Nov. 20, 2006
Big Ten Championship Decided This Week
With one week remaining in the regular season, three teams still have a shot at clinching the 2006 Big Ten Championship. Conference leader Penn State is 16-2, followed by Minnesota at 15-3 and Wisconsin at 14-4. Penn State, which is looking for its fourth straight Big Ten title, hosts Illinois and Northwestern this weekend -- teams they swept back in mid-October. Minnesota and Wisconsin will both face Indiana and Purdue on the road this week. The Golden Gophers and Badgers also defeated the two teams in their first regular-season matches earlier this year.
Penn State is looking for its 10th Big Ten Championship and its fourth-straight outright title, which would be a first in conference history. Penn State won four consecutive championships from 1996-99, but shared the titles with Michigan State in 1996 and Wisconsin in 1997 before winning outright in 1998 and 1999. Wisconsin is vying for its fifth crown and first since 2001, while Minnesota has claimed just one conference title, which was back in 2002.
Over Half of Big Ten Teams Boast 20+ Wins
For just the sixth time since the Big Ten expanded to 11 teams in 1991, over half the conference squads have captured 20 wins or more in a season. The year's feat also marks the second time (1994-95) the Big Ten has ever had back-to-back seasons with six teams at 20 wins or more. Currently, Michigan (20-11), Minnesota (21-7), Ohio State (21-7), Penn State (27-2), Purdue (21-8) and Wisconsin (22-6) have eclipsed the 20-win mark, while Michigan State (17-11) is currently the closest team to give the Big Ten seven teams with 20 or more victories. The conference has boasted six 20-win teams in 1994, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Five Schools Ranked in Top 25 Poll
Five Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked in the top 25 of the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll. Penn State leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 5, followed by No. 10 Minnesota, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 19 Ohio State and No. 22 Purdue.
Comcast to Broadcast Final Match of 2006
Comcast SportsNet Chicago will be in West Lafayette, Ind., this week to air its final match of the 2006 Big Ten volleyball season. CSN Chicago will televise Saturday's top 25 matchup between No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 22 Purdue, which takes place at 7 p.m. ET. The match will air on a tape-delay basis on Sunday, Nov. 26, at Noon CT.
Big Ten Players & Teams Ranked in NCAA Stats
According to the latest NCAA stats, through Nov. 12, Penn State ranks first in hitting percentage (.318) and third in blocks (3.59), while Wisconsin (3.46) is eighth. Michigan State is seventh in kills (17.02), eighth in assists (3.46) and ninth in hitting percentage (.284). Illinois' Lizzie Bazzetta (13.64) is the highest-ranked conference standout as she ranks sixth in assists.
If You Build It...
And they did come to the UW Fieldhouse this year as Badger fans stormed the gates at a record pace to watch their No. 11 Wisconsin team this season. The Badgers broke their own Big Ten record for attendance in conference matches as Wisconsin drew 47,110 spectators to 10 contests, breaking their own mark of 46,489 fans set in 2003. The Badgers' average of 4,711 fans per match breaks their own mark of 4,649 per match, also set in 2003. Wisconsin is also on track to break its own season record for attendance. The Badgers have attracted 66,309 spectators in 15 matches this season for an average of 4,421 fans per game, which would break UW's season record for attendance. The current record is 4,294 spectators per match, set in 2003.
Illini's Macdonald Attacks the Records Book
This past weekend, Illinois senior middle blocker Meghan Macdonald hit her way into the Big Ten records book by recording a perfect 1.000 hitting percentage with 12 kills on 12 attempts and no errors. This is the first time a perfect percentage has been recorded in conference-only matches and just the third occasion in Big Ten history an attacker has posted the mark. Purdue's Debbie McDonald (13-0-13) set the record on Sept. 25, 1987 against N.C. State and was joined by Penn State's Cara Smith (11-0-11) on Sept. 14, 2002, when she posted an unblemished mark against Army.
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.