Big Ten Volleyball Weekly Release
Aug. 21, 2012
First Serve: Big Ten volleyball opens its 30th season of competition this weekend, with all 12 conference teams taking part in their first action of 2012. Iowa, Michigan State, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 24 Ohio State and No. 9 Purdue each host matches over the weekend, while the remaining seven squads hit the road to open the season.
Big Red Tabbed Big Ten Favorite: Defending Big Ten Champion Nebraska was chosen as the conference favorite for the 2012 season, as voted on by the Big Ten coaches. Earning the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship last season, the Huskers top the poll for the first time as members of the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska posted a 17-3 conference record en route to its 30th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance last season.
Where We Rank: Eight Big Ten teams earned preseason recognition from the AVCA, receiving votes in the first coaches’ poll of 2012. The Big Ten’s seven top-25 teams give it the most of any conference in the country. Penn State leads the conference contingent at No. 3, followed by Big Ten Champion Nebraska at No. 4. After reaching the NCAA Championship final, Illinois begins the season ranked seventh in the country, while Purdue comes in at No. 9. Minnesota begins the season at No. 16, Michigan is No. 23, and Ohio State is No. 24. Michigan State also received votes outside the top 25 in the preseason rankings.
They’re Back: Eleven Big Ten players who earned All-Conference recognition in 2011 return in 2012. Minnesota’s Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman, Nebraska’s Lauren Cook, Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth, Northwestern’s Stephanie Holthus, Ohio State’s Mari Hole, Penn State’s Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott and Katie Slay and Purdue’s Ariel Turner each earned spots on the All-Big Ten team last season, while Turner and Slay claimed Big Ten Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011, respectively. Ten of these players were also selected to the 2012 Preseason All-Big Ten Team, which can be found on Page 2 of this release.
They’re Back, Part Two: The Big Ten boasts numerous players who finished in the top 50 nationally in various NCAA statistical categories last season. Some of the conference’s highest-ranked statistical leaders from a year ago are Minnesota’s Mia Tabberson (second in assists/set; 12.16), Penn State’s Micha Hancock (second in aces/set; 0.75) and Purdue’s Ariel Turner (sixth in kills/set; 4.84).