By Lincoln Arneal
The season has yet to begin, but the honors are already rolling in for Nebraska’s Lexi Rodriguez.
The junior libero was one of three unanimous selections in the Big Ten preseason all-conference team released on Friday. Rodriguez averaged 4.26 digs per set last year for NU as she earned All-American honors last year. She was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten defensive player of the year as a freshman.
Rodriguez was the only Husker named to the list.
The other unanimous selections were setter Mac Podraza of Penn State and sophomore outside hitter Eva Hudson from Purdue.
Besides Podraza, a former Ohio State star, four others were named to the list after changing Big Ten teams during the offseason. Libero Kylie Murr will play for Minnesota this year after four seasons with the Buckeyes. Podraza, her former teammate, was recognized for Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ other honoree, outside hitter Jess Mruzik, transferred from Michigan.
Two of Wisconsin’s league-high honorees came from Big Ten rivals. Graduate outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara transferred from Northwestern, while sophomore middle blocker Carter Booth played for Minnesota last year.
Eight of the honorees will attend the Big Ten media days next week, including Rodriguez.
For the team race, the Big Ten coaches expect a repeat of last season’s pecking order.
The league released its preseason rankings for the 2023 season on Friday and they looked quite close to the final standings for last season.
Wisconsin, which has won four-straight Big Ten titles, was picked to win the conference again. Nebraska was in second place followed by Minnesota, which hired Keegan Cook from Washington in the offseason. The Huskers were runners-up last year, a game ahead of the Gophers.
Penn State, Purdue and Ohio State rounded out the top six. The only difference from the 2022 standings was OSU slid from a tie for third to sixth with the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers filling the void and projected to finish one spot higher.
Illinois and Indiana were predicted to finish seventh and eighth again. Michigan and Maryland swapped spots as the Wolverines hired Erin Virtue earlier this year. Northwestern kept its place in a tie with 10th place with Michigan.
Michigan State, Iowa and Rutgers were slated to maintain their spots as the bottom three teams in the league.
2023 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM
Raina Terry, Illinois, Sr., Outside Hitter
Camryn Haworth, Indiana, Jr., Setter
Taylor Landfair, Minnesota, Jr., Outside Hitter
Kylie Murr, Minnesota Sr., Libero
Melanie Schaffmaster, Minnesota, Sr., Setter
*Lexi Rodriguez, Nebraska, Jr., Libero
Emily Londot, Ohio State, Sr., Opposite
Rylee Rader, Ohio State, Sr., Middle Blocker
Jess Mruzik, Penn State, Sr., Outside Hitter
*Mac Podraza, Penn State, Gr., Setter
*Eva Hudson, Purdue, So.,, Outside Hitter
Carter Booth, Wisconsin, So., Middle Blocker
Sarah Franklin, Wisconsin, Jr., Outside Hitter
Devyn Robinson, Wisconsin, Sr., Opposite
Temi Thomas-Ailara, Wisconsin, Gr., Outside Hitter
2023 BIG TEN PRESEASON POLL
4. Penn State
6. Ohio State
12. Michigan State