confeThe Minnesota Golden Gophers were tabbed as the preseason Big Ten favorite for a second straight season in the 2004 Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, according to an announcement by the conference office on Monday, Aug. 16.
Penn State was picked second in the Preseason Coaches Poll, while Wisconsin and Michigan State were third and fourth. Illinois was fifth, and Ohio State and Michigan were tied for sixth. Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa rounded out the rest of the poll.
Minnesota also had two players named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team, which was represented by players from nine different squads. Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara', Brazil) was named to the team for a second straight season, while Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) was named to the team for a first time. Gentil was a Second-Team All-American in 2003, is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and has been named First-Team All-Big Ten twice. Martin had a team-high 92 kills in five NCAA Tournament matches for Minnesota last year, and was named the Pacific Regional All-Tournament team.
Penn State was the only other team with multiple players named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team. Erin Virtue (Illinois), Christina Archibald (Indiana), Jennifer Gandolph (Michigan), Kim Schram (Michigan State), Stacey Gordon (Ohio State), Ashley Pederson, Cassy Salyer and Sam Tortorello from Penn State, Renata Dargan (Purdue) and Jill Odenthal rounded out the 12-member team.
Minnesota is coming off a 2003 season that saw it advance to the first Final Four in school history. The Golden Gophers finished 26-11 overall and tied for second in the Big Ten with a 15-5 record. Minnesota has finished second or higher in conference play four of the last five seasons. Minnesota returns six starters from last year's team that made history by becoming first No. 4 regional seed and the lowest seed team to advance to a Final Four.
The Golden Gophers will start the 2004 season on Aug. 27 at the NACWAA Tournament in Fort Collins, Colo. Minnesota's first match of the season will be against No. 11 Colorado State on Friday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. (CT). The Golden Gophers will play either No. 1 USC or No. 12 Georgia Tech in the second match of the tournament. The consolation match will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. (CT), while the championship match will be at 8 p.m. (CT).