Dec. 7, 2011
Six Teams Continue Tournament Run: Big Ten teams are set to compete in NCAA Championship regionals this weekend, with six squads advancing to the tournament's Sweet 16. The six regional qualifying teams ties a conference record set in the 2010 NCAA Championship and marks the most of any conference this season. Third-seeded Illinois squares off against Ohio State and Michigan takes on host Florida in the Gainesville Regional, while No. 8 seed Penn State plays No. 9 UCLA in the Lexington Regional. Minnesota hosts No. 4 Iowa State in the Minneapolis Regional, while No. 5 Purdue takes on No. 12 Florida State in Minneapolis. The regional semifinals are scheduled for Friday, with the finals following on Saturday.
NCAA Championship TV Coverage: All five Big Ten regional semifinal contests will be streamed live on ESPN3.com on Friday. Saturday's regional finals can be seen live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
Opening Rounds By The Numbers: Big Ten teams have compiled a 14-2 record through the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship. Every participating Big Ten team advanced out of the tournament's first round for just the second time in conference history, as four teams swept their way into the second round, while the other four won in four sets. Six squads then won their second-round contests, giving the Big Ten the most Sweet 16 teams of any conference.
Recapping Rounds 1 & 2: No. 3 Illinois swept Central Michigan and Marquette, while Michigan earned four-set wins over Baylor and No. 11 Stanford. Michigan State defeated Arizona, 3-1, before dropping its second-round contest to No. 1 Texas. No. 13 Minnesota beat North Dakota State in three before coming from behind to defeat Washington in five, while No. 2 Nebraska swept Jackson State before falling to Kansas State in five. Ohio State took down Middle Tennessee in four sets, following with a five-set win over No. 14 Tennessee. No. 8 Penn State picked up back-to-back sweeps over Liberty and Delaware, while No. 5 Purdue won consecutive four-set matches against Morehead State and Louisville en route to the Sweet 16.
Big Ten Claims AVCA Regional Honors: Big Ten volleyball standouts collected numerous AVCA Division I Regional Awards on Tuesday, with 12 players earning All-Region honors. Purdue head coach Dave Shondell was named the Mideast Region Coach of the Year, while Penn State newcomer Micha Hancock reeled in Mideast Region Freshman of the Year laurels. Earning All-Mideast Region accolades were Illinois' Michelle Bartsch and Colleen Ward, Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje, Minnesota's Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman, Nebraska's Gina Mancuso, Ohio State's Mari Hole, Penn State's Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott and Katie Slay, and Purdue's Tiffany Fisher and Ariel Turner. Additionally, six players received honorable mention status -- Nebraska's Morgan Broekhuis, Lauren Cook and Hannah Werth, Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus, Ohio State's Emily Danks and Purdue's Rachel Davis.
Hey, I Know You: Two Big Ten teams are set to meet in Friday's regional semifinals, as No. 3 Illinois takes on Ohio State in the Gainesville Regional. It will be the 12th time two Big Ten teams have met in the NCAA Championship and the first since 2007, when eventual national champion Penn State defeated Michigan, 3-0, in the regional semifinals. Two regional finals could feature Big Ten matchups. With a win on Friday, Michigan would face either Illinois or Ohio State in the Gainesville Regional final, while wins by No. 5 Purdue and No. 13 Minnesota would pit the teams against each other in the Minneapolis Regional final.
Big Ten in the NCAA Championship: Penn State enters the 2011 NCAA Championship looking to earn its fifth consecutive national title after emerging victorious in each of the past four seasons. Overall, the Big Ten boasts eight national championship teams in Penn State (1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) and Nebraska (1995, 2000, 2006). The Big Ten sent eight squads to this year's national tournament, tying a conference record. The conference has sent eight teams to the postseason three other times -- in 1999, 2002 and 2010.
Awards Season: The Big Ten announced its All-Conference teams and individual award winners, with Purdue's Ariel Turner earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Penn State's Katie Slay reeled in Defensive Player of the Year laurels, while Penn State's Micha Hancock was named Freshman of the Year and Purdue's Dave Shondell was tabbed Coach of the Year by the conference's coaches and media. The complete list of All-Big Ten honorees and individual award winners can be found on the following page.
Nebraska Clinches Big Ten Title: With its 3-0 win over Iowa on Nov. 22, Nebraska clinched its first Big Ten Championship outright. The second-ranked Huskers earned their 17th conference win of the season en route to the university's first Big Ten title as a member of the conference.
The Ratings Are In: Eight Big Ten teams held top-50 rankings in the final national RPI of the regular season, with five teams landing in the top 12 to lead all conferences. Illinois continues its reign atop the rankings, holding the No. 1 spot for the seventh time.. Nebraska checks in at No. 4, followed by No. 6 Purdue, No. 11 Penn State and No. 12 Minnesota. Michigan holds No. 23, while Michigan State ranks 37th and Ohio State stands at No. 48.
Where We Rank: Six Big Ten volleyball teams appeared in the top 25 in the final regular season AVCA Division I Coaches Poll. Nebraska leads the way for the conference contingent at No. 2, while a trio of conference teams joins the Huskers in the top 10. Illinois checks in at No. 7, while Purdue remains at No. 8 and Penn State jumps to No. 9, tying the Big Ten with the Pac-12 for the most top-10 teams in the country. Minnesota again stands at No. 19, while Michigan moves up one spot to No. 22. Michigan State and Ohio State are receiving votes in the poll.
Statistically Speaking: The Big Ten has top-10 performers in nearly every major NCAA statistical category. Penn State's Micha Hancock is second nationally in aces per set (0.76), while Minnesota's Mia Tabberson jumps up to second in assists per set (11.94) this week.Purdue's Ariel Turner is third nationally in points per set (5.49) and fifth in kills per set (4.87), while fellow Boilermaker Tiffany Fisher is 10th in hitting percentage (.395).
Three's Company: Illinois, Nebraska and Penn State have each earned a No. 1 national ranking this season, marking the first time this season and just the third time since 1982 that a conference has had three different top-ranked teams in one season. The Pac-12 also boasts three top-ranked squads this season, as California, UCLA and current No. 1 USC have topped the poll in 2011. The Pac-10 accomplished the feat in 2004 with Stanford, USC and Washington, while the WCAA did the same in 1984 with Stanford, UCLA and USC.