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Brenden Welper | NCAA.com | July 22, 2020

The oldest rivalries in DI women's volleyball

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Division I women's volleyball became an NCAA-sanctioned sport in 1981. But some of the game's fiercest rivalries began long before that year.

Here are the oldest ones in Division I women's volleyball:

Penn State vs. Pittsburgh

Penn State and Pittsburgh first met in women's volleyball on Oct. 29, 1977. The Panthers won 2-0 in straight sets, and would win the next seven meetings until Penn State got its first victory of the series (3-0) on Nov. 12, 1979.

The Nittany Lions now lead the all-time series 33-18, and had won 16 straight over the Panthers until Sept. 20, 2019. Pittsburgh upset Penn State 3-0 to secure its first win over the in-state rival since Nov. 8, 1987. 

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Two days later, Penn State bounced back with a five-set victory over Pittsburgh to split the home-and-home tilt.

In the nearly 32 years between Pitt wins in head-to-head play, the Nittany Lions morphed into a volleyball powerhouse. They won seven national championships between 1999-2014, including back-to-back 38-0 seasons in 2008 and 2009.

Nebraska vs. Stanford

From 2015-2018, Stanford and Nebraska alternated as national champions. They've also met twice in the national championship, with each team winning once. The Cornhuskers won 3-1 in 2006, while the Cardinal took the 2018 title with a 3-2 victory.

Stanford won the first meeting in the series 2-0 on Nov. 5, 1976 and took the next two as well before Nebraska emerged victorious in the 1986 national semifinal meeting. Stanford currently leads the all-time series 10-6.

The rivalry's most recent installment came on Sept. 18, 2019 in a rare regular-season showdown between the top two teams in the nation. The No. 2 Cardinal knocked off the top-ranked Huskers 3-1 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Southern California vs. UCLA

These Pac-12 rivals first met on Nov. 11, 1970, with UCLA winning in straight sets 2-0. The Bruins lead the all-time series 66-59, and won their first 11 matches against Southern California.

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But the Trojans beat UCLA 3-2 to win the first official NCAA women's volleyball national championship in 1981. USC is a perfect 3-0 all-time in head-to-head NCAA tournament meetings. Despite seven titles between the two, it remains the only time they've met up in the final.

The Bruins won 125th all-time time meeting 3-0 on Nov. 29, 2019.

Penn State vs. Stanford

The rivalry between Penn State and Stanford (which began on Dec. 10, 1992) is easily the youngest on this list. But with the schools having met four times in the national championship, it's impossible to overlook the history between these two.

Stanford won its second-consecutive national title (and fourth in the previous six seasons) by defeating Penn State 3-2 in 1997. The Nittany Lions won their program's first championship in straight sets over the Cardinal in 1999.

Almost a decade later, Penn State won the first two of its four straight national titles (2007-2010) over Stanford.

These two schools have won a combined 16 of the 39 Division I women's volleyball championships. The Cardinal lead the all-time series between these powerhouses 13-12, after winning both meetings in 2019. 

Stanford vs. UCLA

Another Pac-12 rivalry, Stanford and UCLA first met in women's volleyball on Oct. 15, 1976. The Bruins won 3-0, but the Cardinal lead the all-time series with a commanding 54-41 advantage. Stanford won 18 straight matches in the rivalry from Oct. 11, 2001 to Oct. 2, 2009.

Eight of the 93 all-time meetings took place in the NCAA tournament, with UCLA holding a 5-3 edge in postseason affairs. But the Bruins are just 1-2 against the Cardinal in national championship matches.

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UCLA outlasted Stanford 3-2 for its first title in 1984. The Cardinal won their first and second championships against UCLA in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

As for some more recent history, Stanford has won five of its last six against the Bruins. The two teams split the season series in 2019.

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