Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Florida still perfect in SEC
By Mechelle Voepel
The last of the undefeated teams, Washington, finally lost at Oregon on Saturday, a 3-1 victory for the Ducks in front of nearly 4,000 fans.
While there are no more overall perfect records, there are several programs that are undefeated in conference play: Penn State in the Big Ten, Stanford in the Pac-12, Texas in the Big 12, Florida in the SEC, Hawaii in the Big West, San Diego in the West Coast Conference, Dayton in the Atlantic 10 and Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt.
The Gators -- who are ranked No. 11 in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association poll -- were picked to finish third in the SEC's Eastern Division, with Tennessee selected as the favorite. But so far, Florida has excelled despite losing right-side hitter/setter Kelly Murphy, a four-time All-American.
Among those powering the Gators this season is junior middle blocker Chloe Mann, who leads Florida with 61 blocks, 15 of them solo. She's second on the team in kills with 204 and is hitting at .422 percent.
Mann, a 6-foot-2 junior, was born in New York but has lived in Gainesville, Fla., since the age of 2, so you can call her a homegrown Gator. Sunday, in a sweep of Auburn, she had 20 kills and seven blocks, both tying career highs.
While Mann was right there in Florida's own backyard, another of the Gators' top players this season wasn't someone whom coach Mary Wise could easily scout during the recruiting process.
Freshman Ziva Recek, from Slovenia, basically recruited herself to Gainesville. She traveled quite a bit from a young age playing both indoor and beach volleyball, and was on the Slovenian national team. She got the notion it would be great to pursue her education via the sport in the United States. While surfing the Internet, she came across Florida's website and reached out to the program.
Wise saw some video of Recek, which was enough to convince her to make a visit to Slovenia. The 6-foot outside hitter currently leads the Gators with 231 kills.
Florida goes on the road this weekend, facing Alabama on Friday and then SEC newcomer Texas A&M on Sunday (ESPNU, 2 p.m. ET); the Aggies are leading the SEC's Western Division at 7-2 and host Tennessee on Friday before Florida visits.
1. Penn State (18-1)
Rollin', rollin', rollin'. Who's going to stop the Nittany Lions? Their lone loss -- Sept. 8 against Oregon State -- seems further and further in their rearview mirror. This week, the top-ranked Lions travel to Ohio State and Michigan. If you're wondering, their trip to Nebraska is Oct. 28.
2. Stanford (16-2)
What a big week it was for the Cardinal, who defeated both USC and UCLA. The week prior to that, Stanford handed Oregon its only loss thus far in 2012. All those matches were at Maples Pavilion. Friday, the Cardinal go to Seattle to face Washington.
3. Oregon (16-1)
After beating Washington 3-1, the Ducks' Alaina Bergsma said, "We had a way more spread-out offense than they were able to have, and that was a huge difference." Bergsma, who had 23 kills against the Huskies, was named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for the second time this season. Oregon hits the road for matches at Arizona and Arizona State this weekend.
4. Nebraska (15-2)
Technical difficulties in Lincoln, Neb., prematurely ended the national broadcast Sunday of the Huskers' 3-1 win over Minnesota. But the show went on in Nebraska, which also beat Wisconsin on Friday. Nebraska senior Hannah Werth had a little better weekend than her brother, Jayson. His Nationals lost their MLB series to the Cardinals, while Hannah had a combined 22 kills and 17 digs in the Huskers' two victories.
5. Washington (16-1)
OK, so much for perfection. The Huskies feel like they let a potential victory slip away at Oregon, not converting two set points in the opening set and losing a 20-15 lead in the third set. But the Huskies are still right in the thick of the race to win the Pac-12, tied with Oregon at 7-1 behind 8-0 Stanford. And guess who's coming to Washington on Friday? The Cardinal.
6. Texas (15-3)
Seven Big 12 opponents have equaled seven sweeps for the Longhorns. The latest victim was Kansas, which came into Friday's match in Austin, Texas, undefeated in league play. But the Jayhawks left knowing what a gap there was between them and Texas. Iowa State, ranked No. 23, will try Wednesday to be the first league team to at least get a set off Texas this season.
7. UCLA (13-4)
Three of the Bruins' defeats have been in five-set matches, including Friday's loss at Stanford, where UCLA fell 16-14 in the final set. The other losses in which UCLA went the distance but came up short were at Nebraska (15-13 in final set) and at Washington (16-14). So will the defending national champs benefit in the long run from these tough losses?
8. USC (17-3)
After falling in a sweep at Stanford last week, the Trojans turned things around and swept Cal. Freshman Samantha Bricio had her sixth double-double of the season against the Bears. Utah and Colorado visit USC this weekend.
9. Florida (15-2)
The Gators, as mentioned above, have a big meeting with Texas A&M on Sunday, which may almost seem like a nonconference match because the Aggies are new to the SEC. But then the following Wednesday, Oct. 24, the Gators really will go out of the league, as they travel to Florida State, a team that went to the final four last year.
10. Hawaii (15-2)
Cal Northridge made the Rainbow Wahine perhaps just a little nervous Friday, taking the first set of their match in Honolulu. But Hawaii righted the ship and came back for a 3-1 victory as they continue to rule the Big West. UC Davis and Pacific make the trek to the islands this week.
" As mentioned, TV viewers didn't get to see the completion of Sunday's match between Nebraska and Illinois. But the Huskers are on ESPN2 again this Sunday, as they face last year's national runner-up, Illinois, in Champaign. The Illini are back in this week's AVCA poll at No. 25.
" Still tied atop the ACC are Florida State and Miami at 8-1. The Hurricanes beat the Seminoles when they met at Miami on Sept. 7. The Hurricanes' only league loss -- strangely enough -- came at Virginia Tech on Sept 23. The Hokies are 4-5 in the ACC.
" San Diego, atop the West Coast Conference at 8-0, travels to Saint Mary's on Saturday. Could that result in the Toreros' first conference loss? Saint Mary's is currently 5-2 in the league, but along with San Diego, was picked as preseason favorite in the WCC.