NCAA Volleyball: 5 Things You Need To Know
NCAA volleyball got underway this past weekend, and here are five things to take note of after our first glimpses of the 2014 season.
1. Cardinal's hot start
Stanford traveled into the heart of the Midwest to begin its season and left behind some scorched earth. The Cardinal won at Iowa State on Friday and at then-No. 7 Nebraska on Sunday. Both matches were sweeps; Stanford didn't allow more than 19 points in any of the six games.
That was enough to bump Stanford ahead of Texas to No. 2 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, even though the Longhorns didn't lose. Remaining at No. 1 is Penn State, which swept three overmatched opponents at home.
Friday is a biggie: Stanford is host to Penn State as part of the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge. It's a rematch of teams that met in a fantastic regional final last year, won in five games by eventual national champ Penn State.
2. ACC favorite feeling good
Florida State also doubled up at Nebraska (winning 3-1) and Iowa State (3-0). The Seminoles -- who in 2011 became the first ACC team to make the national semifinals -- were ranked No. 13 in the preseason and are picked to win their league.
Florida State moved up to No. 8 in Monday's first regular-season poll. Seminoles junior Nicole Walch was named ACC player of the week and enjoyed quieting the nearly 9,000 Nebraska fans with her 18 kills and 15 digs.
Thursday, the Seminoles are host to in-state rival Florida, which is ranked No. 11. That match can be seen on ESPN3 at 6 p.m. ET.
3. Well, that's out of the way
Last year, Missouri didn't lose until its final match of the year, falling to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The SEC-champion Tigers brought back four of their six starters from that 35-1 season. But the two they lost are certainly missed: setter Molly Kreklow and outside hitter Lisa Henning, both AVCA first-team All-Americans.
This year, it didn't take long for the Tigers to pick up their first loss. They fell Saturday in their second match of the season, 3-0 to Northwestern State. Mizzou did win two other matches at the North Texas Tournament.
4. Sun Devils' success
Arizona State seems to be on the rise in recent years, including back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. The Sun Devils were 8-12 in Pac-12 play last year and also had a nonconference win over Texas. ASU was 9-11 in the league the year before. And if that doesn't sound impressive, remember, this is the Pac-12, which every year is going to have a handful of NCAA title contenders.
The Sun Devils were picked fourth this year in the Pac-12 preseason poll, their highest projection since 1999. And they've started 2014 with three victories in Hawaii, highlighted by a 3-0 win against the then-No. 17 Rainbow Wahine.
Arizona State, led by junior Macey Gardner, moved up to No. 17 in the poll this week, while Hawaii fell to a tie for No. 20.
5. Keep an eye on ... Louisville
The Cardinals went 18-0 in their only season in the American Athletic Conference last year. Now in their first season in the ACC, they were picked to finish fifth in the league. They've already gotten a very good nonconference victory, upsetting then-No. 12 Minnesota 3-1 on the Gophers' home court Saturday.