Big Ten Notebook: Week of Nov. 4

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You just never know what you’re going to get from a Big Ten volleyball match. 

Just last week, we saw domination by a ranked team holding an unranked opponent to a .024 hitting percentage, a defensive test of endurance between two top-10 teams, and an unranked squad get its first win over a top-25 opponent for the first time in years.

Here’s what you missed from the Big Ten women’s volleyball matches over the past seven days, and when to tune in to see the biggest matches of this coming week.

Two Crucial Wins for Minnesota

The Gophers came out of last week’s matches still in possession of their undefeated conference record, but its meetings with Wisconsin and Michigan State were not without their challenges. 

Wisconsin, which hosted the matchup between the two top-five teams, took the first set 25-16, holding the the Gophers to a .075 hitting percentage, but Minnesota quickly rebounded and won the next three sets, out-hitting Wisconsin in each and finishing the match with a 66-60 lead in kills. 

In the following match, Minnesota got its second win over Michigan State in nine days, but after sweeping the first meeting, it took the Gophers five sets to defeat the Spartans this time around. 

A streaky match with plenty of lead changes saw MSU win the first set, lose two in a row, and rally in the fourth to push the match to five. In the end, Minnesota held the lead in digs (80-59), kills (68-55), and hitting percentage (.273-.189), but Michigan State had the better serving (7-4) and blocking (14-13) performance. 

As the final few weeks of the season approach, the 20-2 (14-0 Big Ten) Gophers have just two matches remaining against ranked teams.

First Big Win For Nebraska in Five Weeks

Not since beating Illinois in four sets on September 29 had Nebraska defeated a ranked team. In the five weeks since, the Huskers lost to Minnesota twice, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. But on Friday night, playing at home in the Devaney Center, the Huskers scored a major five-set win over Penn State.

A strong defensive effort on both sides saw Penn State hit a season-low .114 but collect 95 digs and 11 blocks. For their part, the Huskers’ 104 digs marked the most in a match since 2004 and their 20 blocks were the most in a match since 2006.

With 8,434 fans packed into the Devaney Center, Friday’s match also marked Nebraska’s 250th consecutive regular-season sellout.

NCAA Committee Announces Top 10

On Sunday, the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee released a preliminary top-10 ranking, listing the teams according to the same criteria it uses come tournament time (per results through October 31).

Undefeated BYU and 22-1 Stanford ranked first and second, but five Big Ten teams made the cut: Minnesota (No. 3), Illinois (No. 4), Wisconsin (No. 5), Penn State (No. 8), and Nebraska (No. 9). 

Click here to see the complete list.

Rankings Roundup

Seven Big Ten teams appeared in this week’s AVCA Poll.

See the complete poll here.

Biggest Upsets

Both of this week’s biggest upsets involve Michigan. In the first, the then No. 14 Wolverines lost in four sets to unranked Indiana (25-19, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17), but four days later, they earned an upset of their own over then No. 5 Wisconsin.

In the Indiana match, Michigan played without right side Sydney Wetterstrom, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, and middle Cori Crocker, who has missed every match since September 30 with a lower leg injury. Setter Mackenzi Welsh returned to the lineup versus Indiana after missing the Wolverines’ previous match with Minnesota due to a concussion.

Indiana’s 13 blocks and 80 digs helped hold Michigan to a .135 hitting percentage. The loss is Michigan’s first of the season to an unranked opponent. Indiana, which was led by Breana Edwards with 16 kills and Deyshia Lofton with 11 kills, hitting .474, and six blocks, celebrated its first win over a ranked team since 2016.

“Michigan is missing one of their best kids and their setter is coming off an injury. They were battling. Michigan is a legit top 15 team and I don't think this was their best night,” Indiana head coach Steve Aird said. “That being said I think our young kids played really well. Specifically, I think Deyshia's numbers were great, Briana was exceptional down the stretch.”

Versus Wisconsin, Crocker returned to action for the first time in more than a month, subbing in partway through the first set with Michigan trailing Wisconsin 21-15. Although the Wolverines’ lost that first set, they went on to win the match (19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22) and earn their first victory over a top-five team since 2015.

Carly Skjodt, who had been relatively quiet since taking 71 swings against Wisconsin on October 26, led all players with 23 kills. 

Top Performer

Nebraska libero Kenzie Maloney contributed 23 kills in the Huskers’ incredible defensive performance versus Penn State on Friday and one particularly impressive save earned her an appearance in ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10. 

In the play, Penn State’s Kaitlyn Hord smashed a ball from behind the setter and Nebraska outside Mikaela Foecke got a hand on it, but the ball went soaring off toward the Huskers’ bench. Undeterred, Maloney sprinted off after it, crashed into the bench and sent the ball back into the court before toppling over the back of the chairs.

On the season, Maloney leads the Huskers with 371 digs, and her contributions have played a significant role in Nebraska posting the nation’s second lowest opponent hitting percentage, holding opposing teams to a .131 clip.

Biggest Upcoming Matches

Purdue @ Wisconsin | Friday, November 9, 8 PM CT

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With a 10-4 conference record, Purdue holds a very slight lead over 9-5 Wisconsin in the league standings. In the previous meeting between these two squads, Wisconsin got the sweep, and after being upset by Michigan last week, the Badgers should be fired up.

Penn State @ Illinois | Saturday, November 10, 7 PM CT

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This is the first and only meeting of the regular season between Penn State (10-4, T-3 in Big Ten standings) and Illinois (11-3, #2 in Big Ten standings). The two teams are very similar statistically with Illinois boasting the second-best hitting percentage in the Big Ten (.278) and Penn State ranking fourth in the same category (.256). Defensively, Illinois has posted a .163 opponent hitting percentage to Penn State’s .160. 

Nebraska @ Michigan | Saturday, November 10, 7 PM ET

Michigan stumbled last week versus Indiana but came up big against Wisconsin. Nebraska, too, scored a massive victory last week over Penn State. Which teams’ momentum will prove to be stronger in this Friday night matchup in Ann Arbor? 

Purdue @ Minnesota | Saturday, November 10, 8 PM CT

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Minnesota has not lost a conference match, but it has not yet faced Purdue. The Boilermakers boast strong serving, solid defense and blocking, and plenty of offensive weapons, but even that might not be enough to challenge the ultra-consistent Gophers.

Princeton Wins League Title For First Time Since 1998

EIVA Championship: Harvard vs. Princeton

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They didn’t go down as easily this time. In fact, it took No. 1 Princeton five sets to dispatch No. 3 Penn State in the EIVA championship match (28-26, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13). It was the third time this season the two teams had played each other, with Princeton winning both of the previous meetings in four sets. 

Princeton, Penn State To Meet In EIVA Title Match

With wins in Thursday night’s EIVA semifinals, Princeton and Penn State advanced to the conference championship match, to be played on Saturday night inside Princeton’s Dillon Gymnasium.

EIVA Honors Trio Of Hall Of Famers

Saturday, on the campus of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, the EIVA men’s volleyball conference will crown a new champion. 

EIVA Championships Preview

Princeton didn’t really need to beat Penn State in both teams’ final regular season match of the 2019 season. With a four-set victory over Saint Francis the night before, the Tigers had secured the EIVA regular season championship and hosting rights for the conference playoffs. 

CEV Women's Final Is Set For Imoco, Novara

In the 2018-19 CEV Champions League semifinals, Italy proved itself to be home of the best women’s professional volleyball in Europe. 

EIVA Notebook: Gimeno Shines For NJIT

A big week in EIVA men’s volleyball saw the four postseason contenders determined, and a new team rise to No. 2 in the standings.

EIVA Notebook: Princeton Digs In At No. 1

With only six teams advancing to the national postseason, winning your conference title is of the utmost importance for college men’s volleyball teams with NCAA Championship ambitions. 

Samantha Bricio Aims For The Top Of The World With Fenerbahce

Something about the way Samantha Bricio plays the game of volleyball catches a spectator’s eye. Perhaps it’s her graceful nonchalance on defense or her readiness to attack from anywhere on the court. It could just as easily be her practically un-passable hybrid jump serve or her understated but genuine celebrations. Of course, she’s also a pretty solid attacker who jumps high and swings fast. 

Bricio, Fenerbahce Among CEV Women's Final Four

The quarterfinals of the CEV Champions League made it pretty clear which regions serve as hubs for the best women’s professional volleyball in Europe. 

EIVA Notebook: Penn State Downs Reigning MIVA Champ

Only five of the EIVA’s eight teams competed last week and there were no conference matchups, so instead of our usual weekly notebook format, we’re going to break down the results for each of those five active teams and give you a preview of the top upcoming matches.