|Minnesota vs. Ohio State / Penn State|
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|Saturday, Sept. 29||Minnesota vs. Penn State | 7 p.m.|
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Sept. 26, 2012
Minnesota hosts No. 22 Ohio State and No. 1 Penn State this weekend at the Sports Pavilion. Both Friday and Saturday matches are set to start at 7 p.m. Minnesota and Penn State are just two of the three teams that went undefeated in the opening weekend of Big Ten play, while Ohio State split action.
The Ohio State match against Minnesota will be televised live on the Big Ten Network Friday. Saturday's match will be featured on Gopher All-Access through a paid subscription. Both Gopher matches will feature an in-game chat and live statistics on gophersports.com.
Ohio State enters the weekend with a 10-4 overall record and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Ranked No. 22 in the latest AVCA poll, OSU swept Iowa in three last weekend, while falling to Nebraska in four. The Buckeyes have four attackers with over 100 kills this season. Mari Hole leads the team with 209 (3.94 ps), followed by Emily Danks with 166 (3.13), Mariah Booth at 116 and Kaitlyn Leary at 102. Amanda Peterson leads the team with 418 assists, while Davionna DiSalvatore is the Buckeye libero and has 186 digs.
Penn State enters the weekend with a 12-1 overall record and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Taking over the No. 1 spot in the latest AVCA poll, Penn State's only loss of the season came to Oregon State (Sept. 8) in five. The Nittany Lions opened the Big Ten season with a four-set win over then-No. 1 Nebraska in State College. PSU has five players with over 100 kills, including 2011 All-Americans Ariel Scott (167 kills) and Deja McClendon (148). Also in PSU's arsenal is second-team All-American Katie Slay. She ranks sixth nationally in hitting percentage (.457) and 21st in blocks per set (1.40). One of the best setters and servers in the Big Ten Conference is Micha Hancock. The 2011 Mideast Region Freshman of the Year averages 11.49 assists per set and ranks third nationally in aces per set (0.60).
Ohio State and the Minnesota Golden Gophers hold a 34-34 all-time mark against each other heading into this weekend's match. Minnesota defeated the Buckeyes in four sets last year at the Sports Pavilion (25-18, 25-19, 22-25, 25-23), but split action last season with a three-set loss in Columbus,
Penn State has held the advantage in the all-time series against Minnesota at 35-9. However, the last time Minnesota defeated PSU was on Nov. 27, 2010 where the Gophers had an epic match against the Nittany Lions. The win at the Sports Pavilion marked the first win against PSU since 2004.
Minnesota has hit well as a team already in this early season. In fact, the Gophers lead the Big Ten and the nation in hitting percentage (.341). In 13 matches this season, the Golden Gophers have hit over .500 in two matches (LIU Brooklyn, Miami), two over .400 (Appalachian State and Albany) and six over .300 (James Madison, Texas, Dayton, Tulsa, Illinois and Northwestern). Although its early in the season, the Gophers are hitting their highest percentage in the past five years. Minnesota hit .259 in 2010 and .233 as a team last season. Individually, Tori Dixon leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the nation as she has hit .508 in 13 matches. In her opening match this season, Dixon had 14 kills in 16 attempts for a career-best .875 against James Madison. Katherine Harms also ranks high with a .400 hitting percentage and held a career-best .680 when she had 18 kills on 25 attempts with just one error against LIU Brooklyn. In the same match, Ashley Wittman hit a career-best .824.
Minnesota ranks 23rd in the NCAA rankings in aces per set. With Minnesota's 73 aces this year, the Gophers average 1.62 aps. Daly Santana ranks fourth in the nation in aps (0.58) with 26, while Lindsey Lawmaster has 13 and Tori Dixon has 12 aces this season. Last season, Minnesota had just 141 aces and are on pace this year of breaking that mark.
Minnesota ranks high nationally in several categories. The Gophers lead the nation in hitting percentage (.341), fourth in kills per set (14.96), third in assists per set (14.27) and 23rd in aces per set (1.62). Minnesota leads the Big Ten in some of the same categories (hitting percentage, assists), rank second in kills (trailing Michigan State) and third in aces (trailing MSU and Northwestern). Individually, Tori Dixon ranks first nationally in hitting percentage (.508), as Daly Santana ranks fourth in aces per set (0.58). Katherine Harms ranks 17th nationally in kills per set (4.44), 19th in points per set (4.98) and 25th in hitting percentage (.400).
Minnesota hosts Michigan and Michigan State next week at the Sports Pavilion. The Wolverines come to Minnesota on Wednesday, Oct. 3 for a 7 p.m. match, while the MSU Spartans visit the Pav on Saturday, Oct. 6. at 6:30 p.m.
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