FloVolleyball's Weekly Notebook: Who's the top team in the SEC?

From a huge upcoming match in the Big 12 to a team on fire in the Big Ten, there’s a lot brewing in the world of women’s college volleyball. 

Keep reading to find out the top storylines from the last seven days and what to watch for in the week to come. 

Let’s Talk About Wisconsin...Again

It was really just a quirk of the schedule that Wisconsin played three top-10 ranked opponents in the span of two weeks. (Also, such is life in the Big Ten.) But the face that the Badgers breezed through that section of their schedule 3-0 over those ranked opponents dropping just one set along the way is no quirk. 

If you regularly read this column, you already know that Wisconsin beat Penn State, back on Oct. 2. Then it swept Nebraska on Oct. 5. And on Sunday, Oct. 13, the Badgers kept rolling beating Minnesota in straight sets (25-18, 25-14, 25-20). 

Middle blocker Dana Rettke was subsequently named the Big Ten Player of the Week after averaging 4.2 kills per set and hitting .396 in the Badgers’ matches last week against Minnesota and Northwestern.

In this week’s top 25, Wisconsin clocked in at No. 6, moving up just one spot from last week. Although the Badgers are on a six-match win streak, loss to Washington (twice), Marquette, and Baylor are keeping the them from moving even further up the rankings.

Creighton’s On Top In The Big East

The Big East has had two teams ranked in the top 25 for the majority of the season. And last week, those two teams, Creighton and Marquette, lined up across the net from each other, and the resulting match did not disappoint. 

It took five hard-fought sets (25-21, 25-23, 27-29, 29-31, 15-8) for Creighton to win, maintain its undefeated conference record, and take over the top spot in the Big East standings. The Bluejays redshirt freshman outside hitter Keeley Davis set a new career high with 31 kills, just one shy of a new school record.

The Jays also got career nights out of libero Brittany Witt (35 digs), middle Naomi Hickman (11 blocks), and setter Madelyn Cole (63 assists).

Creighton won sets one and two and even had match point in the third, but Marquette managed to push a fourth set, and then a fifth.

“After thinking we won it in game three, we had to get our composure back,” Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “I thought we battled. Game four was a battle, and then we came out and played a clean game five.”

Talk about a clean game five: the Bluejays had 12 kills in 22 swings, making zero errors, and they allowed Marquette to score just five kills, hitting .087.

Who’s the top team in the SEC? 

Well, if you go simply by the standings, the answer to that question is Ole Miss. The Rebels are 5-0 in conference 13-3 overall, a record which includes an upset of then No. 22 Missouri. However, Ole Miss’ schedule has not yet pitted it against No. 13 Florida, No. 16 Kentucky, or Georgia, the other top teams in the conference. 

Kentucky and Florida faced off on Sunday, Oct. 6, and the Wildcats won in five, giving Kentucky a nice boost in last week’s AVCA poll. But then, in a Friday matchup with Georgia, Kentucky went down in five, making the race for the top spot in the SEC that much more interesting. 

Here’s how the current standings look:

1. Ole Miss (13-3, 5-0)

T2. Florida (14-3, 5-1)

T2. Georgia (13-4, 5-1)

T2. Kentucky (12-5, 5-1)

5. Alabama (11-5, 3-2)

T6. Texas A&M (11-5, 3-3)

T6. LSU (9-7, 3-3)

8. Missouri (10-4, 2-2)

... and then all the rest.

Notice Missouri, which is currently ranked No. 22 nationally, all the way down at No. 8 in the standings with a 2-2 record. A&M, tied for sixth place, has three losses but all three of those were in five sets. 

There’s lots of potential for major changes in these standings as the year goes on. With that in mind, here are some SEC matches to mark on your calendar: 

Texas A&M at Ole Miss, Oct. 20

Ole Miss at Georgia, Oct. 23

Kentucky at Ole Miss, Oct. 27

Georgia at Texas A&M, Oct. 27

Florida at Missouri, Oct. 30

Kentucky at Georgia, Nov. 8

Missouri at Georgia, Nov. 10

Kentucky at Florida, Nov. 17 

Missouri at Kentucky, Nov. 20

Florida at Georgia, Nov. 24

THE Match To Watch Next Week

Sure, there’s plenty of good matches coming up this weekend—San Diego/BYU, Penn State/Michigan, and Wisconsin/Illinois on Friday; Cal Poly/UC Santa Barbara on Saturday; Houston/Cincinnati, Texas A&M/Ole Miss, and Utah/Stanford on Sunday—but far and away the most highly anticipated match of the next seven days is Baylor at Texas on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Baylor remains the only undefeated team in the country, and with wins over current top-25 teams Creighton, Wisconsin, Marquette, Missouri, and Hawaii the Bears have been No. 1 in the rankings for the past three weeks. 

In the Big 12, Texas might just be the only team with a chance to dethrone Baylor. The Longhorns have a pretty decent record themselves, boasting 11 wins, including over Minnesota and BYU, and just two losses, to Stanford and Rice, both in five sets.

A peep at the Big 12 statistic helps paint a picture of just how competitive Wednesday’s match looks to be. So far in the season, Texas is hitting .326 to Baylor’s .314. Baylor averages 13.79 assists per set, while Texas comes in at 13.47. In kills per set, Baylor has a slight advantage (14.81 to 14.28). 

Defensively, Baylor’s numbers are higher. The Bears average 2.78 blocks per set and 14.26 digs per set, holding their opponents to a .146 hitting percentage, compared to Texas’ 2.22 blocks per set, 13.28 digs per set, and .213 opponent hitting percentage. The Longhorns score more frequently from behind the service line, however, with 1.47 aces per set, and Baylor averaging 1.04 aces per set.

Then there’s the star power component. Baylor’s got Yossiana Pressley, who ranks second in the country with 5.86 kills per set, reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week freshman middle blocker Kara McGhee, and crafty setter Hannah Lockin. On the Texas side, dynamic and smart senior outside Micaya White leads a squad that also includes three physical middles in Brionne Butler (back in action after missing much of the early portion of the season), Asjia O’Neal, and Molly Phillips, and more firepower on the pins with Skylar Fields and Logan Eggleston.

Go ahead and set a calendar reminder for this one. First serve is at 7 PM CT, and the match with air on the Longhorn Network.

Upcoming NCAA Volleyball Matches Live on FloVolleyball

Friday, Oct. 18, 2019

Rutgers vs. Michigan State 7 PM ET

Northwestern vs. No. 7 Minnesota 8 PM ET

No. 8 Penn State vs. Michigan 7 PM ET

Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019

No. 20 Purdue vs. Ohio State 7 PM ET

Northwestern vs. No. 6 Wisconsin 8 PM ET

Rutgers vs. Michigan 7 PM ET

No. 5 Nebraska vs. Maryland 7 PM ET

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019

Northeastern vs. Delaware 1 PM ET

Charleston vs. Towson 1 PM ET

Indiana vs. Iowa 4 PM ET

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