This week’s AVCA Coaches poll saw no change at the top and very little movement at all for the six Big Ten teams in the top 25.
Undefeated Baylor received 61 of 64 first-place votes to remain atop the poll. Stanford (11-3) is No. 2 with two first-place votes and No. 3 Pittsburgh (17-1) received the last first-place vote. At 11-2, Texas is No. 4.
The bottom half of the top eight comes from the Big Ten. Behind Nebraska ta No. 5 is Wisconsin, who jumped from No. 7 to No. 6 after sweeping Minnesota on Sunday. The Badgers are in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 6-0 (including a win over Nebraska), but a 4-4 nonconference record seems to be holding them down in the polls. The Golden Gophers (11-3, 5-1) dropped to No. 7. Penn State (12-3, 5-1) held at No. 8.
Illinois (9-6, 4-2) remained at No. 17 after losing to Minnesota in four and beating Indiana in three. Purdue, Nebraska’s next opponent, went 2-0 and held at No. 20. Michigan (12-4, 5-1) is still among other teams receiving votes, dropping from 39 points to 26 points, though other teams dropped below them leaving Michigan as the third team out.
Through three weeks of Big Ten play, Nebraska is second in hitting percentage (.293), first in opponent hitting percentage (.146), second in assists (13.19 per set), second in blocks (2.79 per set) fourth in kills (14.10 per set), eighth in digs (14.10 digs per set) and 12th in aces (0.95 per set). The Huskers have been atop the Big Ten in opponent hitting percentage most of the season.
“I think it’s just the culture of Nebraska volleyball,” junior outside hitter Lexi Sun said after Nebraska held Michigan to .019 hitting on Sunday. “The belief and the determination to hold ourselves to a high standard and get those touches and be on assignment and be aggressive on defense is super big and I think just having that offensive mentality on defense is what it is.”
On offense, however, the Huskers have made big strides. Nebraska hit .235 in nonconference play as inconsistency plagued the team in all phases of attacking. Since Big Ten play began, Nebraska has hit better than .250 in five of its six matches, raising the team’s hitting percentage to .256 on the season.
Outside of Stanford, the only one of Nebraska’s nonconference opponents in the top 25 is in-state foe Creighton, who rose up to No. 11 after beating Marquette (then No. 10, now No. 12) in Milwaukee. The Huskers beat the Jays in four sets in the season-opens but Creighton has gone 13-2 since and has won 29 straight Big East matches dating back to the 2017 season.
San Diego, who Nebraska beat in five sets in the SDSU/USD Challenge in week two, is the first team out of the top 25 with 74 points (five less than No. 25 Missouri). The Toreros are 14-4 overall and have only lost once since playing Nebraska.
Nebraska will complete its four-match home stand on Wednesday with its Pink Night against Purdue. The Boilermakers are 11-4 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play with wins over Northwestern (twice) and Indiana and losses to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
Purdue has been pretty strong defensively most of the season (.176 opponent hitting percentage on the season, fourth in the conference) but has allowed opponents to hit .208 in league play (eighth). Sophomore outside hitter Grace Cleveland is leading the Purdue attack with 3.76 kills per set in league play.
Nebraska will head to Maryland (10-8, 2-4) this weekend to take on the Terrapins on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Terps have struggled overall in Big Ten play but managed to take down Michigan State in five sets at home one week after losing to the Spartans in East Lansing in a sweep. Maryland also pushed Penn State to five sets.
Maryland has thrown up a strong block through six Big Ten matches, averaging 2.73 per set, third behind only Minnesota and Nebraska. Sophomore middle blocker Katie Meyers is averaging 2.2 kills per set on .422 hitting and 1.39 blocks per set.
First serve at the Devaney Center on Wednesday is set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU. Saturday’s match will be available on BTN+ and the Husker Sports Network.
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.