Pole Position: AVCA and Big Ten Vote Penn State Preseason #1 — Again?

 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Seven Big Ten Teams in AVCA Preseason Top 25

When the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) released its preseason poll for the 2011 season on August 15th, with 54 of the 60 voters naming Penn State as the preseason #1 team in the country, it raised several questions in our mind.  Were those 54 voters unaware that Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose voted Nebraska #1 in the Big Ten preseason poll  (see below), or did they simply not believe him? Is the Big Ten really so strong this season that seven of its teams (#1 Penn State, #5 Nebraska, #8 Illinois, #12 Minnesota, #13 Purdue, #21 Ohio State, #24 Michigan) are among the top 25 teams, and another four (Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin) are just outside the top-25 bubble? Who is the greater superhero, Superman or Batman?

One pattern seems clear: the voters are very, very loyal — if they liked you last season, they like you this season too.  Every team in the top 14 of this preseason poll was also in the top 14 of the final 2010 poll  — with their relative positions mostly unchanged. 

Whatever their thinking, one thing is certain — the AVCA voters will have a chance to weigh the merits of #1-ranked Penn State when it faces #2-ranked USC on August 27th in the Rockvale Outlets/AVCA College Volleyball Showcase at Rec Hall (8:00 pm live on the Big Ten Network (BTN) if you aren’t able to get there in person).

For the complete AVCA preseason poll, Click Here.

Big Ten Votes Penn State Preseason #1; McClendon, Carpenter and Slay Earn Preseason All-Conference Honors


The Big Ten coaches also voted Penn State preseason #1 — although, as noted above, Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose was a notable dissenter.  According to an article on PennLive.com, Rose voted Nebraska #1.  According to the PennLive.com article, when told that Nebraska Head Coach John Cook had encouraged reporters to ask Rose “how many sandbags he has and tell him thanks for putting that on us,” Rose replied:

I don’t sandbag and I don’t ever blow us up. I’m past the point in my life where I’ve got to play (mind) games. It’s just my opinion. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to win. We’re going to try to be the best we can be.

The top six teams in the poll are shown below (that’s all the Big Ten released): 

1. Penn State

2. Illinois


4. Purdue

5. Minnesota

6. Michigan State


The Big Ten also released its preseason Coaches All-Big Ten Volleyball Team.  Three Penn State players — Deja McClendon (a unanimous choice), Kristin Carpenter, and Katie Slay — were named to the team.  The complete team is listed below: 


 Name School Yr. Position Hometown
MICHELLE BARTSCH (3) Illinois Sr. Outside Hitter Maryville, Ill.
COLLEEN WARD Illinois Sr. Outside Hitter Naperville, Ill.
ALEX HUNT (2) Michigan Sr. Outside Hitter Granger, Ind.
Jenilee Rathje Michigan State Sr. Outside Hitter/Middle Blocker Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Tori Dixon Minnesota So. Middle Blocker Burnsville, Minn.
Ashley Wittman Minnesota So. Outside Hitter Shakopee, Minn.
Lauren Cook Nebraska Jr. Setter Lincoln, Neb.
BROOKE DELANO Nebraska Sr. Middle Blocker Bellevue, Neb.
Hannah Werth Nebraska Jr. Outside Hitter Springfield, Ill.
Stephanie Holthus Northwestern So. Outside Hitter Burlington, Ill.
Kristin Carpenter Penn State Jr. Setter/Defensive Specialist Mechanicsville, Va.
DEJA McCLENDON Penn State So. Outside Hitter Louisville, Ky.
Katie Slay Penn State So. Middle Hitter Raleigh, N.C.
Carly Cramer Purdue Jr. Defensive Specialist Martinsville, Ind.
Tiffany Fisher Purdue Sr. Middle Blocker Topeka, Ind.
Ariel Turner Purdue Jr. Outside Hitter Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Alexis Mitchell Wisconsin Jr. Middle Blocker Davenport, Iowa