Washington climbs up the rankings

When Amanda Gil started her UCLA volleyball career, she wasn't expecting to be playing collegiately in 2012. Let alone doing so at Washington.

After a long and painful journey to this season, the 6-foot-6 middle blocker is indeed standing very tall for the Huskies, who remain undefeated after big wins over UCLA and USC last week.

Those victories vaulted Washington into a tie with Oregon for the No. 2 spot in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Gil earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors, while sophomore teammate Krista Vansant took the league's offensive award.

Gil, who is from San Jose, Calif., began with UCLA in 2008, when she was named league freshman of the year. She was a second-team All-American in 2009, but still didn't think she was playing as well as she could.

She opted to leave UCLA -- longtime Bruins coach Andy Banachowski retired after that season, as well -- and sat out 2010 after transferring to Washington. But then Gil also had to miss the 2011 season after a complex, corrective knee surgery that required doctors to break and reset her femur. The recovery was lengthy and taxing; it actually required her grandmother to come to Seattle to help take care of Gil because her mobility was so limited.

Fast-forward amazingly to 2012, when Gil is not only back on her feet, but a dominant player again. She had eight block assists and six kills in a 3-2 win Wednesday over her former school. Then, in Friday's 3-0 sweep of USC, Gil had six block assists and five kills. Vansant, meanwhile had a career-high 31 kills against the Bruins and 12 versus the Trojans.

1. Penn State (14-1)

The Nittany Lions, who remain atop the AVCA poll, had no trouble in back-to-back sweeps at Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Gophers really hoped to make their match much more challenging, but Penn State hit .404 while holding Minnesota to .098.

2. Oregon (13-0)

The Ducks got coach Jim Moore his 500th career victory Friday with their 3-0 win against Utah. They followed that the next night with a sweep of Colorado. Can Oregon stay on this perch? Two tests come this week, with matches at Cal on Wednesday and at Stanford on Friday.

3. Washington (13-0)

The Huskies have lost just four sets this season, but they may get tested in the next two weeks. They have four consecutive road matches: at Utah and Colorado this Friday and Sunday, then at Oregon State and Oregon on Oct. 12-13.

4. Nebraska (11-2)

The Huskers topped both Michigan State and Michigan at home last week. But they have an important test coming Friday. Nebraska, 3-1 in the Big Ten, travels to Purdue, which currently is co-leader of the league along with Penn State at 4-0.

5. Stanford (12-2)

The Cardinal are tied with Oregon and Washington atop the Pac-12 standings at 4-0. Stanford plays host to the Ducks on Friday. The Cardinal's victory over Arizona State on Sunday again highlighted their super-talented freshmen class, as Brittany Howard, Inky Ajanaku and Jordan Burgess combined for 34 kills.

6. USC (14-2)

It was a mixed trip to Washington this past weekend for the Trojans, who lost 3-0 to the Huskies but then swept Washington State. The Arizona schools visit USC's Galen Center this week; Arizona State's Macey Gardner was named Pac-12 Rookie of the Week on Monday after combining for 47 kills against Cal and Stanford.

7. UCLA (10-3)

Like USC, the Bruins took their frustration out on Washington State after losing to Washington. It was UCLA's 19th consecutive victory against the Cougars. Also like USC, UCLA will host the Arizona schools this weekend.

8. Texas (11-3)

The Longhorns, as expected, swept Baylor and Texas Tech last week. Texas' combined record against those programs is 143-11-2 (yes, there used to be ties in volleyball.) TCU on Wednesday will likely be another sweep for the Horns. But one of the more intriguing matches of Big 12 play is Saturday, when No. 9-ranked Texas travels to No. 14 Kansas State.

9. Hawaii (12-2)

The Rainbow Wahine swept UC Irvine and Long Beach State last week and are atop the Big West at 5-0. This week, they make their second trip of the season to the mainland, where they'll take on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara.

10. Florida (11-2)

The Gators have won their past eight matches, topping South Carolina and Mississippi State last week. Florida is the only SEC team undefeated in league play (5-0). Let's see how Arkansas, 13-3 overall and 4-1 in the SEC, does when the Razorbacks visit Gainesville, Fla., on Friday.

Digs

•  Kansas, 14-2 and 2-0 in the Big 12, upset then-No. 19 Iowa State 3-2 last week in Lawrence, Kan., and the Jayhawks moved into the AVCA poll Monday at No. 24. KU faces Big 12 newcomer West Virginia and Baylor this week. Then comes the gauntlet with matches against Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas State.

•  In the preseason, LSU was selected to be the top team in the SEC's Western Division, while Georgia was picked near the bottom of the East. But right now, they're both struggling in the league. Can the Tigers turn things around when they host the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPNU?

•  Minnesota was disappointed after being swept by Penn State at home Saturday, but the Gophers are still tied with Nebraska at 3-1 in the Big Ten behind the Nittany Lions and Purdue. Minnesota hosts Michigan and Michigan State this week.

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