Nov. 6, 2012
First Serve: Penn State remains atop the Big Ten standings with just three weeks of regular-season competition remaining, boasting a 13-1 conference record. Minnesota is two matches back of the Nittany Lions at 11-3, while Nebraska is third at 10-4. Ohio State and Purdue hold 9-5 records and are tied for fourth place.
The Week That Was: Penn State won matches against No. 10 Minnesota and Wisconsin, taking a 3-1 decision over the Golden Gophers and defeating the Badgers, 3-0, to extend its Big Ten lead. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue also won back-to-back contests last week. Both the Wolverines and Spartans took down No. 4 Nebraska in five sets and swept Iowa, while Purdue earned wins over Illinois (3-2) and Northwestern (3-0).
Big Ten Championship in Sight: Penn State has a chance to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title this weekend, but does not control its own destiny in the title hunt. If the Nittany Lions win both of their matches, Minnesota loses both contests and Nebraska drops at least one match this week, then Penn State will clinch at least a share of the championship.
Penn State’s Hancock Earns National Honor: Penn State setter Micha Hancock has been named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week after leading the Nittany Lions to back-to-back Big Ten wins. Hancock recorded 46 assists, 15 digs and tied a career-high with seven aces in a four-set win over No. 10 Minnesota before recording 40 assists, 11 digs and two aces in a sweep of Wisconsin. The award is the first by a Big Ten student-athlete this season, and Hancock becomes the first Nittany Lion to win the award since Megan Hodge took home the honor on November 3, 2009.
Where We Rank: The Big Ten once again boasts five ranked teams in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, including three top 10 squads. Penn State climbs to No. 2, while Nebraska moves to No. 9, and Minnesota remains at No. 10 for the seventh straight week. Ohio State checks in at No. 15 for the second consecutive week, and Purdue moves to No. 21.
The Ratings Are In: Nine Big Ten teams appear in the top 50 of the latest RPI rankings, released by the NCAA this week, which is tied for first among all conferences. Three Big Ten squads have earned spots in the top six, with No. 3 Penn State leading the way. Nebraska follows at No. 4, while Minnesota checks in at No. 6. Ohio State and Purdue also hold top-25 rankings, as the Boilermakers are 19th and the Buckeyes are 23rd. Michigan checks in at No. 28, followed by No. 37 Illinois, No. 41 Michigan State and No. 48 Northwestern.
20-20 Vision: With a 3-2 triumph over No. 15 Ohio State on Sunday, Minnesota earned its 20th win of the season, becoming the second Big Ten team to reach the mark this year. Penn State boasts 23 wins with three weeks remaining in the regular season, while seven other teams can reach the 20-wins mark in the 2012 campaign. Michigan and Michigan State have won 19 matches, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue have won 18, Wisconsin has notched 16 wins, and Northwestern has tallied 15 victories.
Don’t Touch That Dial: Ten of this week’s 12 matches will be broadcast live or streamed online. Wednesday’s Northwestern-Ohio State match and Thursday’s Illinois-Penn State contest will each be shown live at 8 p.m. ET on BTN. Additionally, eight of the conference’s matches will be streamed live at www.BTN.com.
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