Penn State’s climb in the national rankings continues.
The Nittany Lions after winning their 11th consecutive match during the weekend jumped to No. 3 in the new top 10 national media poll released Tuesday afternoon — the highest ranking for a non-West Coast team this season. In addition, UCLA remained No. 1 in the national rankings for the second straight week, while UC Irvine moved up to No. 2 following its victory against No. 4 Stanford.
Check out this week’s top 10 men’s volleyball media poll and my ballot with explanations on why I ranked each team where I did.
Let the debate begin on who are the best teams in the nation.
Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Top 10 Poll
1. UCLA — 99 (9) points
2. UC Irvine — 91 (1) points
3. Penn State — 72 points
4. Stanford — 70 points
5. USC — 66 points
6. BYU — 48 points
7. Lewis — 44 points
8. Ohio State — 31 points
9. Pepperdine — 18 points
10. Long Beach State — 11 points
Others receiving votes: IPFW
1. UCLA (17-2, 11-1 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Cal State Northridge
UCLA is the most offensively balanced team in the nation. The Bruins do not have a player in the nation’s top 30 for kills per game average but are third in the nation with a .355 team attack percentage. The only time setter Kyle Caldwell doesn’t have five legitimate offensive threats to set to is when UCLA has its libero on the court.
2. Penn State (13-1, 6-0 EIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Ohio State
Penn State survived the first match of its three-match gauntlet beating Ohio State to extend its nation-best winning streak to 11 matches. However, the team’s upcoming road matches against Pepperdine and USC will determine if Penn State can move any higher in the national rankings for the rest of the season.
3. UC Irvine (14-3, 10-3 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pacific and Stanford
Anyone still questioning why outside attacker Kevin Tillie received all the preseason hype after he transferred to UC Irinve. Tillie had a match-high 22 kills in a victory against Stanford and is a candidate for the National Newcomer of the Year award. With three All-American caliber outside attackers, the Anteaters will be tough to beat the rest of the season.
4. Stanford (13-4, 10-3 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC San Diego, lost to UC Irvine
I know I jokingly said it in a story a few weeks ago, but now I’m seriously thinking I was right: Stanford should play all its matches on the road. The Cardinal since ending a season-long road trip 8-2 and being No. 1 in the national rankings have opened a six-match homestand 2-2.
5. USC (11-4, 9-4 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Hawai’i twice
Bill Ferguson should get some serious consideration for National Coach of the Year. The Trojans have continued to improve and new offensive threats continue to emerge besides All-American outside attacker Tony Ciarelli. Outside attacker Tanner Jansen is now in the nation’s top 40 with a 2.95 kills per game aveage.
6. Lewis (14-3, 4-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated Mount Olive and Quincy
Lewis has not lost a match in a more than a month and is beginning its second West Coast road trip of the season. If Lewis can beat Long Beach State and Cal Baptist at the Active Ankle Classic, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Flyers could run the table the rest of the season. The Fylers are just that good this year.
7. BYU (13-4, 9-3 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated Pepperdine twice
I’m almost 100 percent positive this will be the lowest I’ll have BYU ranked the rest of the season. With All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander back from his hand injury, BYU is top-five team. Expect the Cougars to climb in the rankings the next few weeks.
8. Ohio State (13-6, 3-1 MIVA)
Last week’s results: defeated St. Francis, lost to Penn State
Outside attacker Shawn Sangery has a nation-best 10 matches this season with at least 20 kills, including a career-high 33 kills in a five-game victory against St. Francis on Friday. Sangrey is having one of the greatest individual seasons in the MIVA since Lloy Ball in the 1990s.
9. Pepperdine (8-8, 6-7 MPSF)
Last week’s results: lost to BYU twice
Outside attacker Maurice Torres recorded his 1,000th career kill during the weekend. That was one of the few positives for the Waves as they have lost six of their last seven conference matches. Pepperdine is young and improving, but it really needs a good showing in its upcoming non-conference matches against Penn State and Harvard.
10. Long Beach State (9-8, 5-7 MPSF)
Last week’s results: defeated UC Santa Barbara, lost to UCLA
The 49ers continue to get the final spot on my ballot because there really isn’t another team right now that deserves to be in the top 10. With that said, Long Beach State’s upcoming match against IPFW is a must-win if the 49ers want to remain in the top 10.
On the bubble
IPFW — The Mastodons are on a three-match winning streak and outside attacker Ivan Matos is in the nation’s top 10 with a 3.80 kills per game average. This team is playing well and ready for its West Coast road trip to Long Beach State.
Harvard — Don’t be shocked if Harvard takes a match on its three-match West Coast road trip this week. The Crimson are an improving program and this week will give everyone a better sense of how this team compares to the nation’s nationally ranked teams.