This week is an odd one in college volleyball — there is only one ranked matchup on the schedule between No. 19 Washington and No. 16 Oregon. I know, right? Typically I pick from a surplus of choices each week. So, although we won’t have any high-profile matchups or top-10 showdowns to keep an eye out for, we can still expect some great volleyball.
I mean hey, I was live-blogging the Purdue-Nebraska match a few weeks ago without giving any attention to Texas’ unranked matchup when Iowa State stunned the top-ranked Longhorns. The playing field has a lot of parity this season. So let’s take a look and break down three matchups I will keep my eye on this week:
No. 19 Washington vs. No. 16 Oregon| 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 4 (Oregon live stream)
In case you may have missed it, the DI women’s volleyball committee released its second and last top-10 reveal of the season. The top 10 gives us a glimpse into how the committee views the national landscape ahead of selections come tournament time. One of the biggest points of discussion was the fact that Oregon made it into the top 10 again at No. 10, despite a No. 16 AVCA ranking and just one top-10 win over Stanford. This is a team the committee sees in a favorable light, and it can stay that way by continuing to win games.
The Ducks are on a five-game winning streak following three consecutive losses. One of those losses, however, was a five-set loss to Washington. The match was so close that Oregon actually fought off three match points before Washington finally sealed the deal. A rematch should make for an incredible game. Plus, the Huskies are coming off of a heartbreaking five-set loss to Stanford, the top team in the Pac-12 and a top-10 national team. This will be a hot Washington team looking for a big statement win. Oregon and Washington are neck and neck in the Pac-12 standings with Washington behind by one game, and both will be fighting for a favorable seeding come selections.
As far as players to watch out for, Brooke Nuneviller is all over the court for the Ducks, but freshman Mimi Colyer led the Ducks in the last matchup against Washington with 25 kills, followed by Nuneviller with 20. The Huskies were led by Claire Hoffman who posted 20 kills in the win.
Northwestern vs. No. 6 Ohio State | 8 p.m. ET Friday, Nov. 4 on B1G+
Northwestern vs. No. 4 Nebraska | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Nov. 6 on B1G+
Northwestern has huge matchups this week against Ohio State on Friday and Nebraska on Sunday. The Wildcats have two huge upsets on the year over then-No. 7 Minnesota and then-No. 12 Purdue. That is two top-15 wins for this program. They do have seven losses — some to top-caliber teams and some to unranked Big Ten Teams. But, the big wins show what they are capable of. They have already faced both Ohio State and Nebraska — they fell to the Buckeyes in four and they were swept by Nebraska. But, both teams will desperately need a win here. The Huskers just fell to Wisconsin last week and will look to win out the week, and the Buckeyes have five losses already on the season and still multiple top-10 matchups to go, so they can’t afford to be upset.
Temi Thomas-Ailara is the player to watch for NU — she averages over 4.5 points per set for the Wildcats.
No. 14 Purdue vs. Michigan | 2 p.m. ET Sunday, Nov. 6 on B1G+
Lastly, I have Michigan taking on a top-15 team in Purdue. The Wolverines were receiving votes in the latest AVCA poll, and they too have had a few big wins this season. They did beat Northwestern on Oct. 1 in four sets, and they swept then-No. 9 Penn State. They play both Purdue and Minnesota this week, which both have the potential to be great matchups, but I wanted to highlight the Purdue game. The Boilermakers have fallen off in the Big Ten after hot start. Before their win over Indiana, they lost four in a row to Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maryland. Both Maryland and Northwestern were unranked losses for Purdue. The four losses caused them to drop out of the top 10, and I might even argue they should have fallen further than they currently are in the AVCA poll.
The Boilermakers have a lot to prove in this last month of the regular season before selections, and Michigan has a chance for another big win and upset this season. These matches are all so important as we near closer to selections. The committee will always take into account the last 10 matchups, and each team has only eight or so games left on the schedule. This stuff really matters.
Purdue is led by freshman standout, Eva Hudson, who has made a name for herself nationally. They win big games when Hudson has big games, but teams have found ways to slow her down. Paige Jones and Jess Mruzik lead the Wolverines offensively, and watch out for Jess Robinson as well who leads in the Big Ten in hitting efficiency.