College News

College Weekend Preview: Showdowns Everywhere

No. 11 Arizona State at No. 12 Colorado State – The encouraging sign for the Sun Devils was the offensive balance the team displayed during the opening weekend compared to how reliant it was on Macey Gardner a season ago. Transfer Cassidy Pickrell leads the team with 33 kills through three matches. In all, ASU has five players between 40-76 attempts. The Rams have turned to transfer Alex Reid to ignite the attack this season and she leads the team with 25 kills through three matches. However, she is one of four layers to reach 20 kills during the opening, though she did take the most swings. It’s the toughest match of the season so far for both teams. With this being a home match for Colorado State, the pick here is the Rams in 4.

No. 18 Wisconsin v No. 20 North Carolina – There was probably lots going on at both teams’ practices after the opening weekend didn’t go the way they wanted them to. The bottom line though is one is going to suffer another defeat. Will the Tar Heels go back to keeping Paige Neuenfeldt in the middle or will they try her on the left again? There are probably less question marks for Wisconsin, which just needs to execute better. With Lauren Carlini setting and Lauryn Gillis on the left, those two parts combined will be too much for North Carolina. Wisconsin in 4.

No. 37 Duke at No. 27 Kansas – Outsides Tiana Dockery and Madison Rigdon and opposite Kelsie Payne carried a large load of the offense for Kansas during the first weekend, with middle Tayler Sourcie getting a fair amount of swings as well. Right now, it’s probably a little more balance than what Duke has going on. Outside Emily Sklar is a big part of the offense, but we are sure what happened to her against Long Beach State and what her status for this weekend is. The main thing in this one is Duke hitting the road again and Kansas staying home. Jayhawks in 4.

No. 31 Minnesota at No. 30 Louisville – Fans of the Gophers were expecting better things in 2015 and the opening weekend didn’t deliver, with the loss to Texas A&M a thorn in the side. Minnesota was running a 5-1 with Samantha Seliger-Swenson and could experience some growing pains early in the season as she continues to develop her connection with the hitters. Also, Daly Santana has nearly twice as many swings as the next closest person, so the Gophers might be relying on her too much and a bit predictable early on. Louisville is feeling good after beating Creighton in five games and playing Illinois tight last weekend. Minnesota can expect a lot of swings from the trio of Erin Fairs, Maya McClendon and Janelle Jenkins. What Louisville should be concerned about is Minnesota’s blocking. While the Gophers might still be finding their stride offensive, their defense will help them to the victory here. Minnesota in 4.

No. 24 San Diego v No. 41 Oregon StateMary-Kate Marshall and Katelyn Driscoll are going to be a handful for San Diego. But the Toreros balance and depth should help carry the day. San Diego has four players between 80-108 attempts, including kill leader Canace Finley. This is an opportunity for San Diego to pick up yet another quality victory after topping Colorado and Oklahoma last weekend. We think it’ll happen, San Diego in 4.

No. 32 Illinois State v No. 36 Long Beach State – After victories over Alabama and Duke, Long Beach State nosedived against St. Mary’s. The 49ers are back in action against the Redbirds in what should be an interesting showdown. The concern for Long Beach State is where the offensive consistency is going to come from with so many injuries. If the opening weekend is any indication, Long Beach State can expect to see a lot of Ashley Rosch coming at them. She took 103 swings for Illinois State last weekend. We like Long Beach State’s defense to win out. Long Beach State in 4.

No. 33 Wichita State v No. 35 New Mexico State – These types of matches go a long way in help determining the overall pecking order. Both seemed to have solid starts to the weekend and climbed up our rankings. Now, we’ll see which one is better head-to-head. One concern for New Mexico State is how to slow down middle Abbie Lehman. She leads the Shockers right now with 39 kills and is hitting .515. New Mexico State has its own middle in Gwen Murphy, who is leading the team in kills as well. It should be a fun match up if they get paired together. Wichita State in 5.

No. 45 Pepperdine at No. 46 Lipscomb – Both programs are off to solid starts and will look to keep it up when they clash in this one. Freshmen Nikki Lyons and Heidi Dyer were featured pieces of the offense last weekend as they combined for 91 kills. For Lipscomb, it was a dose of senior middles Molly Spitznagle and Jewell Dobson doing damage. It should be a fun one, the young guns on the outside against the veterans in the middle. Pepperdine in 4.

No. 47 Utah v No. 50 WyomingKayla Slofkiss, Laura Beach, Bridget Shanahan and Emily Hines all have over 20 kills and will bring that attack against the Utes, who are coming off a four-game victory against rival Utah State earlier this week. Utah is still searching for more balance, as it’s been reliant on outsides Adora Anae and Eliza Katoa. Still, we are going with Utah in 5.

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No. 23 Colorado at No. 1 Penn State – It’s asking too much of the Buffs to go on the road and win at Penn State, which wins in 3.

No. 48 Tulsa at Alabama – Alabama looks to pick it up against Tulsa and does. Tide in 5.

No. 22 Miami at Missouri State – Miami better be very careful. This one could be an upset, but Miami prevails in 4.

Saturday

No. 2 Stanford at No. 1 Penn State – We’ll tell you exactly who wins this one. The team that serves and passes better. We had to get that one in somewhere. We saw at Stanford last season what home court advantage can mean and so that definitely is going the Nittany Lions’ way here. Going position by position, the outsides are pretty even with Jordan Burgess and Brittan Howard against Megan Courtney and Ali Frantti. Maybe Penn State gets the slight edge. With Haleigh Washington, we are going to give the advantage in the middle to Penn State. At opposite, it’s senior Aiyana Whitney against freshman Hayley Hodson, so we are taking Penn State at that spot as well. Setting is clearly in Stanford’s favor with Madi Bugg. Both have been relying on freshmen to hold down back row duties so we are going to call that a wash. Going by that, Penn State is better at more positions. But Stanford does have Bugg and can she make up the difference. The only real question mark for Penn State this season is at setting, with Bryanna Weiskircher getting the majority of the time for the Nittany Lions last weekend. We know how Bugg is going to handle the moment. What we don’t know is how Weiskircher will. That can’t be overlooked because even if Penn State has the advantage at certain spots it won’t matter if the connection isn’t there. The flip side is how predictable does the Stanford offense become or not? You don’t want the Penn State players camping out and waiting for the Stanford hitters. Ultimately, we are going with Stanford to pull out the road victory. Stanford in 5.

No. 3 Florida at No. 5 Texas – The key factor could simply be the sold-out crowd the Longhorns will be playing in front of and feeding off of. Both are strong in the middle and on the right. Texas probably has the edge defensively. Throw that in with Texas’ advantage on the left and home court advantage and the Longhorns should be favored. Texas in 4.

No. 5 Nebraska v No. 8 Oregon – Beating Nebraska is asking a lot of Oregon. The Cornhuskers have more experience and more balance and will take care of the ball better. It’ll be a great learning curve for Oregon, but not a match the Ducks win. Nebraska in 3.

No. 6 Illinois v No. 23 Colorado – Illinois is going to bring Jocelynn Birks. Colorado is showing up with Alexis Austin. Both outsides figure to get their kills. The difference in this match is going to be which side has the better supporting cast. What favors the Fighting Illini is their depth and multiple options they have in places the Buffs don’t. Therefore, Illinois in 4.

No. 7 USC v No. 14 Kentucky – After upsetting Michigan State last weekend, the Wildcats were upset by Ohio earlier in the week. Kentucky also faces Creighton on Saturday, so Kentucky has a lot to deal with in order to bounce back. USC represents a huge challenge. The concern for Kentucky is how to deal with Samantha Bricio, because she’s the best player Kentucky will have seen so far. For the Wildcats, it’s a matter of where they get production behind middle Kaz Brown, who has 43 kills and is hitting .411. USC will have to handle being on the road for the first time, but the Trojans will find a way to win. USC in 4.

No. 16 BYU v No. 9 Purdue – A nice challenge for both sides, BYU is coming off a loss to USC and will look to get back on a winning track. Purdue hasn’t lost yet this season but the Cougars are going to be the stiffest opponent to date. Annie Drews and Azariah Stahl have carried their share of the offensive load, but they are going against a strong BYU block. Not only does Purdue have to find a way to slow down Alexa Gray, the Boilermakers can expect to see Amy Boswell running a lot of slides against them as well and challenging their outsides to do something about it. Having already downed North Carolina and facing USC, BYU is going to be ready for this one. BYU in 4.

No. 18 Wisconsin at No. 30 Louisville – Whatever happens Friday is going to shape the context for this match. Should both teams win Friday, it ramps up in magnitude for sure. Should Wisconsin fall to North Carolina, beating Louisville becomes important from a morale sense. If Louisville can beat Minnesota, it’ll be fired up for the chance to take down the Badgers next. Being at home will help Louisville, but we don’t see an upset coming. Wisconsin in 3.

No. 22 Miami v No. 25 Marquette – Transfer setter Sarah Blasier has Marquette off to a 3-0 start. Taylor Louis has been her main target, as the right side/outside has 59 kills to lead the team. The Hurricanes are also off to a 3-0 start after getting past Kansas State in five games. The trio of Olga Strantzali, Kelsie Groot and Taylor Scott were strong for Miami during the opening weekend and should be the main attractions against Marquette once more. Marquette in 5.

No. 20 North Carolina v No. 31 Minnesota – A lot from above applies to this match. Should Minnesota defeat Louisville on Friday, the chance to down the Tar Heels next and pick themselves up that way would be huge. If either side is coming off a loss Friday, they’ll be desperate in this match and sure to play with lots of emotion and energy. If both are coming off victories, it’ll be much of the same. Gophers will find their footing. Minnesota in 5.

No. 26 Michigan at No. 44 Ohio – Ohio showed how dangerous it can be by taking down Kentucky earlier this week and will now set its sights on Michigan. The Wolverines went 3-0 last weekend, with sophomore outside Caroline Knop leading the way with 28 kills on 73 swings. She’s one of four players with at least 20 kills, as Katherine Mahlke has 26 and Carly Skjodt and Abby Cole 22 apiece. Skjodt was PrepVolleyball.com’s National Player of the Year last season for high school. Ohio has used the steady leadership of senior setter Abby Gilleland and the young arm of sophomore outside Jaime Kosiorek for its 3-1 start. Ohio’s only loss so far came to Purdue. That Ohio gets this one at home and just beat Kentucky, this is a big task for the Wolverines. Ohio in 4.

No. 33 Wichita State at No. 28 Texas A&M – Sophomore outside Kiara McGee has 57 attempts so far, but the Aggies also have five players behind her with at least 30 swings. That’s the type of balance Wichita State must deal with. Middles Shelby Sullivan and Jazzmin Babers are part of that for Texas A&M. Coming off the Minnesota victory last weekend, A&M uses that confidence to keep it going. Texas A&M in 4.

More:

No. 14 Kentucky v No. 40 Creighton – After falling to Ohio, Kentucky can’t take anyone lightly, especially not Creighton. But the Wildcats will be alright in this one and win in 4.

No. 19 Florida State at Ohio State – The Buckeyes could put the loss to Wyoming behind them in a major way by beating the Seminoles. FSU is already tested though and wins in 4.

Sunday

No. 35 New Mexico State at No. 28 Texas A&M – This is an interesting one depending on what happens prior to it taking place. It could be the type of match that caps a strong weekend for one of the teams. We’ll see. We like Texas A&M in 3.

More:

No. 19 Florida State at Ohio State – See above. It’ll be FSU’s day again, this time in 3.

UCLA at No. 13 Hawaii – The Bruins have a chance to make a statement but doing so in Hawaii might be too much. The Rainbow Wahine go on to win in 3.

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