Penn State Sweeps Big Ten Volleyball Postseason Honors
Nov. 29, 2005
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Continuing its dominance throughout the 2005 volleyball season, second-ranked Penn State has been awarded all four major postseason honors, it was announced today by the conference office. Nittany Lion senior Sam Tortorello was the unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year, while teammates Kaleena Walters and Nicole Fawcett were tabbed the league's Defensive Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively. Penn State mentor Russ Rose was selected by both the league coaches and media as Coach of the Year, having led the Nittany Lions to a 29-2 record overall and a perfect 20-0 in conference play. In addition to individual accolades, 16 student-athletes earned All-Big Ten honors, while six newcomers were selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Eleven honorees were also chosen for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Just days after recording an unblemished conference mark, its third consecutive Big Ten title outright and its ninth in 15 years since joining the league, Penn State has now become the first school in Big Ten history to sweep all four major postseason awards. Prior to the inception of the Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2001, Ohio State captured Player, Freshman and Coach of the Year honors in 1991. In addition, five Nittany Lions were selected to the All-Big Ten team, marking the first time in league annals that a school had five representatives in the same season. The previous record was four, set by Penn State in 1993, 1996 and 1998, while Wisconsin accomplished the feat in 1997.
Tortorello, the 2002 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the conference's first Player of the Year to come out of State College since Lauren Cacciamani in 1999. A setter from Shorewood, Ill., Tortorello led the league in assists with an average of 13.28 per game. She currently has 5,942 career assists, which ranks second in conference history. Tortorello will enter NCAA Championship play just 82 assists shy of the Big Ten's all-time career assists mark of 6,024, which was set by Minnesota's Sharon Oesterling from 1986-89. The PSU standout was also honored on Oct. 3 of this year when she was named both Big Ten Player of the Week and AVCA National Player of the Week.
Walters, a libero from Mt. Lebanon, Pa., becomes the first Nittany Lion to earn Defensive Player of the Year since the award's inception in 2001. She averaged 4.92 digs during the regular season and claimed a conference-best four Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors in the first season the award has been presented. Walters has helped the Nittany Lions to the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA Championship for the second time in as many years.
Fawcett, the coaches' unanimous selection as Freshman of the Year, is the fourth-consecutive Penn State newcomer to receive the award. The Zanesfield, Ohio native, who recorded three conference Player of the Week awards this season, ranked fourth in the league in kills with 4.43 per game. The four-straight Freshman of the Year award winners by Penn State are also a conference record.
That record helps exemplify the success that Big Ten Coach of the Year Russ Rose has had throughout his 27 years at Penn State. The Nittany Lion mentor has been honored as the league's top coach by the media seven times, and on six occasions by his peers. Rose was last honored by the coaches in 1998 and in 2003 by the media, when he shared the award with Illinois' Don Hardin. In his 27 years, Rose is now 857-153 (.849) overall and holds a record of 259-41 (.863) in an even 300 Big Ten matches since 1991.
This season's All-Big Team is made up of eight first-time selections and five returnees, including unanimous selections in Illinois' Rachel VanMeter, Ohio State's Marisa Main, Penn State's Fawcett and Tortorello, and Purdue's Renata Dargan. Minnesota's Paula Gentil is just the seventh player in league history and the first since Ohio State's Stacey Gordon from 2001-04 to be selected All-Big Ten in each of her four years. Eight of the 11 league schools were represented on the All-Big Ten Team and in honorable mention selections, led by Penn State with a record five and Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin with two each. The Badgers had a pair of middle blockers selected in sophomore Taylor Reineke and senior Sheila Shaw. In addition to Gentil, the Gophers' Meredith Nelson was selected, while Ohio State's Danielle Meyer joins Main on the team.
Fawcett and Christa Harmotto of Penn State were selected to both the All-Big Ten and All-Freshman Teams. Four additional newcomers were selected by the conference coaches to the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team. Iowa's Catherine Smale is the first Hawkeye newcomer to ever be named to the team, while Purdue's Stephanie Lynch and Danita Merlau marked the first time the Boilermakers ever had two freshmen named to the team in the same season. Wisconsin's Audra Jeffers was also named to the squad, which continues the Badgers' streak as the only Big Ten squad that has had an All-Freshman honoree in each of the seven years since the award's inception in 1999.
The conference office also announced today honorees from each of the league's 11 volleyball squads for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Honorees for women's volleyball are Illinois' Vicki Brown, Indiana's Mandy Eberle, Iowa's Melanie Meister, Michigan's Erin Cobler, Michigan State's Megan Wallin, Minnesota's Malama Peniata, Northwestern's Lauren Greenwood, Ohio State's Ami Stevens, Penn State's Maggie Case, Purdue's Leah Wischmeier and Wisconsin's Jocelyn Wack. These 11 student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.
A complete listing of the 2005 All-Big Ten Team and individual honors follows.