Nebraska has reached the halfway point of Big Ten play without a blemish, and the AVCA Coaches Poll voters rewarded the Huskers by moving them up three spots in the latest rankings.
Nebraska (16-3, 10-0 Big Ten) is sitting at No. 6 this week, the team’s highest ranking since the week three edition of the poll. The Huskers swept Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday then took down Purdue in four sets at the Devaney Center on Saturday. Nebraska also moved up two spots to No. 12 in the latest RPI rankings.
Nebraska’s continued success resulted in more weekly award recognition from the conference as well with a pair of honorees. Libero Lexi Rodriguez took home Freshman of the Week for the second time in the last three weeks and third time overall this season, and she also won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Rodriguez averaged 5.9 digs per set and chipped in nine assists last week. She tied her career-high with 24 digs in Nebraska’s four-set win against Purdue on Saturday.
Nicklin Hames also earned her second Big Ten Setter of the Week honor for in the last three weeks, splitting the award with Wisconsin’s Sydney Hilley. Hames averaged 12.4 assists and 4.0 digs per set while chipping in five aces, three kills and two blocks. She surpassed 4,000 career assists during the win over Purdue. She passed Greichaly Cepero on Nebraska’s career assists list and trails only Fiona Nepo and Kelly Hunter.
Up next for Nebraska is a showdown with No. 3 Wisconsin (17-1), which survived a five-set thriller with Penn State to hold its place. The Badgers are the only Big Ten team ranked ahead of Nebraska this week.
Ohio State (16-4) dropped three spots to No. 9 after losing to both Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road in four sets last week. The Golden Gophers (12-6) moved up one spot to No. 11 after splitting their matches with the Buckeyes and Penn State. Purdue (14-5) dropped five spots to No. 12 after losing to both Michigan State and Nebraska. Penn State (14-6) moved up one spot to No. 13 after sweeping Minnesota and falling to Wisconsin.
Illinois (14-7) is just outside the poll at No. 26 with 44 points. Michigan (12-7) is 30th with 14 points.
Texas (17-0) remained at the top of the poll, but No. 2 Louisville (20-0), led by former Husker Dani Busboom Kelly, earned three first-place votes by defeating No. 4 Pittsburgh (18-2) on Sunday afternoon. Texas had been the unanimous No. 1 the previous four weeks.
Stanford (12-5) held at No. 15, Utah (13-6) dropped one spot to No. 19 and Creighton (20-3) remained at No. 24.
First place in the conference standings will be on the line Wednesday night when the Huskers host the Badgers. Wisconsin is a game back of the Huskers at 9-1 in league play. Both teams have some separation from the rest of the pack as Penn State and Minnesota are both 7-3 while Ohio State, Purdue and Illinois are all 6-4.
In addition to the Badgers at home on Wednesday, the Huskers will head to Minneapolis on Saturday to face the Golden Gophers.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.