(Photo: Noah Findling/WCSN)
No. 1: Stanford (last week: No. 1), 12-0 (1-0)
Stanford opened up conference play flawlessly, sweeping California and Washington State. The Cardinal continue to be one of the most efficient teams in the country on the offensive end, most notably junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, who hit an astonishing .632 against Cal en route to racking up 14 kills. Clearly, Stanford continues to be the team to beat in not only the conference, but also the country. The Cardinal trek to Oregon this weekend to take on the No. 11 Ducks in Eugene, which will be their toughest conference test yet, and then to Corvallis to face the Oregon State Beavers.
No. 4: Washington (last week: No. 5), 13-0 (2-0)
Despite a five-set test against California, the Huskies remained perfect on the season. For the second straight week, outside hitter Tia Scambray received Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors due to her solid play opposite senior outside hitter Krista Vansant. Scambray has started the last five matches for the Huskies and has racked up at least nine kills in each match while hitting at a .350 clip in all but one of those matches. She will hope to continue her recent run as Washington ready themselves to take on No. 19 USC and No. 20 UCLA this weekend in Seattle.
No. 11: Oregon (last week: 13), 12-0 (2-0)
The Ducks keep climbing, and that is all to the credit of the senior outside hitter Liz Brenner. The 6’1” Brenner has been providing in a multitude of areas for Oregon as she leads her team in kills (145) and is second on the team in service aces (12) and digs (148). She will look to lead her team against the toughest test possible when Oregon travels to Palo Alto, Calif., to try their hand at ending No. 1 Stanford’s perfect season.
No. 14: Arizona (last week: 18), 13-1 (2-0)
Arizona continues to impress as they made the jump to the top-half of the latest AVCA coaches poll. They opened conference play with a tough five-set battle against rival Arizona State, coming out on top 15-13 in the deciding set. More impressively, the Wildcats swept No. 20 UCLA on the road. Freshman middle blocker McKenzie Jacobson’s performances earned her Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Jacobson accounted for 13 blocks between the team’s two matches last week, including eight blocks against UCLA. She will look to continue her dominance at the net when Arizona hits the road to face-off against Utah and Colorado.
No. 17: Arizona State (last week: 19), 11-3 (1-1)
ASU rebounded nicely after losing in five sets to Arizona. Actually, they responded in the best way possible. The Sun Devils went to USC and beat the Women of Troy in four sets. The win was the first time ASU had beaten USC on the road since 1995, and it was the 12th time in head coach Jason Watson’s tenure that the Sun Devils had taken down a ranked team. Between both matches, junior outside hitter Macey Gardner amassed 57 kills, including a career-high 30 in the loss to UA, joining Sarah Reeves as the only Sun Devils to record 30 kills in a single match in the rally scoring era (since 2000). Gardner and the Sun Devils will hope for the same level of production on the road this weekend as they take on Colorado and Utah.
No. 19: Southern California (last week: 9), 7-5 (0-2)
The Women of Troy have now lost five of their last six matches after starting the season 6-0 and reaching as high as No. 6 in the country. To their credit, all five losses have come against ranked teams, including No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 9 Florida. Clearly, the talent and ability is there for USC, and they still have one of the best players in the country in junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio. However, sophomore opposite hitter Ebony Nwanebu is still playing her way back into form after a back injury over the summer. Once she returns to her All-American level of play, USC will find their stride as well. Bricio’s and Nwanebu’s bests will be needed when they play at No. 4 Washington on Wednesday before playing Washington State on Friday.
No. 20: UCLA (last week: 20), 10-3 (1-1)
UCLA opened conference play with a bang as they swept crosstown rival USC. Senior outside hitter Karsta Lowe continued her stellar senior season, receiving Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third straight week. Lowe leads the nation in kills per set (6.49) and points per set (7.19). In just three sets, Lowe racked up 22 kills in UCLA’s upset over USC and then followed that performance by putting down 27 kills in a loss against Arizona. The entire Bruin team had 54 kills against the Wildcats, so despite Lowe’s eye-popping numbers, UCLA will likely be searching for a way to keep teams from stacking multiple blockers in front of Lowe as conference play progresses. UCLA has a chance at another upset victory as they travel to Washington this weekend to play No. 4 Washington and Washington State.
California: 8-4 (0-2)
Colorado: 9-5 (1-1)
Oregon State: 11-2 (1-1)
Utah: 10-3 (0-2)
Washington State: 9-4 (0-1)