Aug. 21, 2006
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Welcome Back for Another Promising Season
The 2006 edition of Big Ten volleyball gets underway Friday, when eight of the 11 conference teams hit the court, including ninth-ranked Wisconsin, which serves as host of the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase in Madison. Also in action is No. 2 and Big Ten preseason favorite Penn State, as the Nittany Lions will compete in the LSU Classic in Baton Rouge, La.
Six additional conference teams will take to the court this weekend, including Illinois, Iowa and Purdue which host tournaments at home.
Penn State Looking For Number Four
Penn State, the three-time defending conference champion, finished 31-3 overall, 20-0 in Big Ten play and fifth in the final national poll last season. The Nittany Lions return 13 players from last year's team, but will have to contend with the loss of key four-year starters in three-time AVCA All-America setter Sam Tortorello and 2005 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year libero Kaleena Walters.
Five Schools Ranked in Nation's Top 25
Five Big Ten volleyball teams have been selected to the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll, the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced August 8. Penn State, which garnered 17 first-place votes, leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 2, followed by No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 16 Purdue, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 23 Ohio State.
Northwestern will enter 2006 ranked outside the top 25, but is receiving votes from the panel of coaches.
The Big Ten's five teams are second only to the Pac-10, which placed six teams in the poll.
Illini Standout Stars in Big Ten Campaign
Beth Vrdsky, a senior specialist on the Illinois squad, is one of 11 selected student-athletes that will be the face of the Big Ten Conference this year as it celebrates its 25th Anniversary of Women's Championships. Vrdsky has been featured in a 30-second public service announcement "sharing her story" about her dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. To learn more about Vrdsky, as well as the conference's year-long campaign, log on to bigten.org.
Over Half of 2005 All-Big Ten Team Returns
Seven of the 13 standouts tabbed All-Big Ten last season return for the 2006 campaign. Of its five selections, three-time defending conference champion Penn State returns three honorees in sophomores Nicole Fawcett and Christa Harmotto and junior Melissa Walbridge. Minnesota's Meredith Nelson, Ohio State's Marisa Main and Danielle Meyer, and Wisconsin's Taylor Reineke also return as All-Big Ten honorees.
A Non-Stop Fawcett
While Penn State may have lost Big Ten Player of the Year Sam Tortorello and Defensive Player of the Year Kaleena Walters to graduation, the Nittany Lions still boast last year's unanimous selection for Freshman of the Year in Nicole Fawcett. In fact, the PSU sophomore earned the coaches' praise once again this preseason as the reigning National Freshman of the Year was voted along with teammate Christa Harmotto as the lone unanimous picks on the 2006 Preseason All-Big Ten squad.
Big Ten Boasts 14 Televised Matches in 2006
The Big Ten office announced recently a 14-match television lineup for the upcoming 2006 volleyball season. Three Big Ten contests each will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and CSTV, while the remaining eight matches have been selected for regional coverage on Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSN Chicago). The 2006 television schedule will feature each conference school in action at least once during the season.
Wisconsin will be featured on CSTV this weekend as a participant in the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase in Madison, Wis.