Power Rankings: Arizona mixes it up
Look who's back atop the national rankings: Texas. Look who's back atop the Big Ten: Penn State. Look who toppled the previous No. 1: Arizona. And when it comes time for the NCAA tournament selection, we may be looking back on last week as one of the more pivotal in a topsy-turvy volleyball season.
Texas is No. 1 again in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, regaining the top spot that the Longhorns had in the preseason rankings. They lost their first match -- at Hawaii -- on Aug. 31, and fell from No. 1. But the defending NCAA champions have lost just once since, to Arizona State on a neutral court Sept. 13.
Texas is riding a nine-match winning streak and will be featured in the nightcap of Wednesday's ESPNU volleyball doubleheader (8 p.m. ET), as the Longhorns travel to West Virginia.
In all, nine schools have received at least one vote for No. 1 this season in the coaches' poll. Last week, USC had the vast majority of votes (50) for the top spot.
But then the Trojans fell to Arizona, as coach Dave Rubio's Wildcats had one of their best weekends in a very long time. They beat USC 3-0 on Sunday for the program's first victory over a No. 1-ranked team since 1993. That followed a 3-0 victory against UCLA on Friday, giving the Wildcats their first back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles schools since 2001. That year, Arizona advanced to volleyball's final four.
For their triumphs, Arizona moved into the AVCA rankings this week at No. 25, and two Wildcats won Pac-12 weekly honors. Madi Kingdon had 33 kills in the two victories and was the league's offensive player of the week, while setter Penina Snuka was freshman of the week.
Snuka is a volleyball wiz in a family that gained fame in another athletic endeavor. Her grandfather, father, uncle and aunt all have been professional wrestlers.
Now, here are this week's top 10 in the espnW power rankings:
1. Texas (13-2)
Texas has won nine matches in a row. The most recent was a 3-1 victory Saturday over Iowa State, the only Big 12 team to defeat the Longhorns last year. What are the potential bumps in the road for Texas before the NCAA tournament? Uh, well, there is that trip to Iowa State on Nov. 27. The Longhorns may be holding onto No. 1 for a while.
2. Penn State (16-2)
The Nittany Lions benefited from a tough week for Michigan State, which lost twice on the road, as well as from Nebraska's upset loss at home to Purdue. That, plus two Penn State victories, put the Nittany Lions back in the Big Ten lead at 7-1, followed by the Spartans, Cornhuskers and Minnesota, all tied at 6-2. This week, Ohio State and Iowa visit Penn State.
3. USC (17-2)
USC had won 11 matches in a row before being upended by Arizona on Sunday. The Trojans will host Washington State and Washington this week. The Sunday match between the Trojans and Huskies likely will be for first place in the Pac-12; both teams are 7-1 in league play.
4. Washington (15-1)
The Huskies got a huge 3-2 win Sunday over Stanford, which followed a sweep of Cal. Washington drew a season-high crowd of 4,914 for the victory over the Cardinal, in which Huskies junior star Krista Vansant had 23 kills and a career-high 20 digs. She earned Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors for the first time in her career. Washington faces a struggling UCLA squad Friday before the Sunday showdown at USC.
5. Florida (18-2)
After six consecutive 3-0 sweeps to start SEC season, the Gators lost their first set in league play Friday, yet still won their match at Arkansas 3-1. But Sunday, Florida ran into a big crowd and a confident Missouri team. The Gators lost their first SEC match of 2013, which ended a 13-match winning streak that dated back to the Gators' only other loss, to Penn State on Sept. 8. This week, Florida will host Auburn and Tennessee.
6. Minnesota (18-3)
The Gophers are coming off a big week in which they drew a combined 10,420 fans for two matches. They gave Michigan State its first loss in Big Ten play with a 3-2 win Thursday. Minnesota followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Michigan on Saturday. This week, the Gophers travel to Wisconsin and are home against Northwestern.
7. Stanford (13-4)
The Cardinal split their trip to the Pacific Northwest last week. Stanford swept Washington State, improving its all-time record against the Cougars to 53-3. But then at Washington, Stanford played its first five-set match of this season and fell 15-12 in the decisive set. This week, the Cardinal host Oregon and Oregon State.
8. Michigan State (17-3)
Last week was a tough one for the Spartans, who fell 3-2 at Minnesota and 3-1 at Wisconsin. Mistakes really hurt Michigan State in both matches, as it had a combined 66 attack errors and 28 service errors. Mostly mistakes of aggression, yes, but especially costly on the road. Now the Spartans have four consecutive matches at home, starting with rival Michigan on Wednesday.
9. Hawaii (16-2)
The Rainbow Wahine have had some time to stew over their upset loss to UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 11. They had an alumni match last week, and return to action Thursday against Cal State Northridge, which leads the Big West at 6-1. Hawaii and UCSB are tied at 5-1 in second place. Hawaii also will play at UC Davis on Saturday.
10. Missouri (23-0)
These are heady times in the Show-Me State, after a Gator-chomping weekend for the Tigers' undefeated football and volleyball squads. Mizzou volleyball beat Georgia on Friday and knocked off then-No. 2 Florida 3-1 Sunday, the day after MU football defeated the Gators. It was MU's first-ever victory over a top-five volleyball program and drew a season-high crowd of 4,202 fans at Mizzou's Hearnes Center. This weekend, the Tigers travel to LSU and Texas A&M.
Next five: Nebraska, San Diego, Colorado State, Michigan, Wisconsin
• Before Texas-West Virginia, the first part of ESPNU's Wednesday doubleheader, at 6 p.m. ET, will feature Kentucky at Georgia. The Wildcats are currently third in the SEC at 5-1 behind Missouri and Florida. The Bulldogs are sixth at 4-4. Kentucky, 13-4 overall, is ranked No. 15 this week in the AVCA poll.
• Last week, we gave props to Miami for leading the ACC. Jinx! The Hurricanes lost twice, to Florida State and Notre Dame. Now, the ACC lead is shared by UNC, Duke and Florida State, at 7-1. Friday, the Blue Devils and Seminoles face off at Duke.
• Colorado State, a traditionally strong volleyball program, is 17-0 and 8-0 atop the Mountain West. The Rams and Missouri are the only unbeaten D-I volleyball teams in the nation. Colorado State is coming off victories at UNLV and San Diego State. The Rams host one of the teams tied for second in the MWC, Fresno State, on Thursday.