University Park, Pa. — The three-time defending national champion Penn State women’s volleyball team heads into the 2010 season as the preseason favorite in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll the organization announced Tuesday (Aug. 17). The seven-time defending Big Ten Champions earned 1,456 total points and 40 of the 60 first place votes.
Nebraska is ranked second heading into 2010 having garnered 1,384 points and 16 first place votes. Following the Cornhuskers is Texas (No. 3), who Penn State defeated in the 2009 National Championship match, Stanford (No. 4) and Hawaii (No. 5).
Penn State will face eight teams listed in the 2010 AVCA poll, including five ranked in the top 25 in the nation. The Nittany Lions take on Florida (No. 13) and will face either Texas or Stanford in their third weekend of preseason play at the Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic the weekend of Sept. 10. Penn State will also face Illinois and Minnesota, who are tied at No. 6, and No. 12 Michigan. In addition, the women’s volleyball will take on Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin who all received votes in the poll.
Head coach Russ Rose, who is entering his 32nd year at the helm of the program, welcomes back six players with starting experience as well as 11 letterwinners from last season’s squad that finished with a perfect 38-0 record. The team heads into the 2010 season on a record-breaking 102-match winning streak. Returning for 2010 are AVCA First Team All-Americans Blair Brown (Purcellville, Va.) and Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.), AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Darcy Dorton (Muncie, Ind.) and Preseason All-Big Ten honoree Alyssa D’Errico (Byron, N.Y.). These four are joined by Academic All-Big Ten selections Cathy Quilico (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), Katie Kabbes (Raleigh, N.C.) and Megan Shifflett (Falls Church, Va.), middle hitter Fatima Balza (Merida Venezuela), defensive specialists Jessica Ullrich (Winfield, Ill.) and Kristin Carpenter (Mechanicsville, Va.) and sophomore setter Marika Racibarskas (Chatham, N.J.). Joining the Nittany Lions this year are nine newcomers, including Ariel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.), Maddie Martin (Tampa, Fla.), Erica Denney (Aurora, Colo.), Maggie Harding (State College, Pa.), Katie Slay (Raleigh, N.C.), Deja McClendon (Louisville, Ky.), Krosby Pabst (Long Beach, Calif.), Mikinzie Moydell (Parker, Colo.) and Ali Longo (Littleton, Colo.).
The Nittany Lions open the 2010 season at the Carolina Classic on Aug. 27 hosted by the University of North Carolina. Penn State faces Villanova on Aug. 28 at 11 a.m. before closing out its first weekend of play against Campbell at 5:30 p.m. The home opener is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 3 against Seton Hall in the Hampton Inn Classic held at Rec Hall. The Lions face Colgate and VCU on Saturday, Sept. 4.
Penn State kicks off the Big Ten portion of its schedule on the road at Illinois on Friday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET before heading to Wisconsin for a 2 p.m. ET matchup on Sunday, Sept. 26. The Nittany Lions host their first conference match of the season on Oct. 1 when Michigan State arrives at Rec Hall for a 7 p.m. meeting.