahine were still in the Western Athletic Conference. The loss ended a streak of 77 victories in a row, 41 of them in the Big West. Hawaii bounced back to sweep Cal Poly. The Rainbow Wahine play an alumni match this weekend, then return to action Oct. 24 at Cal State Northridge, which is currently atop the Big West at 5-0.
The Golden Gophers pushed Penn State last week but lost 15-11 in the fifth set. They came back from that, though, and swept Ohio State. Now can Minnesota give Michigan State its first loss in league play? Find out Thursday on ESPN2 (8 p.m. ET). A big crowd is expected at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. Saturday, the Gophers are host to Michigan.
Next five: San Diego, Kentucky, Colorado State, Wisconsin, Missouri
• Two week ago, seven different teams had votes for No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Last week, it was five. This week, it's four: USC, Florida, Texas, and Michigan State -- with the majority going to the Trojans (50).
• North Carolina started the season 15-0 and reached the highest ranking in program history at No. 10 on Oct. 7. But Friday, Duke handed the Tar Heels their first loss in a 3-0 sweep at UNC. However, the Blue Devils were then beaten Sunday by NC State.
• Kansas fell to Texas on Saturday, but apparently the voters in the coaches' poll appreciated the Jayhawks' effort last week when they beat Oklahoma. Previously unranked, Kansas moved into the AVCA Top 25 at No. 23.