The Minnesota volleyball team had four players receive Big Ten honors according to an announcement by the conference office on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Junior libero Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and received first-team honors along with senior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), while Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) claimed Honorable-Mention honors and was named to the All-Freshmen team with Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn.).
Gibbemeyer was one of nine players named to the first-team unanimously, and joined Ashley Benson (MB, Indiana), Lexi Zimmerman (S, Michigan) and Arielle Wilson (MB, Penn State) as one of four players who received the honors for the third time in their respective careers.
She also extended a streak of six years in a row that a Gopher middle blocker has received First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Gibbemeyer has combined with Jessy Jones (2007) and Meredith Nelson (2005-06) to put together that string of first-team honors. Going back to 1999, Minnesota has had a middle blocker named to the first team in nine of the last 12 seasons.
Stephanie Hagen (1999, 2000, 2001) is also on that list with Gibbemeyer, Jones and Nelson. Gibbemeyer joins Hagen as one of two Gopher middle blockers to claim First-Team All-Big Ten honors three times in a career. Along with Hagen, she is one of only seven Gopher players to claim first team honors in three separate years. That list includes Andrea Gonzalez (1985-88), Katrien DeDecker (1993, 95-96), Hagen, Nicole Branagh (1998-2000), Lindsey Berg (1999-2001) and Paula Gentil (2002-05).
Entering the NCAA Tournament, Gibbemeyer is tied for lead in the Big Ten blocks (1.43 blps), is third in hitting percentage (.378) and is fifth in points (4.16 pps). In conference play, Gibbemeyer is second in blocks (1.40 blps), third in hitting percentage (.372), ninth in kills (3.35 kps) and fifth in points (4.24 pps). Benson and Gibbemeyer are the only two players in the conference in the top 10 of those four categories.
Granquist becomes the fourth different Gopher to be named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She joins Paula Gentil (2002-04), Malama Peniata (2006) and Christine Tan (2008) on that list. It also marks the sixth time in nine years that a Golden Gopher libero has claimed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
She was also the only libero in the conference to receive First-Team Big Ten honors. Penn State's Alyssa D'Errico was the only other libero to make either all-conference team, as she received Honorable-Mention honors. Since the inception of the libero position in college volleyball in 2002, the Gophers have had a libero named First-Team All-Big Ten in eight of the nine seasons.
Granquist finished with a conference-leading 5.22 dps in Big Ten play. Overall, she is also first with 5.07 dps. Granquist also was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week a conference-leading three times this season. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, Granquist is fifth on the school's single-season list in digs with 609 on the season. She joins Paula Gentil and Christine Tan as the only Gophers to record 600 or more digs in a season.
Dixon becomes the first Gopher freshman to receive Honorable-Mention (or First-Team) honors since Nicole Branagh was named Honorable-Mention as a freshman in 1997. On the season, Dixon played left-side, middle blocker and right-side to fill in for a variety of injuries that occurred.
She averaged 2.42 kps, hit .280 and had 0.92 blps in her freshman season. In conference play, Dixon also had 2.47 kps, hit .269 and collected 0.69 blps. She enters the NCAA Tournament just 15 kills and two blocks away from joining Gibbemeyer as one of three Gopher players (since 1985) to collect 300 kills and 100 blocks in a freshman campaign.
Wittman and Dixon were the fourth and fifth Gophers to be named to the All-Freshmen team in since 2007. Minnesota's total of five players since 2007 is the most in the conference. Wittman enters the week averaging 3.29 kps, 3.04 dps and 0.70 dps. She joins Illinois' Laura DeBruler (who was injured for most of the Big Ten season) as one of two players in the conference to average over 3.00 kps and 3.00 dps.
Entering the NCAA Tournament, Wittman is just five kills and 35 digs short of becoming the first Gopher freshman to have 400 kills and 400 digs in the same season. She received Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors three times this season and was also named Big Ten Player of the Week on Sept. 13. Wittman is also the only freshman in the nation to average over 3.00 kps and 3.00 dps.
Penn State claimed three of the four honors as Blair Brown was named Big Ten Player of the Year, Deja McClendon was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Russ Rose received Big Ten Coach of the Year.