by Jen Armson-Dyer
There are several more important matches this weekend with conference title implications, read on to learn more and weigh in on which matches you’ll be following:
#1 Penn State (12-1) vs. #10 Minnesota (11-2)
With wins over then-No. 3 Nebraska and Iowa last week, Penn State slid into the top spot in the AVCA poll and takes to the road for the first time this league season, traveling to Wisconsin on Friday night before heading north to face the No. 10 ranked Golden Gophers Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. CT. Both teams are 2-0 in the Big Ten, as Minnesota defeated Illinois and Northwestern last weekend. Penn State leads the overall series 37-8, but the last two matches in Minneapolis have gone five, with each squad winning one. Ariel Scott leads the Nittany Lion offense with 3.71 kills per set (167 kills), Dominique Gonzalez tops the defense with 3.16 digs per set (142 digs) and Katie Slay heads the blocking list with 1.40 blocks per set (59 total blocks). For Minnesota, Big Ten Player of the Week Katherine Harms leads the squad with 4.44 kills per set (200 kills), Ashley Wittman leads the defense with 2.75 digs per set (121 digs) and Tori Dixon tops the blocking chart with 1.00 blocks per set (45 total blocks). Links to multimedia can be found here: http://www.gophersports.com/sports/w-volley/sched/minn-w-volley-sched.html
#3 USC (13-1), #4 UCLA (9-2) vs. #5 Washington (11-0)
USC and UCLA started last week beating up on each other, and now the two schools head north to face an undefeated Washington team in its biggest tests of the season. The Women of Troy and the Bruins face off on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. PT before Washington welcomes Southern California on Friday at 6:00 p.m. PT. Both matches will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks and will feature Gametracker. UCLA leads the series with Washington 42-19, with each team winning on its home floor last year, while USC leads the series with Washington 41-18, with the Women of Troy claiming both last year. Katie Fuller leads USC with 4.07 kills per set (171 kills) while Natalie Hagglund leads the defense with 4.13 digs per set (194 digs) and Alexis Olgard tops the blocking list with 26 total blocks (0.74 blocks per set). For UCLA, Tabi Love carries the offense with 3.93 kills per set (161 total kills), Bojana Todorovic leads the defense with 4.16 digs per set (154 digs) and Zoe Nightingale tops the blocking chart with 1.24 blocks per set (51 total blocks). For Washington, Krista Vansant leads the team with 3.84 kills per set (119 kills), Jenna Orlandini tops the defense with 3.39 digs per set (95 digs) and Amanda Gil heads the blocking chart with 1.39 blocks per set (43 total blocks).
#8 Hawai'i (10-2) vs. Long Beach State (7-6)
The Rainbow Wahine have two more tough conference tests this week and their first at home, hosting UC Irvine on Thursday before welcoming Long Beach State on Saturday. Hawaii is 3-0 in Big West play, but the Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton matches both went five. Prior to the season, Hawai'i was tabbed to win the league while Long Beach was picked second. The last meeting between the two teams was a five-set Hawai'i win last season at the Hawaiian Airlines Classic. For Hawai'i, Emily Hartong leads the squad with 4.13 kills per set (190 kills) while Alyssa Longo tops the defense with 3.39 digs per set (156 digs) and Kalei Adolpho heads the blocking leaders with 1.14 blocks per set (48 total blocks). For Long Beach State, Janisa Johnson leads the team with 2.96 kills per set (136 kills) while Tyler Jackson tops the defense with 3.93 digs per set (181 digs) and Chisom Okpala leads the block with 1.07 blocks per set (49 total blocks). The 49ers also have regained the services of middle hitter Alma Serna, who was injured in the first match of the season but returned last weekend and was named the Big West Player of the Week. Links to multimedia can be found here: http://hawaiiathletics.com/schedule.aspx?path=wvball&
#19 Iowa State (7-4) vs. Kansas (13-2)
The second conference match for both schools, Kansas hosts #19 Iowa State on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. CT. The Cyclones lead the all-time series between the two schools, 44-35, and claimed both contests last year, but Kansas owns a 17-14-1 advantage at home. This season, the Jayhawks are 8-0 at home while three of Iowa State’s four losses have come on the road. Mackenzie Bigbee leads Iowa State with 3.37 kills per set (145 kills) while Kristen Hahn tops the defense with 4.78 digs per set (215 digs) and Tenisha Matlock posts 0.77 blocks per set (34 total blocks). For Kansas, Caroline Jarmoc leads the way with 3.89 kills per set (206 kills) and 1.43 blocks per set (76 total blocks) while Brianne Riley leads the defense with 5.38 digs per set (285 digs). Links to video, audio and Gametracker can be found here: http://www.kuathletics.com/sports/w-volley/sched/kan-w-volley-sched.html
Wichita State (9-4) vs. Northern Iowa (11-5)
A key match-up in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State travels to Northern Iowa on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CT. The Panthers lead the all-time series with the Shockers 42-11-1, including three wins last season. Amy Braun leads Northern Iowa with 3.02 kills per set (169 kills) while Candice Burke posts 4.77 digs per set (267 digs) and Shelby Kintzel records 1,29 blocks per set (72 total blocks). For Wichita State, Emily Adney leads the way with 3.16 kills per set (161 kills) as Jackie Church tops the defense with 4.43 digs per set (226 digs) and Ashley Andrade heads the blocking list with 0.92 blocks per set (47 total blocks). Links to multimedia can be found here: http://www.unipanthers.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=26200&SPID=90713&SPSID=627864
We know there are many more important matches this week – which ones will you be following?