Aug. 24, 2010
The 28th year of Big Ten volleyball begins this weekend with all 11 conference teams taking to the court. Six squads begin the year with home invitationals, including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue. The remaining five teams, Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin, hit the road to open the new campaign. Most matches will be played Friday and Saturday, while Iowa will wrap its weekend invite on Sunday.
Where We Rank
Four Big Ten teams rank in the top 12 of the AVCA Division I Coaches Preseason Poll, which was released last week. Defending national champion Penn State topped the charts after receiving 40 first-place votes. The Nittany Lions have been ranked atop the poll since Oct. 29, 2007, the year they won their first of three straight national championships. Illinois and Minnesota tied for sixth in the first poll of 2010, while Michigan appeared at No. 12. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin received votes last week, earning mentions in the preseason poll.
Returning All-Big Ten Performers
This season, the conference welcomes back 11 standout student-athletes from the 14-member All-Big Ten Team from a season ago. Illinois' Johannah Bangert, Laura DeBruler, and Hillary Haen, Indiana's Ashley Benson, Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman, Michigan State's Kyndra Abron, Minnesota's Lauren Gibbemeyer, Northwestern's Sabel Moffett, Ohio State's Katie Dull and Penn State's Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson return to the court for their respective teams this season. All 11 were named to the 2010 Preseason All-Big Ten Team, announced earlier this month. A complete list of this season's preseason honorees can be found on Page 2 of this release.
Defending Champs, Again
For the third consecutive season, Penn State begins the season in defense of its national and Big Ten championships. In 2009, the Nittany Lions won their fourth overall and third straight NCAA championships and 13th overall and seventh straight Big Ten title. Dating back to 2007, Penn State has won 102 matches in a row, ranking second all-time among all NCAA sports.
Returning National Leaders
The Big Ten returns numerous student-athletes who ranked at or near the top of the NCAA individual statistical rankings from the 2009 season. Five players who ranked in the top 15 of blocks per game in 2009 return this season, including Illinois' Johannah Bangert (No. 1, 1.58), Penn State's Arielle Wilson (No. 4, 1.52) and Fatima Balza (No. 10, 1.47), Minnesota's Lauren Gibbemeyer (No. 13, 1.42) and Northwestern's Sabel Moffett (No. 14, 1.40). In assists per set, Illinois' Hillary Haen ranked No. 16 with 11.39 and Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman was No. 31 at 10.99, while Illinois' Laura DeBruler ranked 15th in kills per set at 4.46.
Got You Covered
This season, Big Ten women's volleyball will enjoy extensive national television coverage. The Big Ten Network will televise 21 conference volleyball matchups, while ESPN2 will showcase three contests this season. Additionally, the Big Ten Network will stream numerous matches online at http://www.bigtennetwork.com/. The streaming lineup will be available at a later date.
Also, for up to the minute news and notes on Big Ten volleyball, log on to the Big Ten Volleyball Blog at http://www.bigten.org/blog/volleyball/ or follow on Twitter at @BigTenDan.