Sport Summary - Volleyball
Big Ten volleyball is currently the only women's sport that does not participate in a postseason conference championship, thus putting all importance and focus on the regular-season championship. Parity within the league has been seen over the last 25 years as eight of the 11 conference programs have earned the title "Big Ten champion." Since its admittance into the conference in 1991, Penn State has posted a record nine Big Ten titles and has twice recorded three-consecutive crowns from 1997-99 and its current streak from 2003-05. Illinois and Wisconsin each have four-straight championships, followed by Ohio State's three, Michigan State and Northwestern with two apiece and Minnesota and Purdue with one.
The Nittany Lions gave the Big Ten its lone NCAA Championship in 1999, when they finished the year 36-1, including their second-straight undefeated 20-0 conference season, both of which are Big Ten records. Russ Rose has been in State College for all nine conference titles and the magical 1999 season, and has garnered Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media a record seven times, and on a conference-best six occasions by his peers. During Rose's tenure, Penn State has produced two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Bonnie Bremner (1997-98), who also earned All-Conference honors in each of her four years along with teammate Lauren Cacciamani in 1996-99. Most recently, Rose has recruited the conference's last four Freshman of the Year honorees in Sam Tortorello (2002), Cassy Salyer (2003), Kate Price (2004) and Nicole Fawcett (2005). In 2005, both Fawcett and Tortorello were unanimous selections for Freshman and Player of the Year, respectively, while Penn State equaled its Big Ten record with a perfect 20-0 conference season.
Winners of four Big Ten titles, Wisconsin is one of three conference squads to have advanced to the NCAA Championship final. Two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year Pete Waite took his 2000 Badgers to the fifth and final game of the national championship, before falling to Nebraska. Following the magical run, UW responded by capturing its second-straight and most-recent conference title.
Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert has been responsible for both the Golden Gophers' conference title in 2002, as well as all four Illinois championships in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1992. In recent years, Hebert was responsible for leading the Gophers to the 2004 NCAA Championship final and grooming three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year winner Paula Gentil (2002-04). But before heading to Minneapolis in 1996, Hebert guided the Fighting Illini for 13 seasons between 1983-95. He was heralded for attracting fans to the sport while in Champaign, as his programs continually drew record-setting crowds, leading the nation in attendance in 1992 and 1993. In 1992, Illinois set what was then an NCAA record, drawing 52,666 fans into Huff Hall for 17 home matches.
At Illinois, Herbert coached the Big Ten's lone three-time Player of the Year in Mary Eggers. The Illini standout won the postseason award outright in 1986 and 1988, while sharing the honor in 1987 with teammate Nancy Brookhart. Eggers also earned All-Conference accolades in each of her four years, which joins her with an elite group of six, including Penn State's Bremner and Cacciamani, Michigan State's Jenna Wrobel (1995-98), Minnesota's Andrea Gonzales (1985-88) and Ohio State's Stacey Gordon (2001-04). The 2001 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and record-holder of 16 conference Player of the Week selections, Gordon (2002, 2004) is one of just four standouts to be named Big Ten Athlete of the Year at least twice. In addition to Eggers, Bremner and Gordon, Purdue's Marianne Smith was the first to accomplish the feat in 1984 and 1985.