Big Ten Volleyball Weekly Release - Dec. 4

Penn State's Russ Rose was named Coach of the Year.

Dec. 4, 2013

Rosemont, Ill. -

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Attached you will find the Big Ten volleyball weekly release, complete with updated standings, statistics, news and notes from around the conference.
BIG TEN MEDAL OF HONOR 100TH ANNIVERSARY SPOTLIGHT – Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje: A 2012 recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, Rathje was a four-year letterwinner for Michigan State, leading the Spartans to three NCAA Championship appearances. She ranks first in Michigan State history in matches (142) and sets (496) played. She is also eighth in kills (1,486) and block assists (332) and 10th in total blocks (366). The Mount Pleasant, Mich., native was named third-team All-America and an Academic All-American in 2011. Rathje was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. She was twice named MVP of the Spartans in 2010 and 2011. Rathje currently coaches volleyball at Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy in Pontiac, Mich.

NCAA Tournament Bound: The Big Ten will be well-represented at the 2013 NCAA Volleyball Championship, as eight conference teams have been selected to the tournament’s field of 64. The eight chosen squads ties the Big Ten record for most teams sent to the national tournament which happened four other times (1999, 2002, 2010, 2011). Five Big Ten teams are seeded in the tournament, which marks the most among all conferences. Big Ten Champion Penn State enters the tournament as the No. 2 overall seed, while No. 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 13 Illinois have each earned top-16 seeds. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue also received bids to round out the Big Ten contingent in the tournament.

And The Awards Go To: The Big Ten announced its postseason volleyball awards on Tuesday, with student-athletes from four schools earning recognition following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season. Nebraska’s Kelsey Robinson has been named the Big Ten Player of the Year, while Michigan State’s Kori Moster and Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini were tabbed Defensive Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively. Penn State’s Micha Hancock earned Setter of the Year honors, while Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose was tabbed Coach of the Year by Big Ten coaches and media.

Familiar Title Territory: With last week’s 3-0 win over Ohio State, Penn State earned the outright 2013 Big Ten Volleyball Championship. The crown marks the 10th in the last 11 years and 16th overall for the Nittany Lions. Penn State ended the season with a 19-1 record in Big Ten play and 28-2 overall mark en route to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Championship.

NCAA Championship History: Big Ten institutions have claimed five of the last seven NCAA volleyball titles. Nebraska took home the national title in 2006 before Penn State won four straight from 2007-10. The Nittany Lions and Michigan are coming off NCAA semifinal appearances last season, while the Huskers advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2012.  

Where We Rank: Eight Big Ten teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA Coaches’ Top 25 poll, which leads all conferences. The Big Ten is led by No. 2 Penn State, followed by No. 9 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 18 Illinois, No. 19 Purdue, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan. The Gophers, Huskers and Boilermakers each moved up one spot in the poll from a week ago.

Reppin’ in the RPI: According to the latest RPI report released by the NCAA on Monday, eight Big Ten teams appear in the top 35, the most among all conferences. Penn State leads the way at No. 1, followed by No. 9 Nebraska, No. 11 Minnesota, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 20 Illinois, No. 27 Purdue, No. 28 Michigan State and No. 33 Michigan.

Statistically Speaking: Numerous Big Ten standouts appear among the top 10 of the NCAA statistical leaders. Penn State’s Micha Hancock is second in the nation in aces per set (0.64), while teammate Katie Slay is third (1.63) and Michigan State’s Alexis Mathews is 10th (1.52) in blocks per set. Ohio State’s Kaitlyn Leary is fourth in kills per set (4.85) and 10th in points per set (5.16), while Michigan State’s Lauren Wicinski is eighth in points (5.21). As a team, Penn State is first is blocks per set (3.08) and fourth in hitting percentage (.312). Minnesota is also in the top 10 in blocks per set and hitting percentage, ranking seventh (2.93) and ninth (.287), respectively.

Top-25 Tilts: During the conference season, 49 of the 120 matches featured two teams in the top 25 (41 percent). Sixty-seven of the 120 tilts (56 percent) featured two squads ranked or receiving votes in the national poll. During Big Ten play, nine of the 12 squads went through stretches of playing at least five straight matches against teams ranked or receiving votes in the top 25, including Michigan and Nebraska, who played eight in a row.

Streaking Along: Several Big Ten schools are riding multiple-match winning streaks heading into the national tournament. Penn State has won 19 straight matches, while Minnesota and Purdue are each riding four-match winning streaks. Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin also ended the regular season on a winning note, recording victories in their final match.