This Week in the Big Ten

May 9, 2008

by Jeff Smith

[ONE // softball tournament champion to be decided this week]
The 2008 Big Ten Softball Tournament is taking place this weekend at Northwestern's Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The tournament opened with a bang on Thursday as No. 7 Michigan State upset No. 2 Michigan, 2-1, in the tournament's first contest. In the opening day's second and final contest, top-seed Northwestern ousted No. 8 Ohio State in five innings, 8-0. Four games are on the docket for Friday and each of them will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's tournament championship game will be played at Noon CT. For more information on the tournament, check out host Northwestern's site or stay up to date with the Big Ten Network.

[TWO // michigan and northwestern share softball crown]
Prior to Big Ten Softball Tournament play, Michigan and Northwestern split the regular-season conference championship, compiling 18-2 league records each and splitting in head-to-head matchups. Both teams were awarded conference titles, but by way of coin toss, Northwestern was awarded the top seed and host duties of this weekend's postseason tournament. The regular-season championship was the first for Michigan since 2005, while Northwestern last staked claim to the crown in 2006. Congratulations to both Michigan and Northwestern for their impressive seasons!

[THREE // sticking with wolverine and wildcat softball...]
Big Ten co-champions Michigan and Northwestern also earned a split when it came to the top softball individual honors, which were awarded by the conference on Thursday. Northwestern's Tammy Williams was named Big Ten Player of the Year while teammate Lauren Delaney earned the school's third-straight Pitcher of the Year accolade. Michigan's Carol Hutchins was tabbed as the conference's Coach of the Year and her standout newcomer in Jordan Taylor was named Freshman of the Year. In addition, three All-Conference teams were announced Thursday along with 11 sportsmanship award honorees. For a complete list of Big Ten softball honors, click here.

[FOUR // spartans earn program's second conference rowing title]
This past Saturday Michigan State took home the 2008 Big Ten Rowing Championship, having accumulated 150 points and wins in the first varsity eight and varsity four grand finals. The 150 points by the Spartans tied a conference record. Congratulations to MSU and head coach Matt Weise, who was featured recently on Wisconsin (114) placed second, followed by Ohio State (112) and Minnesota (104). Host Michigan (90), Iowa (40) and Indiana (31) rounded out the field.

[FIVE // a boatload of honors]
At the conclusion of the Rowing Championships, first and second-team All-Conference distinctions were awarded, while the major postseason individual honors were announced on Wednesday. Michigan State swept all three major awards as senior Anne Cowan was named Athlete of the Year, newcomer Laura Cowal was selected Freshman of the Year and head coach Matt Weise was voted Coach of the Year. A complete list of both All-Conference teams, along with rowing's 12 sportsmanship award honorees, can be found by clicking here.

[SIX // men's golf teams named to ncaa regional play]
Over half the conference's men's golf contingent learned Monday where they will be competing in NCAA Regional action. The NCAA announced postseason bids for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Two Minnesota golfers, Victor Almstrom and Clayton Rask, were selected to compete as individuals. Big Ten Champion Michigan State earned the No. 8 seed in the East Regional, which will be played at the Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Tenn. Indiana also earned an eight seed and will compete with No. 13 Penn State, No. 15 Michigan, No. 18 Illinois, No. 19 Ohio State and Almstrom and Rask in the Central Regional. That event will be held on familiar ground at the Ohio State's Scarlet Golf Course in Columbus. Wisconsin earned the West Regional's No. 20 seed and will play at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash. Regional action takes place May 15-17. More information on the NCAA Men's Golf Regionals can be found in Monday's NCAA press release.

[SEVEN // three big ten sports in regional action this week]
While we are on the topic of NCAA Regional competition, best of luck to Big Ten teams in the sports of women's golf and men's and women's tennis this week. In women's golf, No. 2 seed and Big Ten champion Purdue is competing in the Central Regional (Live Scoring Link), while intrastate rival Indiana, the No. 17 seed, is playing in the East Regional. No. 7 seed Michigan State and No. 12 Ohio State are in the West Regional.

In women's tennis, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State will all be competing this weekend. Times and locations, as well as individual qualifiers, can be found here. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin men's teams will also be in action, along with selected conference individuals. Best of luck to all!

[EIGHT // nittany lion men's volleyball win national title]
Switching gears for a moment but staying on the topic of NCAA Championships, the Big Ten would like to take some time to congratulate a few champions from sports not sponsored by the conference. First and foremost, congratulations to the top-ranked Penn State men's volleyball team, which last weekend captured the NCAA Championship in a four-game win over No. 2 Pepperdine (27-30, 33-31, 30-25, 30-23) in Irvine, Calif. Paired with the fact the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team captured the national title in the fall, the school is only the second program to accomplish the double as Stanford was the first in 1996-97. Junior outside hitter Matt Anderson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship.

[NINE // wolverine water polo looking for ncaa crown]
One down, one to go. Best of luck to the Michigan women's water polo team, which this weekend will be focused on earning its first national championship. The Wolverines, winners of the Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Championship title, will face No. 3 seed USC in the opening round at 3:15 p.m. PDT on Friday, May 9 at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. The Wolverines earned two previous bids to the NCAA Championship, placing fourth in 2002 and finishing sixth in 2005, the year the field was expanded from four teams to eight. Michigan and Indiana are the only two varsity programs in the Big Ten and were the subject of a feature during the conference's 25th Anniversary of Big Ten Women's Championships campaign last year.

[TEN // wildcat women's lacrosse awarded top seed in ncaa field]
Possibly another future champion just getting started?? While mentioning the NCAA postseason success of the conference's non-sponsored teams, we can't forget about Northwestern women's lacrosse - winners of the last three NCAA Championships. This week the Wildcats were awarded the top seed on Monday for the upcoming NCAA Championships and will look to begin their path to title No. 4. Eight first-round games will be conducted this Sunday, while four quarterfinal games will be played May 17. The finals will be played at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium on May 23 and 25. For a closer look at the NU LAX dynasty, check out this feature that was also done for the 25th Anniversary campaign just prior to the Wildcats winning the national title last season.

[ELEVEN // indiana's crean trying to get on track]
Finally this week, Indiana's new men's basketball coach Tom Crean has spent his first month adapting to his new environment in Bloomington and helping the Hoosiers get on track for the 2008-09 season. On Thursday, Crean was literally trying to get on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he served as honorary starter for the day's practice for the Indianapolis 500. Rain washed out practice, but Crean managed to make his way through Gasoline Alley to the Team Penske and Panther Racing garages and take a quick spin out on the track with pace car driver and three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.