Minnesota's Busse Named Big Ten Volleyball Player Of The Year
Dec. 1, 2003
PARK RIDGE, IL - Minnesota's Cassie Busse was named the 2003 Big Ten Volleyball Player of the Year today in a vote amongst the League's head coaches. Golden Gopher teammate Paula Gentil repeated as the Defensive Player of the Year honor, while Penn State's Cassy Salyer was voted as the Freshman of the Year. Illinois' Don Hardin was chosen as the Big Ten Coach of the Year by his peers, while Hardin and Penn State's Russ Rose shared the honor in a vote amongst a panel of selected Big Ten media.
Busse is just the second Golden Gopher in school history to earn the Big Ten Player of the Year laurel and the first to hold the honor outright. Minnesota's Nicole Branagh, the Big Ten's all-time kills leader, shared the title with Wisconsin's Sherisa Livingston in 2000. Busse, a 6-2 opposite-side hitter from Prior Lake, Minn., led the Gophers to a 22-10 overall mark and a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings with a 15-5 League record. In overall action, she paced Minnesota with 4.71 kills per game and a .299 hitting percentage. Her kills average was third-best in the Big Ten, while she finished atop the Conference standings in service aces with 0.46 per game. In Big Ten action, Busse was among League leaders with 5.03 kills per game and sixth in hitting percentage with a .296 mark. The senior standout was a unanimous pick for this year's All-Big Ten Team, marking her second straight unanimous selection. Busse was tabbed as an AVCA All-America Second Team pick in 2002 and an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in 2001 and 2002.
With her second-consecutive nod as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Gentil has put her stamp on the Conference's newest honor, introduced in 2001. The 5-9 sophomore libero broke the Big Ten record for digs-per-game in Conference play this season with her 5.10 average, passing the former mark of 5.06, set by Iowa's Janet Moylan in 1990. Additionally, Gentil's current overall average of 5.08 digs per game would eclipse the Big Ten record of 4.67, which she set last season. On Friday, November 28, Gentil broke the school record with a 33-dig outing against No. 11 Penn State. The previous single-match mark of 31 digs had stood since 1989 before Gentil tied it earlier this season.
Salyer developed into a dominant force at the net for Penn State this season, leading the Big Ten in blocks per game in overall play (1.46) and finishing fifth in blocks per game in League action (1.34). Additionally, her .324 hitting percentage in all matches was the fifth-best mark in the Big Ten. Salyer, a 6-5 middle hitter from Aurora, Colo., is the second consecutive Nittany Lion to earn the League's Freshman of the Year title, following setter Sam Tortorello in 2002. Former All-American Bonnie Bremner (1996), who went on to earn back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 1997 and '98, is the only other PSU student-athlete to earn the Freshman of the Year accolade.
Head coach Don Hardin enjoyed the best regular season of his eight-year tenure at the helm of the Fighting Illini. With a 24-6 overall mark, a 15-5 Conference record and a second-place finish in the Big Ten race, the Illini far surpassed their 13-16 effort from a year ago. The second-place finish in this year's League standings is the best showing for Illinois since the program tied for the title in 1992. The Fighting Illini have been ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25 Poll for the last four weeks and earned the No. 13 seed in the upcoming NCAA Volleyball Championship.
With 10 consecutive Conference victories to close out the regular season, head coach Russ Rose guided Penn State to the 2003 Big Ten championship and laid claim to the League's automatic berth in the NCAA Championship. The Nittany Lions are one of just four programs in the country to appear in every NCAA Tournament in the event's 23-year history. The 2003 League title was the seventh Big Ten crown for Penn State under Rose's guidance and the first since the Lions won four consecutive titles from 1996 to 1999. It also marks his 15th conference title overall, as Penn State captured eight straight Atlantic 10 championships before joining the Big Ten.
Eight Big Ten volleyball programs are represented by the 12 All-Big Ten honorees, including four unanimous selections in Busse, Michigan's Erin Moore, Ohio State's Stacey Gordon and Penn State's Cara Smith. Gordon is the only three-time honoree on the squad, while Busse, Moore, Smith, Gentil, Illinois' Lisa Argabright and Northwestern's Erika Lange are all two-time selections.
A complete list of the Big Ten's postseason honors follows.
2003 BIG TEN VOLLEYBALL HONORS
HONORABLE MENTION: INDIANA: Melissa Brewer; MICHIGAN STATE: Nikki Colson, Jenny Rood; MINNESOTA: Lindsey Taatjes; PURDUE: Kim McConaha, Renata Dargan; WISCONSIN: Morgan Shields
BIG TEN ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cassie Busse, MINNESOTA
* - unanimous selection