Nov. 7, 2005
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Sweet 16: PSU Clinches Share of Title With Wins
After opening a four-match lead on Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin, Penn State has a chance to clinch a share of the Big Ten title this weekend with a pair of wins. The Nittany Lions, 23-2 overall and a perfect 14-0 in league play, travel to Purdue on Friday, followed by a matchup at Illinois on Saturday.
Should Penn State capture its 15th and 16th wins, it would mark the third straight and ninth overall Big Ten title for the Nittany Lions.
Also on tap this week is a trio of top 25 matches in West Lafayette, Ind. Following its match against the Nittany Lions Friday, No. 14 Purdue will host No. 19 Ohio State on Saturday. In addition, No. 13 Wisconsin will travel to No. 17 Minnesota on Saturday as well.
Five League Teams Rank Among Top 20 For Fans
In the unofficial national attendance figures, which are compiled weekly by the University of Wisconsin, the Big Ten boasts five teams among the top 20 schools in the nation, which is more than any other conference. Minnesota (No. 3) is currently averaging 4,049 patrons per match, while Wisconsin (4), Penn State (6) and Purdue (9) follow in the top 10. Illinois rounds out the Big Ten contingent in 20th.
Now 4-for-20 Marks Improvement...
With two wins this week, Wisconsin (18-5) could become the fourth Big Ten team (PSU: 23-2, PUR: 21-4, MINN: 20-5) with 20 or more wins this season, trailing the 15-team Big East (5 teams) as the only major conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) that has had four teams eclipse the mark. The Big Ten had five teams conclude the 2004 campaign with 20 or more wins.
Five Big Ten Schools Ranked in Nation's Top 20
For the eighth consecutive week, five Big Ten teams are ranked in the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Penn State (No. 3), Wisconsin (13), Purdue (14), Minnesota (17) and Ohio State (19) all found spots among the top 20 this week.
Comcast SportsNet to Air Indiana-Michigan
Comcast SportsNet Chicago will broadcast the Indiana at Michigan matchup this week that will take place on Friday at 6 p.m. CT. The tape-delay airing of the match can be seen on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT. In the teams' first meeting this season, Indiana edged out the Wolverines, 3-2, on September 24.
Big Ten Ranks Among NCAA Leaders
Several Big Ten standouts and teams are nationally ranked in many categories. As of Oct. 30, three student-athletes rank in the top 30 in assists, blocks, digs and kills, while one ranks in the top 30 in hitting percentage. Illinois' Rachel VanMeter (5.70) is the highest-ranked conference individual at No. 3 in kills per game. On the team side, four Big Ten squads rank among the top 30 in assists and hitting percentage, while three rank in blocks and kills per game.
Major Milestones Noted
Last weekend, three Big Ten student-athletes eclipsed notable milestones in three different categories. Rachel VanMeter became just the fifth Illinois player to reach 1,500 kills, after posting 27 and 22 kills, respectively, at Wisconsin and Northwestern. She entered the week ranked third in the nation in kills per game. Michigan's Mara Martin recorded her 1,000th-career assist, becoming just the 10th Wolverine in program history to eclipse the mark, while in Bloomington, Rachel Gerling of Indiana tied Erin Heimann's 1999 total for seventh in Hoosier history with 50 service aces on the year.
With its 3-1 win over No. 10 Wisconsin last week, Purdue has beaten two top 10 teams in a season for the first time since 1985. The Boilermakers have now recorded 21 wins for the first time since 1990.
Last season, Michigan State's Kim Schram led the conference with an service ace average of 0.36 per game. This year, however, six Big Ten players average above that mark, led by Minnesota's Paula Gentil at 0.53. Indiana's Rachel Gerling follows just behind at 0.52, while Purdue's Brittany Dildine (0.39), Ohio State's Ashley Kiel (0.38), Northwestern's Lindsay Anderson (0.37) and Purdue's Melanie Ukovich (0.37) all hold averages better than Schram's mark in 2004.
Two Standouts Eyeing Career Top-10 in Assists
A pair of Big Ten standouts -- Penn State's Sam Tortorello and Purdue's Renata Dargan -- is quickly approaching the league's career mark for assists. Currently, Tortorello has 5,714 career assists, which ranks seventh in conference history. Dargan's total of 5,543 is ninth-best all-time in the league. Both players have a legitimate shot at breaking the Big Ten's all-time career assists mark of 6,024, currently held by Minnesota's Sharon Oesterling from 1986-89.