Top-12 Battle Opens This Week's Action

Nov. 13, 2006

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No. 12 Gophers Travel Wednesday to No. 10 Badgers
Tied for second in the conference standings at 13-3, No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 12 Minnesota will be forced to split from one another when the two teams take to the court in Madison, Wis., on Wednesday.  The Golden Gophers swept the Badgers in the first meeting between the two on Oct. 18.

Big Ten volleyball hits the court on Friday and Saturday with a focus on the state of Michigan.  Fresh off their upsets of then-No. 16 Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State will both face nationally-ranked competition yet again as they each host No. 5 Penn State and No. 19 Ohio State this weekend.

Seven Schools Recognized in National Poll
Five Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked in the top 25 of the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll, while two conference squads are currently receiving votes.  Penn State leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 5, followed by No. 10 Wisconsin, No. 12 Minnesota, No. 19 Ohio State and No. 23 Purdue.  Michigan and Michigan State are currently receiving votes outside the top 25.

Comcast to Televise Purdue at Illinois
Comcast SportsNet Chicago will be in Champaign, Ill., on Friday to broadcast No. 23 Purdue and Illinois, which takes place at 7 p.m. CT.  The match will air on a tape-delay basis on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 4:30 p.m. CT.
Big Ten Players & Teams Ranked in NCAA Stats
According to the latest NCAA stats, through Nov. 5, Penn State ranks first in hitting percentage (.321) and third in blocks (3.61), while Wisconsin (3.50) is fifth.  Michigan State is 11th in hitting percentage (.280) and assists (15.52) and 12th in kills (16.78).  Illinois' Lizzie Bazzetta (13.94) is the highest-ranked conference standout as she ranks second in assists.

If You Build It...
And they have been coming to the UW Fieldhouse this year as Badger fans are swarming the gates at a record pace to watch their No. 10 Wisconsin team this season.  With two home matches remaining, the Badgers are on track to break their own Big Ten records for attendance. Wisconsin is averaging 4,713 fans per Big Ten match, which would break its own record of 4,649 per match set in 2003. The UW is also averaging 4,377 in all matches, which would break its own record of 4,294 also set in 2003. 

Minnesota Pair Digs Up Some History
This past weekend, Minnesota senior Kelly Bowman recorded her 1,000th career dig in game one against Northwestern, making her the 14th Golden Gopher to eclipse the career mark.  Bowman joined teammate Malama Peniata who reached that mark earlier in the year, which makes the pair the first Minnesota duo to reach the 1,000-career dig mark in the same season since Sharon Oesterling and Chris Schaefer did in the same season in 1989.

Lions "Hitting" on All Cylinders
No. 5 Penn State currently holds a commanding lead over Michigan State in overall hitting percentage and boasts the top-three hitting individuals as well.  The Nittany Lions rank first with a .318 clip, while the Spartans sit second at .284.  Penn State junior Melissa Walbridge (.408), sophomore Christa Harmotto (.406) and senior Cassy Salyer (.361) are ranked first through third, respectively, while teammate Nicole Fawcett, a sophomore, is eighth overall at .329.

Serving Never Gets Old
Battling Northwestern on Saturday, Minnesota's Merdeith Nelson put together a near-record breaking feat from the service line.  Nelson served 18 straight points against the Wildcats, which until this year, tied last year's NCAA record of most consecutive points.  The Minnesota senior began serving at 8-4, and did not finish until Northwestern scored to make it 25-5. Nelson tied Courtney Thompson from Washington who had 18 last August against Gardner Webb.  Earlier this year, Southern Illinois broke the record by serving 21 straight points in a match.

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