By Jen Armson- Dyer
SoCal Ousts NorCal
Both No. 7 UCLA and No. 12 Southern California picked up wins over No. 1 California and No. 2 Stanford over the weekend. On Friday night, the Women of Troy handed the Golden Bears their first loss of the season in three sets (25-23, 25-20, 25-22), and the contest also marked USC’s first win over a top-ranked opponent since 2004. Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter led the way with 16 kills and four blocks, including two solo efforts. The following night, Southern California again picked a sweep, ousting the Cardinal in three deuce games, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23. The win was the first time that USC had swept Stanford since the 2006 season (at Stanford), and the last time that the Women of Troy swept the Cardinal at home was the 2003 national championship season. Jupiter again led USC with 15 kills and also added in 11 digs while for the weekend, sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund picked up 42 digs through six sets. “I’m pretty happy we competed like that,” said USC head coach Mick Haley after the Stanford match. “Sometimes winning a little bit ugly is ok. I thought we kept our composure and confidence. I felt pretty good that we could play that close and still come out on top. It was fun to watch us compete through the game. I think we’re growing up pretty good. We had way too many errors and I could tell you about all of the things we want to do better, but you still have to come back to winning 3-0.”
For UCLA, its weekend began with Stanford, as the Bruins outlasted the Cardinal in five sets (25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 27-29, 15-9) in front of a standing-room only crowd of 2,176 at the John Wooden Center. Junior outside hitter Rachael Kidder had a career-high 30 kills in the win, the first time since the 2001 season that a Bruin player has reached that mark. Sophomore outside hitter Kelly Reeves also added in a double-double with personal best marks of 17 kills and 19 digs. The following night, Reeves led the way against the Golden Bears with 14 kills and 14 digs as UCLA knocked off Cal in four sets (25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 25-15). For the weekend, Bruin senior libero Lainey Gera posted 39 digs. “The atmosphere was really awesome,” said Reeves after the Cal match. “Big credit to the crowd who came out here and helped us win these matches. Both Stanford and Cal are really great teams, this weekend just went our way.”
Illinois Survives Minnesota
In its Big Ten opener, the third-ranked Fighting Illini outlasted the ninth-ranked Golden Gophers in front of 3,503 fans at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. Senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch led the way with 23 kills and 14 digs as senior outside hitter Colleen Ward picked up 16 kills and 12 digs. Junior middle hitter Erin Johnson was a wall at the net, assisting on 10 of Illinois’ 16.0 team blocks, four of which game in the fifth set. Johnson also contributed 11 kills on .435 hitting. "Our defense and block did a great job tonight," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "Our middles made the difference and Erin Johnson came up huge in the fifth set. We didn't play all that well but found a way to win. We looked pretty comfortable in a fifth set, and anytime you can get a Big Ten win on the road it is a big deal."
Tennessee Takes Down Florida
In front of 2,031 fans at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., the Lady Vols captured a five-set, extra-points thriller (25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 19-25, 18-16) over the sixth-ranked Gators live on ESPNU. With the win, Tennessee is off to a 4-0 start in SEC play for the first time since 2004. Four Lady Vol players reached double-digit kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Carly Sahagian with 19 on .429 hitting (19-4-35), sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Robinson and junior middle and outside hitter Leslie Cikra with 17 apiece, and junior middle hitter DeeDee Harrison with 12 on .409 hitting (12-3-22), as Robinson also led the squad with 15 digs. As a team, Tennessee recorded 71 kills to Florida’s 61 and also in aces (7-4), but the Gators led in hitting percentage (.295-.239), digs (66-62) and blocks (14.0-7.5). "This was as high of a level match as you are going to see in college volleyball," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "This was two great, athletic, well coached teams battling it out. Unfortunately, there had to be a loser. Fortunately, I'm glad it wasn't us. Coming down to Florida, it is one of the hardest places to win a match. I couldn't be prouder of every single player on this team."
Purdue Sweeps Michigan, Remains Undefeated
The 13th-ranked Boilermakers swept both Michigan and Michigan State to remain one of only two undefeated teams in the top 25 – with the other being league foe and third-ranked Illinois. Against the 18th-ranked Wolverines, Purdue claimed two close games before running away with the third (26-24, 26-24, 25-15). No players from either team reached double-digit kills, but the Boilermakers used a balanced attack in the win, as junior outside hitter Ariel Turner and senior middle hitter Tiffany Fisher both had nine kills and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Catherine Rebarchak and freshman outside hitter Valerie Nichol each posted eight kills. Purdue outblocked Michigan, 8.0 to 4.0, led by freshman middle hitter Kierra Jones with four. “It was a great team effort and we had a lot of people who played very very well,” said Boilermaker head coach Dave Shondell. “To sweep a team like Michigan, who I have a ton of respect for, we had to play well to do that. I thought squeezing out those two games 26-24 showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage, which is what you want to see from your team early in the year.”
San Francisco Topples San Diego
In its West Coast Conference opener, the Dons stunned the 16th-ranked and defending league champion Toreros in three sets (25-18, 25-21, 25-20). It was the first win against a top-25 program for San Francisco since the 2009 season. Freshman opposite Vendula Strakova led the Dons with 13 kills on .323 hitting as sophomore middle hitter Malina Terrell posted 11 kills on .444 hitting. Sophomore setter Joan Caloiaro connected on seven of her errorless 10 swings to hit .700 for the match, and also dish out 34 assists and collect 10 digs. Freshman libero Rebecca Kopilovitch led the squad with a match-high 17 digs. “We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy,” said USF head coach Gilad Doron. “We had some great runs and good, timely kills from different players. I thought Malina played probably her best game. We knew she was going to have the matchup we wanted and she just took it from there and the rest followed.” San Francisco also picked up another conference win on Saturday as it took down Saint Mary’s in four sets (28-26, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21) for the first win against the Gaels since 2008.
- UC Santa Barbara knocked off No. 21 Long Beach State in five sets (19-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11) for the first win in Long Beach, Calif., for the program since the 2004 season. Sophomore outside hitter Kara Sherrard led five Gaucho players in double-digit kills with 17 and also led the squad with 18 digs.
- In front of a season-high 3,105 fans at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo., Missouri came away with a close four set win over Texas A&M, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23. Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning led the Tigers with a match- and career-high 21 kills as senior libero Priscilla Armendariz racked up a personal-best 25 digs, also becoming the 11th player in school history to surpass 1,000 career digs.
- Eastern Michigan claimed a four set victory over Northern Illinois (28-26, 26-28, 25-15, 25-20) to improve to 13-3. Junior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello led the Eagles with 18 kills and 13 digs as senior libero Haley Stein posted a season-high 34 digs in the match.
- Playing in its first-ever national television match, Villanova topped Notre Dame in four games (25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 25-19) at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind. Senior middle hitter Maggie Mergen led the Wildcats with 13 kills as senior libero Kim Maroon paced the defense with 29 digs. Three Villanova players recorded six blocks in the match, including Mergen, sophomore middle hitter Allison Williams and junior outside hitter Krista Andersen.