Oct. 16, 2006
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Top-20 Border Battle Opens Play This Week
Coming off wins against ranked competition this past week, No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 17 Minnesota will square-off in the mid-week match on Wednesday. Minnesota, which jumped six spots in the polls this week, and Wisconsin, which advanced three positions, both topped then-No. 9 Purdue last week.
Following Wednesday's action, Big Ten volleyball hits the court on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week with the conference finale featuring Michigan at No. 24 Ohio State at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Big Ten's Depth Unmatched in Conference History
Four 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 eight teams this year have won two-thirds (67 percent) or more of their overall schedule.
Penn State Still Perfect
At 19-0, second-ranked Penn State is one of only two undefeated teams in the country, joining top-ranked Nebraska (17-0). 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 14 first-place votes, leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 2, followed by No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 14 Purdue, No. 17 Minnesota and No. 24 Ohio State.
Big Ten Boasts Nation's Best in Four NCAA Stats
According to the latest NCAA stats, through Oct. 8, Penn State ranks first in hitting percentage (.355) and blocks (3.66), while Michigan State is second in kills (17.39) and third in assists (15.95). Wisconsin is currently fourth in blocks (3.57). Illinois' Lizzie Bazzetta (13.77) and Penn State's Christa Harmotto (.15.95) are the highest-ranked conference standouts as they rank second in assists and third in 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 .334 clip, while the Buckeyes sit second at .295. Penn State's current clip is just .012 shy of the Big Ten record of .346, which the Lions set in 1998.
Gophers Top Purdue Before Impressive Crowd
Minnesota drew 8,377 fans for its match against No. 9 Purdue at Williams Arena last week, which marked the third-largest crowd in school history. The Gophers' total was also the second-highest attendance figure for a women's collegiate volleyball match this season.
NU Welcomes Largest Crowd in Over Five Years
Northwestern attracted 1,002 fans to its match against No. 2 Penn State this past week -- a total that marks the first time in the Keylor Chan era (since 2000) a crowd of more than 1,000 has attended an NU volleyball match.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Despite posting a pair of wins last week, Wisconsin saw an impressive streak come to an end. Junior Jocelyn Wack's NCAA record for consecutive matches with 10-or-more digs came to an end against Purdue last Friday. The 5-11 libero had recorded double-figure digs in 80-straight matches before totaling only eight digs against the Boilermakers.
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 .467, 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.