aMinnesota senior opposite hitter Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) was named the 2003 Big Ten Player of Year according to an announcement by the conference office on Monday, Dec. 1. Busse becomes only the third player to receive the honors joining Nicole Branagh (Co-Big Ten Player of the Year in 2000) and Martie Larsen (1983).
Minnesota also had three players garner All-Big Ten honors as Busse and Paula Gentil (Fortaleaza Ceara', Brazil) were named to the First- Team, and Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) was named to the Honorable Mention team.
For a second straight season Gentil also received Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Middle blocker Meredith Nelson was also named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
In her senior season Busse is third in the Big Ten in kills at 4.71 kpg, first in service aces at 0.46 sapg and 10th in hitting percentage. She is currently leading the Golden Gophers in kills with 523, hitting percentage at .299, service aces with 51, second in blocks with 91 and third in digs at 267. Busse was second in kills in conference play at 5.03 kpg, sixth in hitting percentage at .296 and eighth in service aces.
This season Busse became only the fourth player in Minnesota history to record 500 kills in back-to-back seasons joining Branagh (1998, 99, 2000), Katrien DeDecker (1995, 96) and Chris Schaefer (1988, 89). She is currently seventh on the Minnesota career kills list with 1,411, eighth in career service aces at 159 and fourth in career hitting percentage at .295. Busse was also the fourth Minnesota player to be named AVCA National Player of the Week (10/27), and is one of only three players in school history to be named Big Ten Player of the Week four times. Busse recorded 20 kills or more in nine matches this season and also registered nine double-doubles this season.
Gentil claims the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Big Ten honors after recording 500 kills for a second straight season. In just two years at Minnesota, she has accumulated 1,133 career digs which is good for sixth on the school's career list and puts her just 158 digs from tying the school record. Gentil comes into the week with a Big Ten leading 559 digs and is 12th in the nation as of last week. This season she has recorded 20 digs or more in nine matches, including a school record 33 against No. 11 Penn State on Nov. 28.
Taatjes was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten, marking the fifth straight season a Minnesota setter has been named to one of the all-conference teams. Taatjes was sixth in the Big Ten in assists per game at 13.10 apg and was 11th in digs at 3.03 dpg. She was third in the Big Ten in assists in conference play at 13.52 apg and eighth in digs at 3.38 dpg. Taatjes also entered last week 23rd in the nation in assists per game. She is second on the team in digs with 324 and fifth in blocks at 56. Taatjes finished with a team-high 17 double-doubles and has double-figure digs in 12 of her last 15 matches, including a career-high 27 against Penn State on Nov. 28.
Nelson becomes the third Minnesota player in the last two seasons to make the All-Freshmen team, joining Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Gentil who each made it last year. Nelson is sixth in the Big Ten in blocks with 1.21 blpg. She finished third in the Big Ten in conference play in the same category at 1.43 blpg. Nelson leads the team in blocks with 137 on the season. That total is just nine away from moving her into the top-10 in single-season blocks. She has also tallied 124 block assists this season, which ties her for seventh on the single-season block assist list with Pam Miller (1985).
Penn State led the way with three First-Team All-Big Ten players, while Illinois and Minnesota tied for second with two apiece. Nittany Lion freshman Cassie Salyer won Freshman of the Year, while Illinois head coach Don Hardin was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by the coaches and Penn State coach Russ Rose received it from the media. Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin each had one player on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.