After a week of favorites mostly holding serve, the top half of the latest AVCA Coaches Poll remained largely unchanged.
The only change in the top 12 was Ohio State and Purdue switching spots after the Buckeyes took down the Boilermakers in four sets in Columbus. Ohio State (16-2) is now at No. 6 while Purdue (14-3) is at No. 7.
No. 3 Wisconsin (15-1) and No. 12 Minnesota (11-5) held their spots. Penn State (13-5) moved up one spot to No. 14. Illinois (12-7) is second among others receiving votes with 21 points while Michigan is fourth with 13 points.
Louisville (16-0) is still No. 2. Stanford (11-5) moved up three spots to No. 15 while Utah (12-5) fell two spots to No. 17 after the Cardinal beat the Utes last week. Creighton (18-3) dropped five spots to No. 24 after losing to UConn.
Texas remains atop the poll and received all 64 first-place votes once again after improving to 15-0.
Nebraska may only be the fourth-highest-ranked Big Ten team in the poll, but the Huskers are No. 1 in the conference standings at 8-0, one game ahead of Wisconsin at 7-1. Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota are all tied for third at 6-2.
Factoring in the nonconference, Wisconsin is leading the Big Ten in both hitting (.319) and opponent hitting (.138). Nebraska is narrowly behind Wisconsin defensively (second at .143), but the Huskers are only fifth offensively at .246.
However, in Big Ten matches, the Huskers and Badgers are on their own tier at the top. Nebraska is leading the Big Ten in hitting at .297 and are second in opponent hitting at .141. Wisconsin is second in hitting (.287) and first in opponent hitting (.136).
“I just feel like, Coach has kind of been talking about too, I just feel like we’re getting better every week, and I feel like every time we come in the gym, there’s improvement in some area,” junior outside hitter Madi Kubik said after the Illinois match. “Everyone comes in with a focus and intention that is really exciting because I think it’s going to make us really, really good. I don’t know, I feel like we’re kind of just flowing. Not sure if there was a dramatic shift; we were practicing at a really high level even when we were losing, so I don’t know.”
Kubik has made a huge leap from the nonconference and is performing at a Big Ten Player of the Year level. She earned co-conference player of the week honors last week and stepped her game up even more after that, totaling 35 kills on nearly .400 hitting in Nebraska’s wins over Indiana and Illinois.
Kubik doesn’t have to share the honor this week as she is sole winner of the Big Ten Player fo the Week award. She put up 16 kills on .308 hitting against Indiana then followed that up with 19 kills on .457 hitting. Overall, she averaged 5.83 kills per set on .378 hitting last week and has averaged a conference-leading 4.62 kills per set on .294 hitting during Nebraska’s eight-match winning streak.
“We’re establishing a level of trust, that makes us feel, I don’t know, I feel invincible,” Kubik said. “There’s so much trust in each other that it’s like we know we have each other’s backs and we’ll be there every time and there’s so much freedom in that.”
This week, Nebraska will face its first top-10 opponent since the nonconference finale against Louisville, a match the Huskers lost in three on their own floor. Purdue will visit Lincoln on Saturday for am 8 p.m. showdown. But first, the Huskers will head to Iowa City on Wednesday for their second meeting with Iowa (2-16, 0-8). Nebraska swept the Hawkeyes in Lincoln on Sept. 25.
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.