The Big Ten will once again be well represented in the postseason with seven teams having virtually locked up their spots in next month’s NCAA Tournament. With two weeks remaining in the regular season two conference members are fighting for their postseason hopes as Northwestern and Wisconsin both remain in the chase.
The second-ranked Penn State volleyball team, led by Ariel Scott and Deja McClendon, improved to 24-2 overall and 14-1 in the Big Ten with a straight set win over Illinois on Thursday night.
There is little doubt that the Big Ten has the most passionate and largest fan bases of any conference in the nation. Six of the top ten teams nationally in average attendance this season reside in the Big Ten, including four of the top five. Nebraska has the most dedicated fan base in the country with 175 consecutive sell outs of the NU Coliseum, the longest sell-out streak of any women’s collegiate sport.
The difference 48 hours can make is striking. Late Friday night, Nebraska’s Big Ten Title chances seemed distant and the message boards were offering scenario after unlikely scenario for why the No. 4 Huskers had fallen to No. 20 Ohio State in four sets. On Alumni Night in front of more than 60 former Husker players, Nebraska saw their 39-match regular season home winning streak come to an end in part because of a tentative effort by the home team and a season-defining display by the visitors.
No. 4 Nebraska took down No. 1 Penn State in a five-set thriller (12-25, 32-30, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10) Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. In front of a roaring 4,193 in attendance, Nebraska produced its third five-set win of the season. Gina Mancuso led Nebraska on the day with 16 kills and 17 digs, while Hannah Werth notched 11 kills and a career-high 27 digs.
We’ve reached the mid-way point of the Big Ten season and very little has been settled in the conference. But that’s about to change in the next week as one of the most critical matches of the year is on the docket, potentially putting an end to the Big Ten Title race by Sunday afternoon.