(Photo: Sun Devil Athletics)
Understatement of the week: The Pac-12 is the deepest conference in the country.
In the second AVCA poll of the season, seven Pac-12 teams find themselves in the top 25, and the combined record of the conference is a whopping 63 wins to 5 losses.
No. 1: Stanford (last week: No. 2), 4-0
The Cardinal are coming off a thrilling weekend, knocking off then-No.1 Penn State (now No. 3) in a five-set thriller and then staving off a resilient then-No.9 Illinois (now No. 12) team in another five set victory. Junior setter Madi Bugg averaged 47 assists between the two matches, helping her team sideout at a 59.5 percent clip for the weekend. Stanford also saw a stellar weekend from junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, who was named MVP in the Pac-12/Big Ten challenge as well as garnering Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. The Cardinal play No. 20 Duke on Friday, September 12, in Palo Alto, California.
No. 5: Washington (last week: No. 5), 6-0
The reigning national runner-ups continued their high-level play from last season as they defeated then-No. 10 BYU (now No. 9) in a back-and-forth, five set contest. Senior outside hitter and 2013 AVCA Player of the Year Krista Vansant led the way with 25 kills (.346 hitting percentage) and 15 digs. The Huskies have a big match-up in eleven days when they host No. 4 Wisconsin to Seattle.
No. 6: Southern California (last week: 6), 6-0
USC took care of business on a quiet weekend in Lexington, Kentucky, including a solid four-set victory over formerly ranked Creighton led by junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio’s 13 kill, 15 dig performance. The Women of Troy host Texas A&M on Sept. 11 and then square off against No. 10 Florida on September 12.
No. 15: Arizona State (last week: 17), 6-0
The Sun Devils maintained success this weekend despite strong efforts from Idaho State (3-1) and Iowa (3-0). ASU was forced to comeback from a 13-22 deficit in the second set against Iowa before pulling out the set, 32-30. Sophomore opposite hitter BreElle Bailey led the way against the Hawkeyes, tallying 11 kills and seven digs. The Sun Devils travel to Morehead, Kentucky where they will face Louisville on September 12, a team that dropped out of the AVCA poll this week.
No. 16: Oregon (last week: 22), 6-0
Much like ASU did two weekends ago, the Ducks went to Hawaii and came away with three victories, most-notably a five set victory over then-No. 20 Hawaii (now No. 22). Senior outside hitter Liz Brenner led the Ducks offense with 18 kills while three different Ducks had six block assists. Oregon hosts No. 23 Michigan State this Friday.
No. 21: Arizona (last week: 23), 6-0
The Wildcats are off to their best start since they went 12-0 in 2009 after a perfect weekend in Tuscon. Arizona has only dropped one set all season, and senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon continues to lead her team. Against Cal State Northridge, Kingdon posted 23 kills and 15 digs, both season highs. Arizona will look to continue that success in Austin this weekend as they take on No. 2 Texas on Friday.
No. 25: UCLA (last week: unranked), 3-2
The Bruins arguably had the biggest win of any Pac-12 team this weekend, including Stanford’s victory over Penn State. Led by senior outside hitter Karsta Lowe, UCLA swept the ninth ranked Fighting Illini 25-17, 25-22, 25-22. Lowe posted a career-high 29 kills in the match, racking up fourteen kills in both the second and third set which was enough for her to earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. UCLA also fought well against Penn State, pushing the Lady Nittany Lions in the second set that Penn State eventually won 27-25. UCLA travels to Honolulu, Hawaii, this weekend and will play No. 22 Hawaii on Friday.
Other teams receiving votes: California (5-1), Oregon State (6-0)
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com