Big Ten Volleyball Weekly Release - Aug. 24, 2011

Big Ten volleyball opens the 2011 season this weekend.

Big Ten volleyball opens the 2011 season this weekend.

Aug. 24, 2011

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First Serve: Big Ten volleyball opens its 29th season of competition this weekend, with all 12 conference teams taking part in their first action of 2011 on Friday. Iowa, top-ranked Penn State and No. 13 Purdue each host matches over the weekend, while the remaining nine squads hit the road to open the season.

Big Red, Meet The Big Ten: Nebraska volleyball begins its first season as a member of the Big Ten this weekend after becoming the conference's 12th member institution on July 1. The Huskers finished first in the Big 12 a season ago and boast three national championships (2006, 2000, 1995) and 29-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Nebraska competes in its first Big Ten match on Sept. 21, when Penn State visits the Huskers in Lincoln, Neb.

Where We Rank: Eleven Big Ten teams earned preseason recognition from the AVCA, receiving votes in the first coaches' poll of 2011. The Big Ten's eight top-25 teams give it the most of any conference in the country. Defending NCAA Champion Penn State earned 54 of the 60 first-place votes en route to a No. 1 ranking to open the season. Nebraska follows at No. 5, while Illinois also appears in the top 10 at No. 8. Minnesota holds No. 12, Purdue ranks 13th, Ohio State stands at No. 21 and Michigan is tied for 24th entering the season. Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin each also received votes in the preseason poll. Fantastic Four: Penn State claimed its fourth consecutive NCAA Championship in 2010, becoming the first Division I team to accomplish the feat. The Nittany Lions currently hold a streak of 24 straight postseason wins. Penn State also won its eighth consecutive Big Ten title a season ago and was tabbed the 2011 preseason conference favorite by the Big Ten's coaches.

They're Back: Eight Big Ten players who earned all-conference recognition in 2010 return for another season in 2011. Illinois' Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward, Michigan's Alex Hunt, Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje, Minnesota's Jessica Granquist and Penn State's Deja McClendon each earned spots on the All-Big Ten team last season, while Nebraska's Brooke Delano and Hannah Werth were each named All-Big 12 performers. Seven of the eight all-conference honorees were also selected to the 2011 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. Some of the conference's highest-ranked statistical leaders from a year ago Ohio State's Emily Danks (sixth in aces/set; 0.57), Nebraska's Brooke Delano (ninth in blocks/set; 1.42), Michigan's Alex Hunt (15th in kills/set; 4.41) and Penn State's Kristin Carpenter (16th in assists/set; 11.52).

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