Illinois, Minnesota and Penn State Claim Individual Big Ten Volleyball Honors
Dec. 1, 2008
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Two days after Penn State became the first volleyball program in NCAA Division I, II or III history to complete a regular season undefeated in matches and sets, the team was honored by the Big Ten Conference as senior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose was named Coach of the Year. Also taking home individual conference accolades, Illinois outside hitter Michelle Bartsch was named Freshman of the Year and Minnesota junior libero Christine Tan was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Fawcett becomes the 10th overall and fourth consecutive Penn State player to earn the honor as she follows fellow senior Christa Harmotto (2007), current junior Megan Hodge (2006) and Sam Tortorello (2005). The outside hitter from Zanesfield, Ohio, was the only player to rank among the Big Ten's top five in hitting percentage, kills per set, and points during the overall and conference-only schedules. In Big Ten play, Fawcett was third in points per set (4.73) and hitting percentage (.400) and fifth in kills per set (3.93). She also paced the conference in service aces per set (0.37).
Rose earns his second consecutive and eighth overall Coach of the Year award as voted on by the conference coaches as well as his fourth straight and 10th overall award as selected by a panel of conference media members. Behind Rose, the Nittany Lions claimed an unprecedented sixth consecutive Big Ten title, finishing the conference schedule undefeated for the second year in a row. Rose's squad became the first team in NCAA women's volleyball history to complete the regular-season schedule without dropping a single set.
Bartsch is the fourth Illinois player and the first in 14 years to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The outside hitter from Maryville, Ill., ranked seventh in the conference with 1.21 blocks per set during Big Ten play, helping to pace an Illinois team that consistently ranked among the NCAA's leaders in blocking. Bartsch also averaged 2.56 kills and 3.23 points per set as she helped the Illini make their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2004.
Tan finished the season as the Big Ten's leader in digs in overall and conference-only matches, averaging 4.91 saves per set in all games. The junior also led the Big Ten with 579 overall digs and is currently among the conference's all-time leaders in the category. The Palm Harbor, Fla., native was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week five times this season. She now has seven career weekly awards which ties her for fifth all-time in the Big Ten and gives her more defensive accolades than any other player since the award was started in 2005. Tan is the fifth Golden Gopher to be named Defensive Player of the Year in the eight seasons that the Big Ten has given out the award.
Fawcett and Tan were both members of the All-Big Ten team, while Bartsch fronted the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Fawcett was one of eight unanimous All-Conference selections and was joined by teammates Harmotto, Hodge and Alisha Glass. Fawcett and Harmotto are just the eighth and ninth four-time All-Big Ten selections in conference annals. Joining the Penn State quartet as unanimous All-Big Ten selections are Illinois' Laura DeBruler, Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman, Minnesota's Lauren Gibbemeyer and Purdue's Stephanie Lynch. Eight unanimous All-Big Ten selections is the highest total for the conference since at least 1997. Completing this year's All-Big Ten team are Indiana's Ashley Benson, Michigan State's Vanessa King, Minnesota's Brook Dieter and Tan and Penn State's Arielle Wilson.
Five additional players were named honorable mention All-Conference in Illinois' Johannah Bangert, Indiana's Erica Short, Michigan's Beth Karpiak, Ohio State's Katie Dull and Penn State's Roberta Holehouse.
The All-Freshman team consisted of Bartsch, Indiana's Caitlin Cox, Michigan's Alex Hunt, Michigan State's Natalie Emro and Wisconsin's Janelle Gabrielsen and Elle Ohlander. Bartsch, Hunt and Emro were unanimous selections.
The conference office also announced honorees from each of the 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' Lizzie Bazzetta, Indiana's Taylor Wittmer, Iowa's Kiley Fister, Michigan's Kerry Hance, Michigan State's Heather McDaniel, Minnesota's Kelly Schmidt, Northwestern's Chelsy Hyser, Ohio State's Laura Kastein, Penn State's Kelsey Ream, Purdue's Kristen Arthurs and Wisconsin's Audra Jeffers. 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 2008 All-Big Ten Team and individual honors follows.