Aug. 26, 2009
Complete Release in PDF Format
The 2009 season of Big Ten volleyball begins Friday, Aug. 28, with all 11 of the conference’s teams in action. Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin will open their campaigns at home, while the other eight squads will hit the road to participate in tournaments across the country. Among them, Michigan and Minnesota will both compete in the Runza/AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb.
Starting off Strong
Big Ten volleyball will start off strong during the first weekend of competition, featuring five matches between top-25 teams. Among them, No. 16 Michigan faces No. 3 Nebraska, and No. 11 Minnesota takes on No. 22 Kansas State on Day 1 of the Runza/AVCA Showcase. The Wolverines and Gophers will flip opponents the next day. Also on the docket, No. 1 Penn State faces No. 20 St. Louis during the Active Ankle Challenge on Saturday. Additionally, Michigan State will take on No. 12 USC, and Northwestern will face No. 21 Kentucky to open their respective seasons, giving the Big Ten seven top-25 opponents in the opening weekend. The Big Ten will face three more teams who are receiving votes in the poll, and nine of this weekend’s matches will be played between teams who are either ranked or receiving votes. Finally, 19 of this weekend’s games will feature at least one team either ranked in the top 25 or receiving votes outside the poll.
The Big Ten welcomes back 10 members from last year’s All-Big Ten team, including unanimous selections Laura DeBruler (Illinois), Lexi Zimmerman (Michigan), Lauren Gibbemeyer (Minnesota), Alisha Glass (Penn State) and Megan Hodge (Penn State). In addition, eight of the conference’s 11 All-Americans in 2008 are back in uniform this season, including first-team members Glass and Hodge.
Big Ten Polling Place
Five Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 20 of the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll, including No. 1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are enjoying their 24th consecutive showing at the top spot, having occupied the position since Oct. 29, 2007. Also in the poll are No. 10 Illinois, No. 11 Minnesota, No. 16 Michigan and No. 19 Purdue. Michigan State and Wisconsin are receiving votes. Illinois’ No. 10 ranking is the program’s highest since debuting at No. 6 prior to the 1993 campaign. Minnesota is enjoying its 17th straight appearance in the poll after spending all of last season ranked in the top 16. Michigan owns its best ranking since Oct. 15, 2007, and its highest-ever preseason rating. Purdue is enjoying its 17th straight top-25 poll after spending all of last season in the rankings.
Up on the Roof
The Big Ten returns some of the nation’s most prolific blockers from a year ago, including Illinois junior Johannah Bangert, who led the NCAA in stuffs last season. Bangert averaged 1.60 blocks per set for a total of 202. Also among the NCAA’s leaders last year were Minnesota junior Lauren Gibbemeyer (13th, 1.39 bps), Penn State junior Arielle Wilson (17th, 1.37 bps), Indiana junior Ashley Benson (18th, 1.37 bps) and Michigan State senior Vanessa King (35th, 1.21 bps). For the complete list of returning Big Ten players who ranked in the NCAA’s top 50 in all statistics, see Page 2 of this release.
Nittany Lions Back on Title Defense
For the second straight year, Penn State enters the season looking to defend its Big Ten and NCAA titles. Last year, PSU captured its sixth consecutive conference crown and 12th overall, also winning its second straight NCAA championship and third overall. Penn State also looks to extend its NCAA-record 64-match winning streak that dates back to September of 2007.
Big Ten volleyball will once again enjoy vast coverage during the 2009 season with 23 matches set to be broadcast nationally on the Big Ten Network, ESPN2 and ESPNU. The complete television schedule can be found on Page 4 of this release.
In addition, daily doses of Big Ten volleyball news and notes can be found on the Big Ten Volleyball Blog, located at http://www.bigten.org/blog/volley_blog.html. Keep track of Big Ten volleyball in real-time by logging on to Twitter and following @BigTenConf and @BigTenVal. The Big Ten’s page on Facebook also offers updates on all the conference’s teams.