We break down our five favorite matches of the weekend, plus pick winners from all PVB Top 50 showdowns.
Featured in our top clashes of the week is a Top-10 meeting in the Big Ten, a first-place contest in the ACC and some wild Pac-12 matches.
— 1. No. 9 Wisconsin at No. 5 Minnesota (Saturday, 8:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network)
— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) October 18, 2017
What to Watch For: Minnesota outlasted Wisconsin in five games in the first meeting and the Gophers (6-2) started the week two games ahead of the Badgers (4-4) in the standings. There’s a case to be made that if Minnesota hopes to win the conference championship, then the Gophers can’t drop another match. That means winning big contests like this, but the Badgers have been right there all season, including handing Nebraska its first loss in Big Ten last week. In the first match between Wisconsin and Minnesota, Dana Rettke was incredible for the Badgers. She had 19 kills and hit .457. The issue was Wisconsin wasn’t great on offense elsewhere. Contrast that performance with how the Badgers played on offense in upsetting the Huskers, with Tionna Williams (10 kills, .318) and Madison Duello (13 kills, .281) coming up large. If Wisconsin gets that type of balanced production, the Badgers are a legit threat to win this one on the road. Minnesota held on the first time with a heavy dose of Lexi Hart and Stephanie Samedy, who took over 100 swings combined. As we pointed out earlier this week, Minnesota has been getting middles Regan Pittman and Molly Lohman involved much more. They had just 31 of the team’s 188 attacks in the first meeting. If they don’t get more involved this time, Minnesota isn’t going to win the same way.
Prediction: Both teams have found more balance since the first time they saw each other and it’s going to be a better played match overall. The feeling here is Wisconsin’s game is going to travel. The Badgers will take care of the ball, spread the attack around and pull it out. Wisconsin in 5.
— 2. No. 16 USC at No. 12 Utah (Sunday, 3 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks)
#12 Volleyball Hosts Pair of Top-25 Teams this Weekend https://t.co/XWBRYtSLOO
— Utah Volleyball (@UtahVolleyball) October 17, 2017
What to Watch For: In terms of the Pac-12 race, this weekend could prove to be large for both USC (6-2) and Utah (7-1), as the Utes lead the Trojans by one game. With USC facing Colorado on Friday, the same day Utah hosts UCLA, it’s impossible to tell what the circumstances will be when USC and Utah hook up Sunday. The extreme scenarios have Utah going 2-0 and USC 0-2, which would leave the Trojans three games back of Utah, which could conceivably be in first place based on what happens to Stanford. Conversely, USC at 2-0 and Utah at 0-2 would place the Trojans one game ahead of Utah and in second place depending on Stanford’s results. Utah is going to ride Adora Anae and look to get enough contributions around her to get it done. When on, few teams can pass like the Utes. We’ve said all season, USC has some finishers with Khalia Lanier and company, but if USC doesn’t take care of the ball it won’t matter much. On top of that, the Trojans need to limit the hitting mistakes and make Utah feel the pressure of a close match.
Prediction: The chain of thought goes USC can’t possibly go 2-0 this weekend, and the Trojans’ chances are better to win at Colorado. Therefore, signs point toward USC not winning at Utah. Utah in 4.
— 3. No. 35 NC State at No. 37 Pitt (Sunday, 1 PM ET, ACC Network Extra)
What to Watch For: Some rides on what happens in earlier results, with NC State and Pitt both facing North Carolina ahead of their Sunday showdown. Pitt and NC State began the week tied at 8-0 and in first place in the ACC standings. No matter what, this one is going to have first-place implications. Plenty can happen, like either Pitt or NC State going 0-2 and falling out of first. Or one of them could go 2-0 and hold sole possession of first place. It’s even possible for Pitt, NC State and Louisville to all be tied for first place with just one loss after this weekend. At its best, Pitt moves the ball around with five players finishing between 12 and 21 attacks in the latest sweep of Boston College. Stephanie Williams had 10 kills and hit .381, while Kayla Lund had 9 and hit .350. NC state has dropped just one set in its past five matches, but visiting North Carolina and Pitt is the first time the Wolfpack are going to be challenge on the road in conference play.
Prediction: Given the rivalry between NC State and North Carolina, it’s going to be difficult for NC State to regroup emotionally for Pitt. Toss in Pitt being at home and the Panthers should be in good shape. Pitt in 4.
— 4. No. 14 UCLA at No. 19 Colorado (Saturday, 9 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks)
What to Watch For: Just like the Utah-USC meeting, this one is going to be shaped by what happens in Friday’s results. It’s not inconceivable that both UCLA and Colorado lose before seeing each other Saturday. This much we do know though. With UCLA sitting at 5-3 and Colorado at 4-4, the loser of this one is going to slide further down the standings. This should be a fun one, because the sides are similar. At their best, they both have five attackers that can get involved and score. Likewise, when the passing goes the offense stalls because it becomes too predictable.
Prediction: Picking matches in the Pac-12 is tough, but this one comes down to home court. Colorado plays better at home and after four straight on the road, the Buffs will relish the familiar feel. Colorado in 5.
— 5. No. 13 Washington at No. 3 Stanford (Thursday, 11 PM ET, ESPNU)
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 16, 2017
What to Watch For: A loss to Stanford would leave Washington four games back of the Cardinal and all but out of the conference race. Injuries have forced Washington into different lineups this season and figuring stuff out in the Pac-12 is tough. Washington gutted out a nice win over Oregon last week but then went down to Oregon State. There can’t be any up-and-down aspect to Washington’s play against Stanford, which has dropped just two sets in its past six outings.
Prediction: The Pac-12 is such that Washington winning isn’t that unlikely. But we can’t predict the upset in this one. Stanford’s been too steady and Washington too shaky for the Cardinal to lose at home. Stanford in 4.
More PVB Top 50 Showdowns
*predicted winner in bold
Fri, Oct. 20
No. 1 Penn State at No. 18 Purdue (in 5)
No. 14 UCLA at No. 12 Utah (in 4)
No. 16 USC at No. 19 Colorado (in 5)
No. 20 Illinois at No. 27 Iowa (in 4)
No. 50 Notre Dame at No. 32 Florida State (in 3)
No. 36 Louisville at No. 46 Miami (in 4)
No. 44 North Carolina at No. 37 Pitt (in 5)
No. 45 Texas A&M at No. 49 Arkansas (in 5)
Sat, Oct. 21
No. 31 Washington State at No. 2 Stanford (in 3)
No. 20 Illinois at No. 4 Nebraska (in 3)
No. 11 Michigan State at No. 40 Maryland (in 3)
Sun, Oct. 22
No. 2 Florida at No. 48 Auburn (in 4)
No. 29 Michigan at No 30 Ohio State (in 5)
No. 36 Louisville at No. 32 Florida State (in 5)
No. 50 Notre Dame at No. 46 Miami (in 4)