For the second consecutive year in a row, a Marquette Golden Eagle is the best player in the Big East. Sophomore outside hitter Autumn Bailey was named the 2014 Big East volleyball Player of the Year, as announced earlier today by the conference. Marquette setter Elizabeth Koberstein won the same award in 2013.
I made my case for Bailey in my predictions on Sunday, so let's see what the Big East had to say to explain it:
Bailey topped the BIG EAST with 5.71 kills and 6.56 points per set in 62 conference sets while posting league bests of 354 kills and 407 points. Her .281 attack percentage during BIG EAST play was 10th. A sophomore outside hitter, Bailey’s national numbers also rank in the top 10 in several categories. She stands fifth averaging 5.60 points and sixth with 4.82 kills per set, while her 530 total kills are 10th in Division I. She’s the second straight Marquette student-athlete named to the award and the first sophomore since Miami’s Valeria Tipiana in 2002. In addition, Bailey is just the second in conference history named Player of the Year one season after capturing the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honor (Ann Marie Lucanie, Pittsburgh, 1991).
That seems pretty good. It seems safe to say that given Bailey's dominance in just her second season of collegiate volleyball, she'll be the heavy favorite to win this award in 2015 and 2016 as well.
The two other major awards that went to players went as I expected them. Seton Hall's Tessa Fournier was named Libero of the Year after leading the conference in digs and ranking ninth nationally in that category. Fournier's win makes it three years in a row for a Pirates' libero to take home this award, and as a sophomore like Bailey, it might end up being five straight years. For Rookie of the Year, the Big East's coaches voted for Butler's Makayla Ferguson. The freshman setter ended up ranked third in the conference in assists at 10.45 per set. She also chipped in 2.87 digs while being named Freshman of the Week four times throughout the season.
My pick for Coach of the Year was Creighton's Kirsten Bernal Booth for guiding her squad to the Big East regular season title after losing their libero, Kate Elman, to injury midway through league play. The award actually ended up going to Allison Yaeger and the Seton Hall coaching staff. The Pirates were picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches' vote, and SHU came away with the second best record in the regular season instead. They were neck-and-neck with Creighton for the regular season title right until the very last weekend of the schedule, so that seems like a reasonable pick.
Onwards to the All-Big East teams...
All-BIG EAST First Team
Autumn Bailey, Marquette, So., OH *
Abbey Bessler, Xavier, So., OH ^
Jess Bird, Creighton, So., OH
Kelli Browning, Creighton, Sr., MB *
Tessa Fournier, Seton Hall, So., L
Lindsey Gosh, Marquette, Sr., RS ^
Shelbey Manthorpe, Seton Hall, Sr., S *
Stacey Manthorpe, Seton Hall, Sr., OH *
Meghan Niemann, Marquette, R-So., MB
Belle Obert, Butler, Sr., OH ^
Karin Palgutova, St. John’s, Jr., OH *
Aubree Smith, Xavier, Sr., S
All-BIG EAST Second Team
Terese Cannon, Georgetown, Fr., OH
Makayla Ferguson, Butler, Fr., S
Amanda Hansen, Seton Hall, Jr., MB
Lauren Smith, Creighton, So., MB
Erica Stahl, Butler, Sr., MB ^
Aleksandra Wachowicz, St. John’s, Sr., OH
As you can see, Bailey is joined on the all-Big East First Team by two teammates, Lindsey Gosh and Meghan Niemann. Admittedly, I did not have either player on my all-league picks. In fact, those were the only two players that I missed on, and strangely, you can't accuse me of undervaluing Marquette players in an effort to spread the voting out a bit. I had Nele Barber on my list, and it's surprising to me that she's not on either the first or second team. Barber finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 in the conference in both kills and digs per set, and the other three players to accomplish that task - Bailey, Belle Obert, and Abbey Bessler - are all on the First Team. St. John's Aleksandra Wachowicz was the other player I had on my all-league picks, and I'm amazed that the Big East's coaches didn't put the third best attacker (3.83 kills/set) in the conference on the First Team.
The Big East conference tournament starts on Friday at the McGuire Center in Milwaukee, when #1 seed Creighton takes on #4 Xavier at 3pm Central. #3 Marquette squares off with #2 Seton Hall at 5:30pm, and both matches will be on the Big East Digital Network.