Big Ten Volleyball Coaches Select Two-Time Defending NCAA Champion Penn State as Favorite in 2009
Aug. 13, 2009
PARK RIDGE, Ill. – Six-time defending Big Ten Champion and two-time defending NCAA Champion Penn State was selected by the conference coaches as the preseason favorite for the 2009 season, the Big Ten office announced on Thursday. The honor marks the fifth consecutive time the Nittany Lions have topped the conference’s preseason poll.
Minnesota and Illinois, who finished second and third, respectively, last season, were tabbed to fill those same slots again in 2009. Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue rounded out the coaches’ poll with the fourth, fifth and sixth respective positions. The Big Ten’s coaches elected to vote only on the conference’s top six teams beginning this year. Those top six squads combine to produce 12 players on the 14-member Preseason All-Big Ten team, led by Penn State’s four honorees.
Penn State is coming off a year in which it won the program’s third overall NCAA title and second in as many years. Going undefeated on the season, the Nittany Lions set records for consecutive matches (64) and sets (111) won, becoming the first team in NCAA Division I, II or III history to complete a regular season without dropping a single set. Reigning national Coach of the Year Russ Rose returns several key components from last season’s squad, including setter Alisha Glass and outside hitter Megan Hodge, who are both unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Conference team. Joining Glass and Hodge on the preseason squad are teammates Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson.
Minnesota finished second in the conference last season with a 16-4 mark in Big Ten matches. The Golden Gophers advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 14th time in program history, finishing the 2008 season with a 27-7 overall record. Minnesota returns three All-Big Ten selections from a year ago in Brook Dieter, Lauren Gibbemeyer and Christine Tan, who all hold spots on the Preseason All-Conference squad. Dieter is a unanimous selection, and Tan was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
Last year, Illinois recorded its highest finish since 2003, placing third in the conference standings with a 15-5 record during Big Ten play. The Fighting Illini made their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2004 and advanced to regionals to end the season with a 26-8 overall mark. Michelle Bartsch and Laura DeBruler highlight Illinois’ returnees as members of the Preseason All-Big Ten team. Bartsch was named the Mideast Region Freshman of the Year last season, while DeBruler was a unanimous All-Big Ten pick and is a unanimous member of the preseason squad.
Rounding out the 2009 Preseason All-Big Ten team are Indiana’s Ashley Benson, Michigan’s Lexi Zimmerman, Michigan State’s Vanessa King, Purdue’s Kristen Arthurs and Wisconsin’s Brittney Dolgner. King was a unanimous selection, and eight players are making their second or third appearances on the squad. DeBruler, Zimmerman, Dieter, Gibbemeyer, Glass and Wilson are all second-time preseason selections, while Hodge and Dolgner are three-time honorees.
The 2009 volleyball season begins Friday, August 28, with all 11 Big Ten teams in action. This year’s campaign will once again feature vast national exposure for the conference with 23 regular-season matches set to be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
The complete Preseason Poll and Preseason All-Big Ten team can be found below.
2009 BIG TEN PRESEASON POLL
1. Penn State
2009 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN VOLLEYBALL TEAM
UNANIMOUS SELECTION IN CAPS