(Photo: Jasmyne Lott/WCSN)
No. 1: Stanford (last week: No. 1), 14-0 (4-0)
Stanford remained perfect and is now on its best start since 2010 after beating No. 11 Oregon and Oregon State in Palo Alto last weekend. Spearheading the Cardinal offense en route to handing the Ducks their first loss was redshirt freshman middle blocker Merete Lutz, who racked up 13 kills without an error on 22 attempts. That performance, in addition to a 11-kill, one-error effort against Oregon State earned Lutz Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors and maintained her spot as the nation’s most efficient attacker. The Cardinal will travel to Arizona this weekend to take on the 16th-ranked Wildcats and No. 18 Arizona State.
No. 3: Washington (last week: No. 4), 15-0 (4-0)
Washington remained perfect on the season after sweeping No. 20 USC and outlasting No. 17 UCLA in a five-set comeback win. Down two sets to none against the Bruins, it seemed as if UCLA was going to upset yet another top-10 team. However, behind sterling efforts from senior outside hitter Krista Vansant and junior middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon, the Huskies took the final three frames to extend their home winning streak to 25 matches, the second-longest in program history. Vansant paced the Huskies with 19 kills and 12 digs, garnering Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week recognition, and Sybeldon averaged 1.75 blocks per set between the two matches to be awarded Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Sybeldon’s season average of 1.73 blocks per set leads the nation, and she will look to continue her defensive dominance at the net as the Huskies travel to Oregon to take on Oregon State and No. 11 Oregon.
No. 11: Oregon (last week: 11), 13-1 (3-1)
Oregon was handed their first loss of the season last weekend at No. 1 Stanford, but the Ducks responded by sweeping California in their ensuing match. Leading the Oregon offense was junior outside hitter Martenne Bettendorf who continued her stellar junior campaign, averaging 4.14 kills per set last weekend as well as hit at an efficient .491. Senior outside hitter Liz Brenner continued her dependable play en route to surpassing Alaina Bergsma for fifth on Oregon’s career kills list (1,435). The Ducks welcome No. 3 Washington and Washington State into Matthew Knight Arena this weekend.
No. 16: Arizona (last week: 14), 14-2 (3-1)
Arizona is coming off a road split, sweeping Utah before being swept by Colorado. After sweeping then-No. 20 UCLA, the Wildcats performed well and efficiently against the Utes, but that efficiency failed to travel to Colorado with them. In the three-set loss, Arizona hit just .150 for the match while amassing 20 attacking errors. Senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon was no exception to the offensive struggles as she hit just .104 against the Buffaloes, but the Wildcats still remain as the biggest surprise of the season thus far. They have far surpassed the predictions that had them ninth in the Pac-12, and they shall look to get back on track when they welcome California and No. 1 Stanford to Tucson on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
No. 17: UCLA (last week: 20), 11-4 (2-2)
The Bruins made another jump in the rankings after pushing No. 3 Washington to five sets before losing in the final frame and sweeping Washington State. In fact, UCLA led the Huskies 2-0 before conceding the final three sets in Seattle. Senior outside hitter Karsta Lowe continued to carry the Bruin offense on her back, totaling 63 total attacking attempts in the match. The next closest Bruin (freshman outside hitter Olga Strantzali) attempted 30 less attacks than Lowe, so stopping the senior star remains the priority for opposing team’s gameplans. Nonetheless, UCLA saw freshman outside hitter Reily Buechler post a career-high 21 kills against Washington State, so look for her to build upon that performance as the Bruins welcome Utah and Colorado to Malibu.
No. 18: Arizona State (last week: 17), 12-4 (2-2)
After spurning a comeback from Colorado in five sets, the Sun Devils dropped the following match to Utah in four sets. ASU is now 4-3 without the services of the still-injured junior middle blocker Whitney Follette, but the Sun Devils return to Tempe for the first time in two weeks to host California as well as No. 1 Stanford. ASU will likely still be without Follette but will look to junior outside hitter Macey Gardner to continue her dominant offensive play. Gardner moved up to eighth all-time on ASU’s career kills list with 1,325, and sophomore outside hitters BreElle Bailey and Kizzy Willey have stepped as well to supplement the Sun Devil offense. Not to be lost in the mix is junior middle blocker Mercedes Binns, who has stepped into Follette’s spot into the rotation as the M1. She has handled the extra responsibility well, and will need to step up when Stanford, the one of the most efficient teams in the country, come to Tempe.
No. 20: Southern California (last week: 19), 8-6 (1-3)
USC’s struggles continue as the Women of Troy have now lost six of their last eight matches. After being swept by No. 3 Washington, however, USC rebounded to scratch out a five-set victory over Washington State. Junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio continues to be immune to her team’s struggles, racking up a season-high 28 kills to go along with 13 digs to lead USC over Wazzu. Bricio also moved into a first-place tie with Nancy Hillman on USC’s all-time service aces list with 170 for their respective careers. Sophomore setter Alice Pizzasegola also set a new career-high in assists against the Cougars, dishing out 36 assists in the match. The Women of Troy look to rediscover their top-20 form when they welcome Utah and Colorado into the Galen Center this weekend.
California: 8-6 (0-4)
Colorado: 10-6 (2-2)
Oregon State: 12-3 (2-2)
Utah: 11-4 (1-3)
Washington State: 9-7 (0-4)
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com