Oregon climbs up the rankings
It's never a surprise to see a logjam of Pac-12 teams in any women's volleyball rankings. That said, the Pac-12 team that currently ranks highest in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll -- and this week's espnW power rankings -- is not regarded as a traditional powerhouse, as that term is used in the mighty Pac-12.
Oregon has never won an NCAA title in women's volleyball, as Stanford (six), UCLA (four), USC (three) and Washington (one) have. Nor have the Ducks ever made it to the volleyball final four, which Cal and Arizona have.
Still, winning big matches is not new to Oregon: The Ducks ended Penn State's 94-match home winning streak last year and also beat eventual national champion UCLA, Stanford, Cal and Washington in the 2011 regular season.
The Ducks' climb to No. 2 in the AVCA poll is the program's highest peak. It's still way too early to be thinking of a final four trip to Louisville in December, but Oregon is off to a great start behind experienced coach Jim Moore, whose next victory will be the 500th in his career. That could come Friday at home against Utah.
Meanwhile, though, a very familiar Big Ten name is atop both the coaches' and our rankings this week.
1. Penn State (12-1)The Nittany Lions nearly went into a 0-2 hole against visiting Nebraska last Wednesday, but avoided that and won the match 3-1. Penn State was led by hot-hitting junior Ariel Scott, who had 23 kills against the Huskers. The Nittany Lions followed that with a 3-1 victory over Iowa; they're on the road this weekend against Wisconsin and No. 10-ranked Minnesota.
2. Oregon (11-0)You could almost see this coming: The Ducks went in to face USC just two days after the Trojans got an upset victory over city rival UCLA. And Oregon didn't just deflate USC by winning, but did so convincingly in a sweep: 25-19, 25-15, 25-23. Ducks junior setter Lauren Plum was named Pac-12 offensive player of the week.
3. USC (13-1)Ultimately, the Trojans aren't too worried about falling to Oregon. With a number of young players, USC is still learning how to compete consistently in the Pac-12. Another big test will come Friday, when they face undefeated Washington in Seattle.
4. UCLA (9-2)The Bruins bounced back from their loss to USC by sweeping Oregon State. UCLA will be the next to try to knock off the Huskies, as they play at Washington on Wednesday. The Bruins learned some things about themselves defensively against USC, which should help as the season progresses.
5. Washington (11-0)The Huskies finally lost a set -- two of them, in fact. But they still won their matches last week, 3-1 against Washington State and Arizona. This week, Washington will face the test of the two visiting L.A. schools, and hitters Krista Vansant and Kylin Munoz will need to come up big for the Huskies.
6. Stanford (10-2)Freshman Jordan Burgess of Fort Myers, Fla., is far from home but seems to be adjusting well. She was named both freshman of the week and defensive player of the week after the Cardinal's victories over Cal and Utah. Stanford heads to the Southwest to take on Arizona and Arizona State this weekend.
7. Nebraska (9-2)After two losses in a row, the former No. 1 Huskers took a little plunge in the AVCA poll and the power rankings. They bounced back from Wednesday's disappointment at Penn State with a 3-1 victory Saturday at Ohio State. The Huskers have to look hard at that Penn State defeat and the chances they let get away. Nebraska is glad to be home this week against Michigan State and Michigan.
8. BYU (14-0)The Cougars were picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference this season, but thus far they are the league's top team. They've won 11 of their 14 matches in sweeps, including 3-0 wins against Pepperdine and Gonzaga to start the WCC season. Saturday, BYU travels to face Saint Mary's, which along with San Diego was picked as co-favorite in the WCC.
9. Minnesota (11-2)Minnesota alum Lindsey Berg, a three-time Olympian with silver medals from the past two Summer Games, was honored over the weekend in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the current Gophers won at Illinois and Northwestern, and now they'll play their next four matches at home, including a biggie against No. 1 Penn State on Saturday.
10. Florida (9-2)The Gators have won five matches in a row since nonconference losses to Texas and Stanford. Florida has a 3-0 record in the SEC, where the Gators were a preseason pick to finish behind Tennessee and Kentucky in the Eastern Division. However, those two teams are currently at the bottom of the East standings.
• Florida State, a national semifinalist last year, was predicted to win the ACC. Right now, Georgia Tech and NC State -- picked to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, are atop the ACC standings at 3-0. Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET, ACC volleyball will be featured on ESPNU with Clemson at North Carolina.
• Kansas, 13-2 and 1-0 in the Big 12, plays host to No. 19-ranked Iowa State on Wednesday. The Cyclones are 7-4 and 1-0, but had a more challenging nonconference schedule. Saturday, Iowa State hosts Big 12 newcomer TCU.
• No. 8-ranked Hawaii, 10-2, is back in the Big West this season, and will meet that conference's defending champion, Long Beach State, in Honolulu on Saturday.