Oct. 27, 2008
Complete Release in PDF Format
FACES OF THE BIG TEN
Danita Merlau, Purdue
Sr., New Palestine, Ind. / Cathedral
Merlau has 18 relatives that have attended Purdue, including her parents John and Cathy Merlau, her brother Eric and sister Amber. Danita carries on the family tradition with pride and success on and off the court. The communication major is a two-time Academic All-District and two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. She ranks among Purdue's all-time top five in kills (4th with 1,564) and kills per set (3rd with 3.61). Merlau has played a significant role in the team's ascension up the conference ladder (5th to 3rd) and onto the national stage (three straight NCAA second-round appearances).
PSU Sweeping Through the Season
Penn State remains one of just three undefeated teams in the country and the only squad undefeated in matches in sets, now at 22-0 overall. The Nittany Lions have won their last 48 matches and are four away from tying the NCAA record of 52 set by USC from 2002-04. PSU has won its last 67 sets, which is fourth all-time on the NCAA records list. After finishing last season a perfect 20-0 in conference, Penn State has won its last 35 consecutive Big Ten matches, which is the fourth-longest streak in conference history. The Nittany Lions are looking to become the first team to post back-to-back undefeated conference seasons since the 1998-99 PSU squads.
No Such Thing as a Sophomore Slump
Several of last season's top freshmen are duplicating or surpassing their previous success this year. 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Arielle Wilson finished last season hitting .446 with 1.80 blocks per set and has put up similar numbers this season with a .449 hitting mark and a 1.32 bps average. Illinois sophomore Laura DeBruler ranks second in the Big Ten with 4.59 kills, which is slightly down from last year's mark of 4.89, but her hitting percentage has improved from .198 last season to .245 in 2008. Minnesota's Brook Dieter, who tied the conference record for Player of the Week selections by a freshman a season ago, averaged 3.75 kills per set last season and is averaging 3.78 kps this year. Teammate and classmate Lauren Gibbemeyer has upped her blocks per set from 1.09 in 2007 to 1.47 in 2008.
Hoosiers Pull Historic Upset
With Indiana's upset win over then-No. 21 Wisconsin on Sunday, the Hoosiers captured their first win against the Badgers since 2002 and their first in Madison since 1995. It also marked IU's first win over a ranked opponent this year.
Home is Where the Fans Are
Big Ten teams rank among the nation's best in home attendance with five squads in the top 10. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State rank third through sixth, respectively, while Michigan State is eighth. Wisconsin and Minnesota are two of just four school averaging over 4,000 fans per game, welcoming 4,536 and 4,019 through the turnstiles, respectively. Also among the nation's leaders are No. 29 Michigan, No. 30 Illinois and No. 34 Ohio State, who each average over 1,000 fans per contest.
Big Ten Polling Place
The Big Ten once again places six teams in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll released on Monday. Penn State is ranked No. 1 for the 10th time this season and is followed by No. 13 Minnesota, No. 17 Illinois, No. 18 Michigan, No. 20 Purdue and No. 25 Wisconsin. Dating back to last season, the Nittany Lions have been No. 1 for 17 consecutive weeks, while the Wolverines own their highest spot since Oct. 15, 2007.
Leaders of the Pack
Big Ten student-athletes lead the NCAA in three of the six major statistical categories. Penn State's Alisha Glass continues to lead the nation in assists, averaging 12.32 helpers per set. At the net, Illinois' Johannah Bangert is tied for first in the NCAA with 1.58 blocks per set. The Nittany Lions' Christa Harmotto is tops in hitting percentage, slamming the ball at a .511 clip. She set a Big Ten record in the category last season and is currently the only player in the country hitting above .500. In addition, the Big Ten places six other players in the top 10 of five different stat categories.
Big Ten on TV
The Big Ten's 11 volleyball squads are enjoying vast exposure during the 2008 regular season with 23 matches airing on national television. Two Big Ten volleyball matches will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network this week, beginning on Wednesday as Northwestern travels to Wisconsin. The Wildcats are 0-1 in televised games while the Badgers are 1-1. Coverage continues Saturday evening as Purdue hosts Michigan. The Boilermakers are 0-2 on national TV, while the Wolverines are 3-1, including a 3-1 victory at home against Purdue on Oct. 10.