Big Ten Volleyball Weekly Release - Aug. 30, 2011

Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje was named UCF Classic MVP last weekend.

Aug. 30, 2011

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First Serve: Big Ten volleyball compiled 26 victories on opening weekend, with seven conference teams closing their respective tournaments with undefeated records. Ohio State won all four of its matches, while Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue won three straight contests, and Nebraska claimed back-to-back wins to open the campaign.

Very Valuable: Five Big Ten players were named Most Valuable Player at their respective tournaments over the weekend. Illinois' Michelle Bartsch (BYU/Nike Invitational), Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje (Courtyard By Marriott/UCF Classic), Nebraska's Morgan Broekhuis (MCM Elegante Lobo Classic), Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus (Utah Classic) and Purdue's Kierra Jones (Mortar Board Premier Tournament) each earned top honors, while 20 other conference players were named to their events' All-Tournament teams.

Where We Rank: Nine Big Ten teams are ranked or receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, released on Monday afternoon. Penn State leads the way for the group of conference teams at No. 2, followed by Nebraska at No. 5. Illinois joins the pair of Big Ten squads in the top 10 at No. 7, while Minnesota moves up a spot to No. 11. Purdue holds No. 13 this week, while No. 22 Ohio State and No. 24 Michigan round out the contingent of ranked conference teams. Michigan State and Northwestern are each receiving votes in the first regular-season poll of 2011.

Showing CLASS: Michigan's Alex Hunt and Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje are among the 30 volleyball student-athletes named candidates for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence -- community, classroom, character and competition. Ten finalists will be chosen midway through the season and placed on a ballot to be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one student-athlete for the award.

We've Got You Covered: Now there are more ways than ever to follow Big Ten volleyball. The Big Ten volleyball blog can be found here and will feature notes, links to articles, previews, recaps and more. You can also keep track of Big Ten volleyball in real-time by following the conference on Twitter @BigTenConf and @B1GVolleyball or become a fan of the Big Ten Conference on Facebook.