When the end of the Big East's men's and women's basketball seasons rolled around, I figured I had until the start of the conference tournaments to make predictions as to who would win the end of year awards. That was not the case, and the yearly awards started to roll out within 24 hours of the end of the regular season.
With the women's lacrosse conference season ending on Saturday, and with Marquette playing one more game on Sunday afternoon, I'm not going to get caught off guard like that again.
Taking last year's post season awards as a guide, I'm going to make predictions for five individual awards, including Coach of the Year, plus I'll take a swing at figuring out the all-Big East First Team. The Big East didn't name a Goalkeeper of the Year last year, but I'll go ahead and do that anyway. They didn't name a preseason GK, so we'll see if they alter course for this postseason.
Offensive Player of the Year: Nikki Boltja, Attack, Louisville - If you just look at goals per game, you could have a debate between Boltja and teammate Faye Brust. They're only separated by 26 hundredths of a goal per game, with Boltja taking the narrow lead. While Boltja doesn't have the team lead in assists, she does average 1.2 per game, and that has her lead over Brust for the Big East's best scoring average at more than a point per game. Tack on Boltja leading the conference in shots, and her four nods as Offensive Player of the Week, and this is a runaway.
Defensive Player of the Year: Lauren Kahn, Midfielder, Connecticut - Here we run into some trouble. The Big East named 10 Defensive Players of the Week this season, with eight of those awards going to goalies. While that helps make the choice for Goalkeeper of the Year much easier, it complicates this award. Kahn, who was the preseason offensive player of the Year but my choice for preseason Defensive Player of the Year, is leading the Big East in ground balls (3.07/game, 11th in the country) and in caused turnovers (2.6/game, #4 in the country). Yes, Kahn is also fourth in the Big East in points per game, but who said an offensive dynamo can't also be great on defense?
Midfielder of the Year: Kaylin Morissette, Louisville - I could really make a case that Kahn deserves this award and go in a different direction for DPOY. Given her national rankings in those defensive minded stats, it's hard to take that away from Kahn, though. Meanwhile, Morissette has been named Defensive Player of the Week once, and landed on the Honor Roll five times, more than anyone in the Big East other than Lauren Kahn. Morissette ranks 6th in the conference in goals per game, and fifth in points per game. On top of all of that, she's leading the conference in draw controls with 8.87 per game, the only mark higher than 3.50/game.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Shannon Nee, Connecticut - On one hand, Nee has been named Defensive Player of the Week four times. On the other hand, she's nowhere close to the leader in goals-against average. There's so many reasons to discount everyone else in between her and the lead. UL's Ashley Peacock doesn't have the minutes, UL's Ashley Herbst was benched for Peacock, Georgetown's Maddie Fisher took the job away from Barb Black midway through the year, and Villanova's Jaclyn Fraum has a worse save percentage than Nee. So we'll go with the Huskies' primary netminder and cross our fingers.
Coach of the Year: Kellie Young, Louisville - The Cardinals were picked to finish third in the Big East and did not pick up any first place votes. Now they're a perfect 7-0 in league play, the runaway regular season champs, and ranked #18 in the country. Hard to beat that.
All Big East First Team
Nikki Boltja, A, Louisville
Amanda Bochniak, A, Marquette
Faye Brust, A, Louisville
Jaymie Tabor, A, Temple
Jessica Mucci, A, Villanova
Jamie Redding, A, Louisville
Lauren Kahn, M, Connecticut
Kaylin Morissette, M, Louisville
Katherine Finkelston, M, Connecticut
Chelsey Henderson, M, Villanova
Lauren Sbrilli, M, Rutgers
Cortnee Daley, M, Louisville
Kelyn Freedman, M, Georgetown
Adrianne Devine, D, Georgetown
Elizabeth Goslee, D, Marquette
Shannon Nee, GK, Connecticut
16 players on a all-conference team is A LOT for a sport that only has 12 players on the field per side, but that's what the Big East did for last year's postseason awards and this year's preseason awards, so that's what we're stuck with. Boltja, Kahn, Morissette, and Nee all get in on their individual awards. Almost everyone else is in for their various scoring abilities. Devine and Goslee go in because we need defensive players, and they're amongst the top five in caused turnovers. Henderson earns points for her ranking on assists and ground balls, and Freedman gets credit for her goal scoring and caused turnovers.