Big Ten Weekly Volleyball Release - Sept. 24

Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus was named National Player of the Week.

Sept. 24, 2013

Park Ridge, Ill. -

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BIG TEN MEDAL OF HONOR 100TH ANNIVERSARY SPOTLIGHT – Michigan State’s Val Sterk: One of the most decorated student-athletes in Spartan volleyball history, Sterk earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1997. She was a four-year letterwinner for Michigan State from 1993-96, leading the Spartans to three NCAA Tournaments and a share of the Big Ten title in 1996. Sterk was the National Co-Player of the Year in 1995, a two-time first-team All-American (1995-96), a third-team Academic All-America honoree (1996) and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten selection (1994-96). She has left her mark in Michigan State’s record book, ranking in the top 10 in nine different career categories, including first in attack percentage (.379) and block solos (128). She led the Spartans in hitting efficiency and solo blocks every year of her career. Following her time in East Lansing, Sterk went on to compete on the U.S. National Team from 1997-2000 and was inducted into the Michigan State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.

First Serve: The Big Ten compiled at least 25 victories for the fourth consecutive week, closing out non-conference play with a combined 110-25 record (.815). Conference teams collected a 25-6 mark last weekend, as eight teams earned undefeated records. Minnesota went 4-0, while Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin each went 3-0 on the weekend.

Let the B1G Games Begin: The race for the Big Ten Championship is on as conference play gets underway this week. No. 9 Minnesota hosts Indiana on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on BTN, while the remaining 10 squads open Big Ten action on Friday. Eleven of this week’s 12 matches will be available on BTN or BTDN.

Tournament Roundup: Big Ten teams combined for eight tournament titles last weekend, while six conference standouts earned Most Valuable Player honors at their respective tournaments. Michigan’s Jennifer Cross (Michigan Invitational), Michigan State’s Lauren Wicinski (Spartan Invitational), Northwestern’s Stephanie Holthus (Wildcat Classic), Ohio State’s Kaitlyn Leary (Blue and White Classic), Purdue’s Kiki Jones (Active Ankle Challenge) and Wisconsin’s Dominique Thompson (N.C. State Invitational) each earned top honors, while 18 other conference players were named All-Tournament Team performers. Overall, Big Ten squads totaled 26 tournament crowns in four weeks of non-conference play.

All They Do Is Win: At the conclusion of non-conference play, six Big Ten teams boast a winning percentage of .900 or more, tied for the most among all conferences nationally. Ohio State leads conference squads with an unblemished 12-0 record (1.000), followed by Minnesota (12-1, 0923), Michigan State and Wisconsin (11-1, .917), Michigan (10-1, .909) and Penn State (9-1, .900). 

Nation’s Best: Northwestern outside hitter Stephanie Holthus has been named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week after leading Northwestern to the Wildcat Classic title last week. The senior recorded double-doubles in all three matches, averaging 6.2 kills and 4.1 digs per set, while hitting .358. The Burlington, Ill., native set a school record with 24 kills in a three-set match against Miami (Ohio). Holthus is the second Big Ten student-athlete to be named National Player of the Week this season, joining Ohio State’s Kaitlyn Leary (Sept. 10).

Statistically Speaking: Numerous Big Ten standouts appear among the top 10 of the NCAA statistical leaders, which were released on Monday.  Penn State’s Micha Hancock tops the nation in aces per set (0.91), while Ohio State’s Kaitlyn Leary ranks third in kills per set (5.31). Penn State’s Katie Slay is second in hitting percentage (.520), followed by Minnesota’s Tori Dixon in fifth (.471) and Michigan State’s Alexis Mathews in sixth (.468).  Leary is fourth in points per set (5.69) and Dixon is sixth (5.40). Ohio State’s Taylor Sherwin averages 12.16 assists per set, good for fifth in the country, while Northwestern’s Caleigh Ryan is ninth (11.79). Illinois’ Maddie Mayers is ranked ninth in the nation in blocks per set (1.46).

Three’s Company: Seventy-two of the Big Ten’s 110 victories this season have come in straight sets (65 percent). Ten conference teams have won at least five matches by a score of 3-0, including Minnesota (11), Penn State (9), Michigan State (8), Michigan (7), Ohio State (6), Purdue (6), Indiana (5), Nebraska (5) and Wisconsin (5).