FloVolleyball's Weekly Notebook: UT Takes Out #1 Baylor

This week, No. 1 went down and a couple of other top-ranked teams came close to major upset. Elsewhere in the country, the results have been too close and too jumbled to really know who reigns supreme. 

Here are the top storylines.

Still No. 1, but not for long...

Volleyball fans from around the country had the match between Baylor and Texas on Oct. 23 circled on their calendar for many weeks. The match sold out way back on Oct. 9, and Wednesday night, a line of fans stretched down the steps of Gregory Gymnasium two hours before the match. 

Baylor came into the match ranked No. 1 and undefeated, with wins over Wisconsin and Marquette under its belt. But Texas, at No. 4 and 12-2, was hardly an underdog, especially considering Baylor had never won a road match over the Longhorns. 

And with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-10, 25-19) decision in Texas’ favor, Baylor’s win streak came to an end and Texas held onto its undefeated home record versus the Bears. 

The Longhorns were dominant, holding Baylor to a season-low .084 hitting percentage. Baylor’s star outside hitter Yossiana Pressley, a potential player of the year candidate, led the match with 18 kills, but strong Texas blocking and back-court defense forced her to make 11 errors. Other than Pressley, Baylor couldn’t seem to buy a kill. Setter Hannah Lockin ranked second on the team with four kills, while no other Bears’ attacker had more than three. 

Across the net, sophomore middle Brionne Butler looked back to her normal self after missing the start of the season with an injury, although she said she’s still very limited in practice. She led the Longhorns with 12 kills and eight blocks. Outside hitter Logan Eggleston led an impressive serving effort for Texas with five aces to go with five kills.

The Big Ten Is Thick, Once Again

In Monday’s new AVCA poll, the Big Ten has a monopoly on the middle of the top 10. Nebraska (15-2, 7-1) sits at No. 5, Wisconsin (12-4, 8-0) at No. 6, Minnesota (13-3, 7-1) at No. 7, and Penn State (15-3, 8-1) at No. 8.

Already, the head-to-head results have made it difficult to create a true hierarchy. Wisconsin, undefeated in conference play, has topped the other three top-10 teams in the league and is the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team in the latest RPI at No. 3, but preseason losses are keeping the Badgers from earning the Big Ten’s top national ranking. 

Wisconsin will have the pleasure of playing the other three a second time before the end of the season—Minnesota on Nov. 14, Nebraska on Nov. 24, and Penn State on Nov. 29. But none of the others have played each other and will only play one this season. 

Here’s the schedule of those matches, which will all be must-see TV for volleyball fans:

Nebraska vs. Penn State, Nov. 2

Nebraska vs. Minnesota, Nov. 22

Penn State vs. Minnesota, Nov. 30

And remember, these four are by no means the only good teams in the Big Ten. Illinois (No. 17) and Purdue (No. 20) are also in the top 25 and perfectly capable of upsetting a top-10 squad. 

Just another season in the Big Ten.

Close Calls In The Pac-12

Speaking of tough conferences, the top two teams in the Pac-12, Stanford (13-3, 7-1) and Cal (17-1, 7-1), both came within points of big losses last week. 

No. 15 Cal went up 2-0 over Colorado, which is winless in the Pac-12, but the Buffs pushed the match to five (25-23, 25-22, 24-26, 25-27, 16-14), with each of the sets being decided by the smallest of margins. In fact, according to the Colorado athletic department, it was the closest match in Buffs volleyball program history with just 11 total points separating the two teams across the five sets.

Colorado’s 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Justine Spann had a career night, with a personal best 27 kills hitting .317. Setter Jenna Ewert also set a new career-high with 62 assists to go with 15 digs and five kills. On the Cal side, however, junior Mima Mirkovic and senior Maddie Haynes each had 19 kills, with Mirkovic, who also had 20 digs, subsequently being named the national player of the week.

No. 18 Utah got out to a 2-1 lead over Stanford on Sunday and had match point 14-12 in the fifth, but the reigning national champ managed to defend its higher ranking with a five-set win (25-17, 20-25, 24-26, 25-18, 17-15). 

Stanford’s star outside hitter Kathryn Plummer remains out with injury, not having appeared in a match since Sept. 29. In her absence, Audriana Fitzmorris continued to step up, leading the match versus Utah with 18 kills, a season-high to go with a season-best eight blocks. Meghan McClure and Kendall Kipp, now the Cardinal’s starting outsides, each contributed 14 kills, but their efficiencies couldn’t have been more different. McClure made just one error on 39 attempts to hit .333, while the freshman Kipp made 11 errors on 47 swings for a .064 hitting percentage. 

Utah’s Dani Drews led all players with 21 kills. Setter Saige Ka'aha'aina-Torres had a career-high 57 assists—her third straight 50-assist match for the Utes.

Upcoming NCAA Volleyball Matches Live on FloVolleyball:

Friday, Oct. 25

Towson vs. Northeastern 7 PM ET

No. 6 Wisconsin vs. Michigan State 7 PM ET

Iowa vs. No. 20 Purdue 8 PM ET

Saturday, Oct. 26

Iowa vs. Indiana 8 PM ET

Penn State vs. Maryland 7 PM ET

Ohio State vs. Illinois 8 PM ET

Sunday, Oct. 27

Towson vs. Hofstra 1 PM ET

Northwestern vs. Rutgers 1 PM ET

Wisconsin vs. Michigan 1 PM ET

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