As usual, I'm not going to get caught off guard by the regular season ending and the Big East announcing awards before I can make predictions about them. Even though most teams have two matches left to play, let's make some picks!
Player And Freshman Of The Year: Taylor Louis, Marquette
Ok, I thought about this long and hard, and then double checked some other stats and still landed here. Louis leads the Big East in kills at 4.86/set, and no one else is even above 4 per frame. That 4.86 average has her ranked 5th in the country and she only slipped out of the top four and under 5 kills per set this past weekend. Palgutova does average more digs (2.45) than Louis (2.37) and Winters (2.36), but that's not really what those women are out on the court to do. Louis and Palgutova are the only players in the league to record 500 points this season, and Louis (548) has done it in 10 fewer sets than her Red Storm competitor (501). The biggest argument for Winters is that she's the offensive leader on the team that's already clinched the regular season title with one match left to play for the Bluejays. I don't think it's enough. I could also see a possible argument for Villanova's Emma Pettit, but she's only 22nd in the country in assists.
If Louis is the Player of the Year, then she has to be Freshman of the Year. That's how that works. I am fully prepared to see the coaches somehow manage to split the voting in some sort of weird way and get Winters on one award and Louis on the other.
Libero Of The Year: Lauren Houg, Marquette
The junior from Plymouth, Minnesota leads the Big East in digs. She's at 5.14/set, leading Seton Hall's Tessa Fournier, who averages 5.08 per frame. Houg has an Honor Roll appearance to her credit, while Fournier does not. I'm also giving Houg credit for Marquette leading the Big East in digs as a team, averaging more than one full dig per set better than second place Creighton. Plus, y'know, Marquette is winning and Seton Hall is not.
Yes, I realize that Creighton has already clinched the regular season title and I don't have them winning any of the three individual awards. Such is life.
Coach Of The Year: Josh Steinbach, Villanova
Generally speaking, I'm a big fan of "they were the pick to win, they won, that's the best coaching job" type of voting. Thus, I can easily see Creighton's Kirsten Bernal Booth winning this, and I won't be surprised if she did. But Villanova was picked to finish seventh in the league this season, and not by a small amount, either. Instead of languishing through the season again, Steinbach has the Wildcats sitting in second in the Big East. Their RPI (#44 right now) may not support a trip to the NCAA tournament this season if they don't win the autobid, but as the only Big East squad to have defeated Creighton this season, you have to figure that they've got a halfway decent chance of pulling off the Big East tournament title.
All-Big East Team:
Maggie Baumert, S, Creighton
Abbey Bessler, OH, Xavier
Tessa Fournier, L, Seton Hall
Lauren Houg, L, Marquette
Allie Loitz, OH, Villanova
Taylor Louis, OH, Marquette
Meghan Niemann, MB, Marquette
Karin Palgutova, OH, St. John's
Emma Pettit, S. Villanova
Alyssa Sinnette, OH, Georgetown
Lauren Smith, MB, Creighton
Jaali Winters, OH, Creighton
I'm not entirely sure why the Big East uses a 12 woman team for all-league honors in volleyball when it's a six player sport, seven if you count libero as a separate thing. But that's what we're stuck with, so that's what we're predicting.
As you can guess from the individual award discussions, six of the players were shoo-ins: Fournier, Houg, Louis, Palgutova, Pettit, and Winters. That meant all I needed to do was round out the list by evening things out amongst the positions. Bessler is the next best attacker that's not in that first six, and she's also top 10 in digs. Loitz is the top points earner that's not in the initial six, so that's an easy choice, too. Niemann's top 10 in blocks and #2 in hitting percentage.
Those were the clear cut "gotta be there" players after that first six. Lauren Smith is juuuuust outside that line, because I don't have a hard statistical case for her. She's third in hitting percentage and third in blocks, but I went with her because she picked up a Player of the Week award this season and was on the Honor Roll four times, more than any player except for Abbey Bessler. My need for a middle blocker led me to look at Smith, just like my need for a setter turned my attention to Baumert. She has been splitting time for the Jays, so she doesn't have the total assist numbers that some of the other setters in the league are carrying. But she's been getting most of the time down the stretch for Creighton and she does qualify for second place on the assists average list. Sinnette is the one that I'm least comfortable with, but given the composition of this list and how previous all-league teams have been organized, I had to go with a hitter for the 12th spot on the team, and she's the next available name on both the kills and points stat sheet.