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College Court Report: Big Ten Home of the Two Best

Penn State and Minnesota appear headed on a collision course once Big Ten play begins. Again, both performed well in passing their latest tests.

Purdue had an eventful weekend, beating Creighton and falling to Kansas. (Courtesy of Purdue Athletics)

College Court Report is ready to go.

Much like Penn State and Minnesota seem to be. Those two Big Ten programs are making waves three weeks into the season and appear headed for a conference clash. But Nebraska’s impressive weekend in Lincoln, sweeping a pair of showdowns with UCLA, could be a sign that the Huskers are ready to join that conversation as well.

Those things, plus more, in this week’s edition.


Top 5 Upsets of the Week


1. Two Best In The Big Ten

Penn State ranked No. 1 in our Top 50 Rankings, Minnesota sitting at No. 2. Where have we seen this before? That’s right, last year, when three Big Ten schools – Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin – were 1-2-3. There seems to be little doubt about the Nittany Lions and Gophers being the best in the land after their latest efforts.

Penn State beat Stanford for the second consecutive week, while Minnesota looked sharp in taking down Texas in four games. The Gophers did it on the road, and what’s scary is how much this redesigned roster is already clicking. With the Tapp sisters and Sarah Wilhite moving on, it seemed like Minnesota would need a little time to gear up again, but three weeks in and Minnesota is in tune as much as anyone is.

Stephanie Samedy continues to marvel, blasting 22 kills and hitting .308 against Texas. Sophomore outside Lexi Hart (14 kills) and freshman outside Jazz Martin (11 kills) also reached double digits, while libero Dalianliz Rosado was terrific in making 27 digs. Lexi Sun and Micaya White combined for 35 kills, but the Longhorns didn’t get much production elsewhere, save for Morgan Johnson in the middle with 11 kills and hitting .529. There was a lot of youth on the floor for both teams, but Minnesota passed better and out-defended Texas and thus pulled out the close one in four, 25-21, 25-27, 26-24, 25-19.

Meanwhile, after sweeping Stanford last weekend, Penn State had a tougher time in Round 2 but prevailed in five, 24-26, 25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 15-11. Where balance won the day in the first meeting, Ali Frantti and Simone Lee teamed for 41 kills to carry the Nittany Lions this time. Haleigh Washington recorded 10 of Penn State’s 20 blocks, the second-most as a team in program history.

Merete Lutz was back in action and contributed 10 kills. Stanford’s balance was better, but Penn State did a better job containing Kat Plummer. She still had a team-high 20 kills but hit .148 in moving to the left. It’s just two matches, but Penn State showed it can win in different ways against a talented Cardinal crew.


2. Purdue Packs Punch

Creighton’s been involved in lots of excitement already this season, winning at Washington, hosting a tournament that featured Kentucky and USC, and then this past weekend playing at Kansas, along with Purdue. Of course, those trio of schools split their matches, all finishing 2-1 with a victory over Belmont added on. We’ve written plenty about Creighton and Kansas so far and now we shine the light on the Boilermakers, who beat Creighton in four but fell to the Jayhawks in four.

Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson were wrecking balls against the Bluejays. Cuttino they both ended with 21 kills, with Cuttino hitting .576 and Atkinson .500. It was a different story for the duo against Kansas. They teamed for 21 kills, both hitting .161. At the same time, Kelsie Payne was working Purdue to the tune of 19 kills while hitting .366. Cuttino and Atkinson have teamed for 229 kills thus far, but had a tougher time with a better right-side blocking team like Kansas.


3. Nebraska Doubles Up on the Brooms

Nebraska beating UCLA in a pair of matches over the weekend isn’t headline-worthy on its own. Lots of good programs would lose back-to-back matches in Lincoln. But, most were expecting more competitive outings, not the one-sided affairs that broke out Friday and Saturday as the Huskers hammered the Bruins. Nebraska swept, 25-15, 25-21, 25-20, in the first match and followed suite in the second, 25-15, 25-19, 25-17. UCLA was undefeated entering the weekend. It seemed nearly impossible the Bruins would remain unblemished upon returning to UCLA, but with PAC-12 play less than two weeks away, the Bruins have some catching up to do.

As a team, UCLA hit .097 in Friday’s loss and wasn’t much better Saturday, hitting .133. No player reached double-digit kills in either contest. After a strong start to the year, freshman Mac May struggled in front of the Huskers’ fans. She didn’t hit above .100 in either match. Freshman Jenny Mosser was the only consistent attacker in both matches, with 8 kills (.227) Friday and 4 kills (.231) Saturday.

With Kelly Hunter back and some matches under its belt to work in Mikaela Foecke as a six-rotation outside and freshman Jazz Sweet on the right side, Nebraska looked much more like the team we were expecting. Still, Nebraska has plenty of work to do in developing the middle attack on a more consistent basis. Bri Holman had 5 kills on 13 swing and hit .308 on Friday and that was the best of the weekend for the Huskers.

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