The defending Big Ten Champion Minnesota Golden Gophers were unanimously selected to repeat as conference champions in the 2003 Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, according to announcement on Friday, Aug. 1 by Big Ten officials. It marks the first time in school history that the Golden Gophers have been named a preseason favorite.
Penn State was picked second in the Preseason Coaches Poll, while Michigan State and Wisconsin were third and fourth. Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa and Purdue rounded out the rest of the poll.
Minnesota also had a conference-high three players named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team, which was represented by players from nine different squads. Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) was named to the team for a second year in a row, while Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara', Brazil) and Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) were honored for the first time. All three players were named First Team All-Big Ten in 2002.
Only one other team had more then one player represented on the Preseason All-Big Ten team. Lisa Argabright (Illinois), Christina Archibald (Indiana), Erin Moore (Michigan), Jenny Rood (Michigan State), Erika Lange (Northwestern), Stacey Gordon (Ohio State), Cara Smith and Sam Tortorello from Penn State and Morgan Shields (Wisconsin) rounded out the 12-member team.
Minnesota is coming off a 2002 season that saw it win the program's first Big Ten title in school history. The Golden Gophers finished 17-3, winning the conference by three matches, the largest margin between first and second since 1999. Minnesota returns five starters from last year's Big Ten Championship team that set a school record for most wins in the NCAA Era (since 1981) going 32-6.
The Golden Gophers will start the 2003 season on Aug. 29 at the Hawaiian Airlines Tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii. Minnesota's first match of the season will be against 2002 Final Four participant Hawai'i on Friday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. (HT). The Golden Gophers will also play Louisville on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 1 p.m. (HT) and UCLA on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. (HT).