The Big Ten had a tough week as top-10 teams Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois all lost matches. To make things worse, every Big Ten team lost at least one match except for powerhouses Nebraska and Penn State along with Rutgers.
1. Penn State
The No. 4 Nittany Lions are on fire so far this season and have yet to drop a set. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in offensive hitting percentage and defensive hitting percentage by a large margin. Penn State’s defense has given up a .086 hitting percentage and the offense has a .432 hitting percentage.
The Nittany Lions’ schedule has been lackluster so far but they are about to be tested with matches against in-state rival No. 6 Pitt and play No. 1 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon this upcoming week.
The No. 2 Huskers are the only other undefeated team left in the Big Ten. Unlike Penn State, the Huskers have not dominated all their matches and had to come from behind to beat San Diego in five sets. The Nebraska defense remains great but the offense has struggled to stay consistent. Junior outside hitter Lexi Sun leads Nebraska with 3.81 kills per set, but the offense is 12th in the Big Ten in hitting percentage.
The Huskers play the Ameritas Players Challenge at home this weekend against High Point University, Denver University and Loyola Marymount.
No. 9 Wisconsin lost its first ever match against in-state rival Marquette and dropped the next match against Baylor on consecutive days. Both matches were competitive and resulted in Baylor and Marquette jumping into the top-10. The Badgers blew a 2-0 lead against Marquette but junior star Dana Rettke continued her potential All-American campaign with 22 kills in the match.
Wisconsin plays in the Clemson Invitational this weekend against Clemson and South Carolina.
The No. 8 Golden Gophers began the week by getting swept by No. 3 Texas in Austin. They then won a home match against No. 11 Florida by sweep. Surprisingly, the Gophers are 2-2 this season as they were swept by No. 25 Florida State earlier this year. Minnesota leads the conference in kills per set which is due to the dominant play of the outside hitter duo of senior Alexis Hart and junior Stephanie Samedy.
Samedy averages almost five kills per set while Hart averages just over 3.5 kills per set. The Gophers next stop is the Pac 12/Big Ten challenge in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania where they will play No. 1 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon.
After two big wins against Tennessee, the Fighting Illini responded with a disappointing showing in the Pac 12/Big Ten challenge in Iowa City. Illinois lost 3-2 to No. 12 Washington on Friday and was swept by No. 19 Colorado. Illinois dropped to No. 14 but senior Jacqueline Quade has been the best outside hitter in the Big Ten so far. Quade has 76.5 points and leads the Big Ten with over five kills per set.
The Illini travel to the Redbird Challenge this weekend and play Illinois State, UCF and No. 7 Marquette.
The No. 24 Wolverines had a chance to impress last week. Instead, they were swept by No. 21 Missouri and lost to a below .500 Dayton the day after. Michigan’s week was not all bad as it swept Northern Illinois and the Wolverines’ offense continued to impress with a .281 hitting percentage.
Next up for the Wolverines are home matches against Navy and Eastern Michigan this weekend.
7. Michigan State
The Spartans have been a solid offensive and defensive team so far this season and taken a big step forward compared to last season. Michigan State’s only loss of the season came last Saturday against Tennessee in five sets. The Spartans were up 2-1 against Tennessee before losing the last two sets, but the loss proved they will be a tough out in conference play.
Michigan State has home matches against North Carolina and Oakland this week.
Purdue has played only three matches this season but remain ranked at No. 23. Despite the ranking, the Boilermakers lost to Notre Dame in five sets which showcased the disadvantages of playing only a few games. The Boilermakers committed 20 errors against Notre Dame and lost despite the better offensive showing.
The Boilermaker defense leads the conference in blocks but the team will be tested against No. 22 Louisville on Sept. 13 to see if they truly belong in the top 25.
Iowa had received votes for the Top 25 last week but was part of the myriad of losses the Big Ten suffered this week. The Hawkeyes lost convincingly to No. 19 Colorado and No. 12 Washington at home, winning only one set in those two matches. Iowa’s offense is led by senior Meghan Buzzerio who has over four kills a set and a .345 hitting percentage.
The Hawkeye defense will need to clean up their act before the South Dakota tournament this weekend. The Hawkeyes go against South Dakota, UC Davis and Wyoming.
Indiana fills the last spot in the first edition of this year’s power rankings. The Hoosiers are 5-2 behind a defense that has been great to start the season. The Hoosiers were swept by Santa Clara and lost to Oklahoma 2-3 but the defense is one of the better defenses in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers average over 2.5 blocks a game and Haley Armstrong is one of the best diggers in the Big Ten with 4.41 digs per set.
The Hoosiers travel to Lexington, Kentucky this weekend and their defense will be tested against Florida Gulf Coast University, Cleveland State and No. 15 Kentucky.