On a ground-breaking Sunday for NCAA women’s volleyball when Wisconsin’s tall timber gave viewers an eyeful on a “Big 4” TV network, one of the favorites for the national championship was felled.
The No. 2-ranked Badgers took no prisoners in their Big Ten border-war blowout over Minnesota on Fox TV that seems likely to shatter the record for viewership of a regular-season volleyball match and might even challenge the all-time mark.
On the flip side, No. 3 Stanford struck a major speedbump, scoring just 51 points in a loss to Pac-12 upstart Arizona State. Another huge West Coast upset saw No. 6 Washington State stumble on its home court against conference back marker Oregon State.
Stanford’s first Pac-12 defeat, and such a lopsided one to boot, could have major implications in the VolleyballMag.com Super 16 Media Poll that comes out Monday morning, and comes on the heels of the Cardinal’s being named No. 2 (behind Nebraska and over Wisconsin) in the second rankings released Sunday by the NCAA’s selection committee.
The Sun Devils — tied with No. 8 Oregon at two games behind Stanford in the loss column — stamped themselves as Pac-12, legit, while the Ducks found smooth sailing on the road as a national TV audience on ESPN looked in.
Meanwhile, the four main contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference — Louisville, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Floria State — gained more separation in the standings.
Arkansas continued Florida’s woes in the Southeastern Conference, winning in Gainesville for the first time in program history. Tennessee stayed a game back of the Razorbacks, and Auburn remained relevant in the SEC race with a month remaining in the regular season.
Also on the flagship ESPN channel, Oklahoma stunned Iowa State in the Big 12.
And two teams with “zeroes” that won’t go away quietly continued their futility. Saint Peter’s came oh-so-close before dropping the fifth set 15-10 to 9-17 Manhattan in the MAACC, tumbling to 0-26. Hampton is 0-16 after being swept for the second consecutive day in the CAA by 5-18 Elon, while hitting .037.
The stat line of the day went to Wisconsin senior Sarah Franklin, who amassed 21 kills, averaging seven per set, on perhaps the sport’s TV biggest stage ever and in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,229 at Wisconsin Field House in Madison. Franklin had one…