Wisconsin ends agreement to play Washington and USC
|Senior Lianna Sybeldon and her Washington teammates will not get a nonconference rematch with Wisconsin in 2015|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
The Pac-12 usually waits until June to post its regular-season volleyball schedule. But Volleyblog Seattle contacted all twelve of the conference’s head coaches to piece together most of the upcoming season’s nonconference schedule.
Final 2014 RPI rankings are in parentheses for each team:
Washington has not yet finalized its nonconference lineup. Week 1 will be the annual Northwest Challenge, hosted this season by Gonzaga. There is no announcement yet for week 2, though Seattle U might be a midweek opponent. Week 3 features a repeat Seattle visit by CSU Northridge and a match against St. Mary’s, alma mater of new UW head coach Keegan Cook.
Week 4 sends the Huskies to Norman, Oklahoma, to play the Big-12’s Sooners and the Big Ten’s Maryland Terrapins. A four-year Pac 12/Big Ten arrangement involving UW, USC, Maryland and Wisconsin dissolved after just one season, when Wisconsin decided to partner instead with North Carolina and Louisville of the ACC.
After both the Badgers and Huskies reached the 2013 NCAA Final Four in Key Arena (both losing to eventual champion Penn State), Wisconsin played an epic match against Washington last September in Alaska Airlines Arena. 3,500 fans enjoyed a two-and-a-half hour slugfest, won by the Huskies by the narrowest of margins, 3-2 (22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12).
Both Washington and Wisconsin went on to post 30-3 records in 2014, each falling in the NCAA Tournament before reaching another Final Four. The September Seattle loss was, perhaps, too much for Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield to bear, prompting him to cancel this season’s rematch, originally slotted to be played in Madison.
Instead, Washington and USC will face an Oklahoma team that finished 20-11 last season, earning a strong RPI of 26. Coach Keegan Cook tells Volleyblog Seattle he’s “looking forward to the challenge of playing in Norman. Coach Santiago Restrepo has a tremendously successful program. They’ll be a great opponent for us the next three years.”
During the nonconference part of the schedule, elite teams try to schedule with (A) high RPIs that (B) they have a chance of beating. Efforts to create regular Pac 12/Big Ten “showdowns” appear to have collapsed, with only Stanford/Colorado/Penn St/Illinois filling that bill this season (Colorado replaces UCLA in that quad.) Oregon/Oregon St, for example, aborted the Michigan/Michigan St pairing from last season.
A few marquee matches stand out in the 2015 nonconference schedule:
- Week 1: USC vs BYU, USC vs North Carolina, Colorado vs Florida St
- Week 2: Stanford/Colorado vs Penn St/Illinois, Oregon vs Florida
- Week 3: Arizona vs Ohio St, Oregon St vs BYU (twice), Stanford vs North Carolina
- Week 4: Arizona vs Texas, Arizona St vs Illinois, Utah vs BYU
Looking for a way to gauge the relative strength of teams in the powerful Pac-12? At least nine opponents will each play three Pac-12 opponents this season: BYU, CSU Northridge, Gonzaga, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pacific, San Diego, St Mary’s and UC Irvine. Add Seattle U to the list if UW includes the Redhawks on their final schedule.
- As the Keegan Cook era begins, Washington has won its past 59 nonconference matches in a row, dating to a razor-thin 5-set loss in Hawai’i in 2008. That’s six straight undefeated preseasons. The Huskies last lost a nonconference (non-NCAA tournament) home match in 2001.
- As you glance at the 2015 nonconference schedule, which Pac-12 team do you think booked the toughest lineup? Who has the easiest road?