The nonconference volleyball season has brought a huge amount of upsets. I am surprised every time one of the volleyball monsters loses. I like the excitement that this has brought to the season, though. It’s great for the game. Let’s pause, though, before the conference slate begins and take a minute to talk about what has happened with my first Power Rankings.
For some teams like BYU, Hawaii or Pitt they have done their heavy lifting for the season. They now move on to play in their conference and they’ll need win there, for sure, but given a weaker conference overall, each will need to find another way to improve. Meanwhile, teams like Nebraska and Stanford head into a conference schedule that will continue to challenge and push them to improve each weekend.
At any rate, after three weeks of chaos, here are my power rankings. Note: I used the rank the team was at the time they played, when referencing the schedules.
- Baylor: Undefeated in a tough preconference schedule. What else do you need? They’ve beat UCLA, #18 Creighton, #4 Wisconsin, #11 Marquette, #17 Missouri and #13 Hawaii. They gave Hawaii their first loss of the season. Baylor has lost a TOTAL of two sets in their nine matches. They are beating teams decisively. This is not a ranking by default, they deserve this spot. I can’t wait until they play Texas on Oct 23.
- Stanford: Has all the players back from last years national championship team except one. They have loads of talent on this team. They beat #1 Nebraska in four in the Devaney Center, #7 Florida, #3 Texas and #4 Penn State. They have losses to #8 Minnesota and #12 BYU. They had an extremely challenging preconference schedule and now begin battling in the PAC 12.
- Nebraska: The Huskers beat #18 Creighton and UCLA in their opening weekend. Then they beat Arizona and #25 San Diego on the road. While Nebraska was ranked #1 they lost to #2 Stanford in four sets. They show inconsistency keeping them just short of greatness, but they do have greatness in them.
- Texas: The Longhorns head into the Big XII season at 6-2 with notable wins over USC, #7 Minnesota and #12 BYU. Their losses are to Stanford and Rice, both in five sets. Texas’s Stanford loss isn’t that big of news but the Rice loss is and here is why. Rice isn’t usually notable in volleyball, so when it happened this appeared to be a fairly bad loss, but digging deeper perhaps it isn’t. Looks, the Owls are 11-1, and while they haven’t played a very tough schedule they have noteworthy wins over comparable teams are a win over LMU in four sets (twice) and a three set win over TCU, along with of course Texas. And, their lone loss is to Stephen F. Austin, who is 11-1 with wins over SMU and Northwestern. I didn’t know anything about SFA before writing this but those wins are pretty good. Interesting. I expect Rice to enter the top 25 this week after being just outside it last week and getting the win over Texas.
- BYU: A four set win over #2 Stanford this weekend in the Cardinal’s home court at Maples Pavilion was impressive. They can hang their hat on that for the rest of the season. The Cougars also beat #18 Utah in four. They have good losses to #3 Texas and #14 Marquette. Now they begin matches in the West Coast Conference, and they won’t find any top 25 matches there, although San Diego is receiving votes. BYU should win the rest of their matches in the regular season, but from what we’ve seen they’re in the mix for a top seed.
- Pittsburgh: A huge three set win over #6 Penn State stamped the Panther’s legit card. This team is fast and Penn State had no answer Friday night. Pitt then turned around and lost to Penn State in five sets. I’ll say that advantage goes to Pitt. The Panthers also have wins over #10 Oregon and #16 Utah and go into ACC play with an 11-1 record.
- Minnesota: The Gophers are up and down in the first three weeks. They have two losses, both in three sets. First, they lost to unranked Florida State. That one is hard to figure out and leaves me scratching my head. Four days later they lost to #3 Texas in three. But on the flip side, they beat #7 Florida and #1 Stanford. We’ll get to know Minnesota more through the difficult Big Ten schedule, but for now they’re on the outside looking in for a top four seed.
- Hawaii: The Warriors are 10-1 with the sole loss coming to #5 Baylor in their last game of the non-conference season. They’ve beat #25 San Diego, #10 Washington, UCLA and #17 Missouri. They should win out the rest of their season in the Big West Conference. I don’t like their chances for a top seed, but we may be seeing Hawaii, a traditional national powerhouse, back to form after a few years of irrelevance.
- Washington: With just one loss and to #13 Hawaii, in Hawaii, and wins against #19 Illinois, #15 Creighton, and #9 Wisconsin twice, the Huskies impressed me. They won’t topple Stanford for the Pac-12 crown, but they are dangerous.
- Penn State: I’m putting them down the list a little after a 7-2 non-conference record. The Nittany Lions boast a 3-0 win over #10 Oregon and 3-2 win over #6 Pittsburgh. Their losses are to #1 Stanford in four and #6 Pittsburgh in three. PSU looked stunned against Pitt in the first meeting. They had no answer for Pitt’s speed. They made adjustments in the day between matches and beat them in the rematch at Pitt’s home court. I don’t like that they couldn’t make those adjustments in the first match but I suspect Coach Rose will use this as a good learning lesson for improvement in his team. His teams always get better as the season goes on. But for now, they don’t look like title contenders, which is unusual for Penn State volleyball.
Notes: Marquette was my last one out of the top ten. If Penn State had lost to Pitt twice in a row, Marquette would be in that #10 slot.
Gosh, was I wrong about Wisconsin...so far. I am stunned as I write this that they are not in my top 10. I had them winning the Big Ten and the my clear national #2 heading into the season. They may get it going, but as we sit here today they are not challenging for the national championship!
What are your power rankings?