Oct. 9, 2006
Another Intrastate Rivalry Opens Play This Week
One week after Purdue topped rival Indiana in the mid-week opener, another intrastate battle will set the tone for week four of conference play. Michigan State travels to Ann Arbor this Wednesday to face Michigan. Both teams are off to 2-4 starts in Big Ten play, but boast impressive overall records with the Wolverines at 15-4 and the Spartans at 11-5.
The depth of the Big Ten almost always provides volleyball fans with a weekly top-25 conference matchup and this week is no different. No. 9 Purdue will travel to No. 14 Wisconsin on Friday and then face No. 23 Minnesota on Saturday. As was the case last week, two Big Ten battles are scheduled for Sunday, with one including No. 2 Penn State at Illinois, while the other pits Indiana against the nationally-ranked Badgers.
Pair of Big Ten Matchups Set for TV Audience
For the second time this season, a pair of Big Ten matches will be seen before a regional and national viewing audience this week. No. 2 Penn State travels to Northwestern on Friday, which will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Chicago on Sunday at noon CT. ESPN2 will feature a top-25 matchup as No. 9 Purdue travels to No. 23 Minnesota on Saturday. That match will air on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Big Ten's Depth Unmatched in Conference History
Three weeks into the conference season, the Big Ten is the lone major conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) to boast all its member volleyball squads with an overall winning percentage of .500 or better. Prior to this year, the Big Ten had never experienced this top-to-bottom success with all teams at .500 or better after two weeks into the conference season. In addition, an impressive nine teams this year have won two-thirds (67 percent) or more of their overall schedule.
Penn State Still Perfect
At 17-0, second-ranked Penn State is one of only four undefeated teams in the country, joining UCLA (19-0), Southern California (17-0) and Nebraska (15-0). Last year, Purdue was the last Big Ten team to remain undefeated at 11-0, while Ohio State stretched its start out to 19-0 in 2004 before suffering its first loss.
Five Schools Ranked in Nation's Top 25
Five Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked in the top 25 of the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll. Penn State, which earned 12 first-place votes, leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 2, followed by No. 9 Purdue, No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 16 Ohio State and No. 23 Minnesota.
Big Ten Boasts Nation's Best in Four NCAA Stats
According to the latest NCAA stats, through Oct. 1, Penn State ranks first in hitting percentage (.355) and fourth in blocks (3.56), while Michigan State is first in kills (17.54) and third in assists (16.08). Wisconsin is currently second in blocks (3.70). Illinois' Lizzie Bazzetta (13.80) and Penn State's Christa Harmotto (.506) are the highest-ranked conference standouts as they rank second in assists and hitting percentage, respectively.
Lions "Hitting" on All Cylinders
No. 2 Penn State currently holds a commanding lead over Ohio State in overall hitting percentage. The Nittany Lions rank first with a .343 clip, while the Buckeyes sit second at .298. Penn State's current clip is just .002 shy of the Big Ten record of .346, which the Lions set in 1998.
Other "Record Watch" Material...
Penn State's hitting percentage isn't the only stat to keep track of right now, as four other marks currently rank in the top 10 of the conference's all-time records. While still early in the season, Penn State's blocks (3.66) mark fifth all-time, while Wisconsin's 3.57 rank 10th. Michigan State's assists (15.95) average is currently ninth all-time and Michigan's 18.14 digs per game is 10th.
Hawkeyes' Win Gives Fredrick No. 400 for Career
Iowa's Cindy Fredrick won her 400th collegiate match last Friday night when her Hawkeyes defeated Indiana, 3-0, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa nearly gave Fredrick an impressive 401st career victory as her Hawkeyes nearly upset No. 9 Purdue in five games on Saturday. Fredrick is now 400-290 in her career, with a 36-47 record at Iowa.
Underclass Yet Ahead of the Class
A pair of Big Ten underclassmen currently sit atop the conference rankings in hitting percentage, as Penn State sophomore Christa Harmotto leads the group of hitters at .480, followed by Ohio State freshman Meghan Simons at .433. The two conference standouts are the only two players that are hitting over 40 percent. Currently, Harmotto's impressive clip is well ahead of the Big Ten's single-season record of .455, set by Illinois' Mary Eggers in 1986.
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.