Aug 27, 2013
Big Ten Weekly Release
First Serve: The 2013 Big Ten volleyball season opens this weekend, with all 12 conference teams taking part in their first action of 2013. Indiana, No. 2 Penn State and No. 16 Purdue each host matches over the weekend, while the remaining nine squads hit the road to open the season.
Nittany Lions Tabbed Big Ten Favorite: Defending Big Ten Champion Penn State was chosen as the conference favorite for the 2013 season, as voted on by the Big Ten coaches. Earning the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Championship last season, the Nittany Lions top the poll for the eighth time in the last nine years. Penn State posted a 19-1 conference record en route to its 32nd consecutive NCAA Championship appearance and a trip to in the national semifinals last season.
Where We Rank: Nine Big Ten teams earned preseason recognition from the AVCA, receiving votes in the first coaches' poll of 2013. The Big Ten's seven top-25 teams give it the most of any conference in the country. Big Ten Champion Penn State leads the conference contingent at No. 2, followed by Minnesota at No. 6. After reaching the NCAA Championship semifinal last season, Michigan begins the season ranked seventh in the country, while Nebraska comes in at No. 10. Michigan State comes in at No. 14, Purdue is No. 16 and Ohio State is No. 23. Illinois and Wisconsin also received votes outside the top 25 in the preseason rankings.
They're Back: Sixteen Big Ten players who earned All-Conference recognition in 2012 return in 2013. Illinois' Liz McMahon, Michigan's Jennifer Cross and Lexi Erwin, Michigan State's Lauren Wicinski, Minnesota's Tori Dixon, Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus and Penn State's Deja McClendon, Micha Hancock, Ariel Scott and Katie Slay each earned spots on the All-Big Ten Team last season, while Illinois' Jocelynn Birks, Indiana's Jordan Haverly, Michigan State's Kori Moster, Minnesota's Ashley Wittman, Ohio State's Kaitlyn Leary and Purdue's Carly Cramer garnered honorable mention recognition. All of the conference's individual award winners from 2012 return, as Scott was tabbed Player of the Year, Moster won Defensive Player of the Year, Hancock was named Setter of the Year and Penn State's Megan Courtney was chosen as Freshman of the Year. Thirteen of these players were also selected to the 2013 Preseason All-Big Ten Team, which can be found on Page 2 of this release.
Returning Ringers: 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 Michigan State's Lauren Wicinski (fourth in aces/set: 0.63 and seventh in points/set: 5.33), Minnesota's Tori Dixon (fourth in hitting percentage: 0.436) and Penn State's Micha Hancock (third in aces/set: 0.65) and Katie Slay (seventh in hitting percentage: 0.412).