Sept. 18, 2006
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Big Ten Play Opens This Weekend
The 24th official Big Ten Conference season opens this week with a top-12 matchup of two teams with a combined record of 21-0. No. 12 Ohio State, which finished the non-conference schedule 10-0, travels to No. 2 Penn State on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The three-time defending Big Ten Champions are currently 11-0 on the season. The match will be televised live on CSTV at 8 p.m. ET.
A full slate of conference action gets underway this weekend as five matches will take place on both Friday and Saturday.
All 11 Squads Enter Conference Play Above .600
For the first time since the 1998 season, all 11 Big Ten teams will enter conference play with an overall winning percentage of .600 or better. That year only one team began Big Ten play with an undefeated overall record and only three hovered above the .900 mark. This season, three conference squads are undefeated and an astounding seven teams enter the week with a winning percentage better than .900. In addition, the 2006 campaign also marks the first time since 2004 that all 11 conference teams have entered Big Ten play with a record of .500 or better.
Three Teams Perfect Entering Big Ten Action
A trio of Big Ten teams will enter conference play undefeated this week and is among a group of 10 squads in the country that still have a perfect record intact. Michigan is 13-0 for the first time in program history and has never gone undefeated heading into Big Ten play, while Penn State is off to an 11-0 start. Ohio State is 10-0 to open the season for the fourth time in the history of the program. Other undefeated starts for the Buckeyes include 1996 (11-0), 2001 (13-0) and 2004 (19-0). Of the nation's 10 undefeated teams, the Big Ten's three ranks second only to the Pac-10, which has four teams with a perfect mark.
Five Schools Ranked in Nation's Top 20
For the first time since Nov. 14, 2005, five Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked in the top 20 of the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll. Penn State, which earned 15 first-place votes, leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 2, followed by No. 11 Purdue, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 19 Michigan. Minnesota continues to receive votes outside the top 25.
After spending 17 straight weeks in the CSTV/AVCA poll, the No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers have earned their highest ranking in more than 20 years. The last time Purdue received a national ranking higher than 14th was when the team was ranked 10th in the final poll of the 1985 season. That squad posted a 34-4 record that season, including a 17-1 record in the Big Ten, en route to the conference title.
Dethroning the Champs
Illinois finished the non-conference schedule 9-1 after a challenging schedule. Of the 10 teams on the slate, six won their respective conferences a year ago (UW-Milwaukee, Winthrop, North Carolina, Wichita State, College of Charleston and Dayton), while another, Loyola, won its conference tournament.
At 11-1, Iowa is off to its best start since 1986. This past weekend's win at the College of Charleston Invitational was the Hawkeyes' third-consecutive tournament title, following victories at the Bluejay Invitational and Hawkeye-Holiday Inn Challenge.
The Numbers Game
With the win at the College of Charleston Invitational, Iowa head coach Cindy Fredrick won her 399th career win, which puts her on the brink of becoming the fifth active Big Ten coach to amount more than 400 career wins. One of those coaches, Wisconsin's Pete Waite, earned career victory No. 450 this past weekend against San Diego.
Glass Cleans Up for Penn State Performance
This past week, Penn State freshman setter Alisha Glass earned both Big Ten and Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week honors. She is the first PSU freshman and only the third player ever in school history to earn the national honor. AVCA All-Americans Syndie Nadeau (Nov. 8, 2004) and Sam Tortorello (Oct. 3, 2005) have also earned the award.
Big Ten Boasts Nation's Best in Four NCAA Stats
Ohio State is the nation's top team in hitting percentage at .374, while Michigan State ranks second nationally in assists per game (16.76) and kills per game (18.12). According to the latest NCAA stats, through Sept. 10, Penn State is also second in the country in blocks per game (4.11). The Nittany Lions' Melissa Walbridge is the highest-ranked conference player, as she ranks third with 1.96 blocks per game.
Illini Standout Stars in Big Ten Campaign
Beth Vrdsky, a senior specialist on the Illinois squad, is one of 11 selected student-athletes that will be the face of the Big Ten Conference this year as it celebrates its 25th Anniversary of Women's Championships. Vrdsky has been featured in a 30-second public service announcement "sharing her story" about her dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. To learn more about Vrdsky, as well as the conference's year-long campaign, log on to bigten.org.