Atkinson, Mohler AVCA All-Americans; Stanford Wins VB Title #8
For the first time in program history, Purdue has had first-team AVCA All-Americans in consecutive years, as Sherridan Atkinson follows Danielle Cuttino and becomes the sixth first-team AA in school history. Blake Mohler joined Atkinson as she was named third-team All-American, just like her teammate was last year; could we see three straight seasons with a Boiler on the first team?
The full list of first-, second- and third-team AAs is below. You’ll notice that one conference dominates the selections - it’s not an accident that the Big Tenteen regularly sends multiple teams to the Final Four and fills the first and second rounds with winning teams.
Final Four recap
Thursday’s opening match was a quick one, as Stanford steamrolled BYU in three sets; it’s hard to know how much of that was BYU not playing at altitude like they do at home, how much was the impact of playing in the West Coast for two months, and how much was Stanford simply playing the best volleyball they’d seen all year.
Fans wouldn’t be disappointed with their semifinal tickets, as the second match was more than enough to cover the price. Illinois ran out to a 2-0 lead, but dropped the third set 23-25 and never could get close enough to finish off the match, falling 15-11 in five. Nebraska advanced to their fourth straight Final Four and ninth in school history.
Saturday’s finale was exactly the kind of match you’d expect from two of the best programs in the country. Stanford edged Nebraska 28-26 in the first set, then fell 22-25 to send the teams to the locker room 1-1 at the break. The Cardinal looked ready to claim the crown in four, taking set three 25-16, but the Huskers would not go away so easily, thumping Stanford 15-25 and forcing a deciding set. Nebraska played them close, but ultimately the defending champs could not make it two in a row, falling 15-12. Stanford broke a tie with Penn State for most NCAA titles, taking their 8th, while Nebraska fell to 5-4 in title matches.
The conference finished with 5 in the top 8 and half the conference in the top 12, placing 17 players on All-American teams. As you can see from the rightmost columns, Penn State was really the only contender with a significant number of departures from graduation, and no one really expects Russ Rose to be short on talent; Iowa loses three key players as well, which may be a challenge for Bond Shymansky with Northwestern and Michigan State poised to improve next season. Wisconsin and Minnesota will barely miss a beat, while Indiana is likely to be in the mix for an NCAA bid in 2019.
We’ll know more in the spring when the recruiting classes are finalized and transfer requests are approved, but right now, it looks like the Boilers are in a really good spot - a solid recruiting class this season may indeed put them in position to challenge for a top spot in the conference.
Thanks for reading our volleyball coverage all year, and enjoy the holiday season! I’ll take a quick break for the holidays and be back with coverage of WBB and the occasional MBB summary as well.
Feature photo courtesy of Dave Shondell himself on Twitter