The Big Ten Conference has sent at least six teams to the NCAA volleyball tournament each season in Hugh McCutcheon's nine seasons as the Gophers coach. With six teams currently ranked in the Top 25, that streak will likely continue this season.
"This year, the level of parity and competitive balance in the conference is the best since I've been here," said McCutcheon.
The balance will be on display at Maturi Pavilion this weekend when the No. 12 Gophers play host to No. 14 Penn State on Friday and No. 6 Ohio State on Sunday.
The two matches begin a stretch for the Gophers where they will play seven ranked teams in their final 12 regular-season matches.
"There are a lot of good teams in the conference," said McCutcheon. "It's a battle every night."
The Gophers (11-5, 6-2 Big Ten) have won three consecutive matches and are 10-2 since opening the season 1-3. Those first three losses were to teams ranked in the Top 10.
Penn State (13-5, 6-2) is coming off a five-set loss at No. 7 Purdue on Sunday.
The Gophers and Penn State played two matches at Maturi Pavilion in the 2020-21 spring season. The Gophers won both matches, 3-1 and 3-2.
"We'll have our hands full," said McCutcheon. "They are similar to last season. They've made some changes, but they're still good in the middle."
The Gophers, Penn State and Ohio State (16-2, 6-2) are tied for third place in the Big Ten standings behind Nebraska and Wisconsin.