Aug. 16, 2004
PARK RIDGE, IL - After earning its first ever trip to the NCAA National Semifinals last season, Minnesota has been selected as the top choice in the 2004 Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, it was announced Monday by League officials. Penn State, the defending Conference champion, was tabbed second, while Wisconsin was voted to the No. 3 spot. The Big Ten coaches also selected a 12-member Preseason All-Big Ten team, which included student-athletes from nine different League institutions.
The Golden Gophers, who were also named the preseason favorite in last year's Conference coaches poll, return six starters from a team that went 26-11 overall and 15-5 in Big Ten play in 2003. Last week, Minnesota was ranked fifth, and first among all Conference teams, in the USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll. The national ranking is the highest preseason selection for the Golden Gophers in school history. Minnesota will be led by senior outside hitter Erin Martin and junior libero Paula Gentil, the Conference's Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons. Both Gophers also earned spots on this year's Preseason All-Big Ten squad.
Penn State, which has captured seven Big Ten titles, return five starters from a 2003 squad that went 31-5 overall and paced all League teams with a 17-3 Conference record. Sam Tortorello, a junior setter who averaged 13.48 assists per game last season, was one of three Big Ten student-athletes named as a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big Ten team. Penn State, which is ranked No. 8 nationally, will also be led by senior outside hitter Ashley Pederson and sophomore middle hitter Cassy Salyer, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors last year. Salyer is the lone underclassman on this year's Preseason squad. Russ Rose, who begins his 26th season at the helm, will be looking for his 800th career victory when the Lions open the season at home against Rutgers on September 3.
Another League coach who will likely eclipse a milestone this season is Wisconsin's Pete Waite. The Badger mentor, who is in his sixth season at UW, needs just four wins for 400 career victories. Waite's squad is ranked third in the Big Ten preseason poll and 23rd nationally. Wisconsin will be led by Preseason All-Big Ten selection Jill Odenthal, a senior outside hitter who earned All-Big Ten honors in 2003. Last year, Wisconsin finished fourth in the League at 13-7 and 22-11 overall, and earned its eighth-consecutive NCAA appearance since 1996.
In addition to Penn State's Tortorello, Michigan State's Kim Schram and Ohio State's Stacey Gordon were selected unanimously to the Preseason squad. Gordon is a three-time All-Big Ten selection and was the League's Player of the Year in 2002, while Schram was also named to last year's All-Big Ten squad.
Minnesota opens up the season for all Big Ten teams at the NACWAA Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo., on August 27, while Conference play begins on September 22, when Indiana travels to Purdue.
The complete 2004 Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Poll and Preseason All-Big Ten Team follows.
2004 BIG TEN PRESEASON POLL
2004 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Name School Yr./ Position Hometown
Christina Archibald (2)
Paula Gentil (2)
STACEY GORDON (3)
SAM TORTORELLO (2)
Renata Dargan Purdue Jr./Setter New
Jill Odenthal Wisconsin Sr./Opposite Hitter
UNANIMOUS SELECTION IN CAPS
(2) Two-time selection
(3) Three-time selection