Sept. 18, 2012
First Serve: Conference play gets underway this week, beginning with No. 4 Penn State hosting defending Big Ten Champion and third-ranked Nebraska on Wednesday. Penn State boasts the most Big Ten titles with 13, while Illinois is second with four conference crowns, and Ohio State and Wisconsin have each won three. The 12 conference teams combined for a 28-8 record over the final weekend of regular-season non-conference competition, bringing the Big Ten’s non-conference record to 114-25 (.820).
All They Do is Win: The Big Ten boasts two of the eight remaining undefeated teams in the country, with Michigan State (12-0) and Northwestern (11-0) making it through the non-conference schedule without a loss. The 12-0 record marks the Spartans’ third-best start, while Northwestern’s 11-0 start is the best in school history.
Tourney Roundup: Six conference teams won tournament crowns over the weekend, with six Big Ten players earning Most Valuable Player honors and 15 players receiving All-Tournament Team accolades. Earning MVP honors were Illinois’ Jocelynn Birks (Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational), Michigan State’s Lauren Wicinski (Holiday Inn/Mt. Pleasant Tournament), Northwestern’s Stephanie Holthus (Wildcat Classic), Penn State’s Katie Slay (Penn State Classic), Purdue’s Kierra Jones (Active Ankle Challenge) and Wisconsin’s Mary Ording (Georgia Southern Eagle Invitational).
Where We Rank: Big Ten volleyball again leads all conferences with seven ranked teams in the latest AVCA Division I Coaches Poll, including two top-10 squads. Nebraska appears at No. 3, followed by No. 4 Penn State. Minnesota checks in at No. 12, while Purdue is No. 17, and Illinois is No. 20. Ohio State is No. 23, and Michigan State rounds out the poll at No. 25. Michigan and Northwestern are also receiving votes.
Statistically Speaking: Big Ten players again decorate the NCAA’s top 10 in various statistical categories. The top three performers in aces per set hail from Big Ten teams as Michigan State’s Lauren Wicinski is first (.75), Minnesota’s Daly Santana is second (.63) and Penn State’s Micha Hancock is third (.62). Wicinski is also among the leaders in points per set, ranking fourth (5.70) nationally. Five Big Ten standouts rank among the top 10 in hitting percentage. Minnesota’s Tori Dixon ranks second (.490), Nebraska’s Meghan Haggerty is third (.467), Michigan State’s Alexis Mathews is fourth (.465), Penn State’s Katie Slay is fifth (.462) and Northwestern’s Katie Dutchman is eighth (.458), while Wildcat teammate Madalyn Shalter is seventh in assists per set (11.93). In the team rankings, Minnesota leads the country in hitting percentage, ranks fourth in assists per set and fifth in kills. Michigan State is second in hitting percentage, tied for third in kills and fourth in aces per set. Penn State is seventh in hitting percentage, while Nebraska is eight in kills and tenth in assists per set.
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