The Big East volleyball coaches threw a curveball at this intrepid sports website on Wednesday when Marquette’s Allie Barber was named 2016 Co-Freshman of the Year. She shares the award with Erica Di Maulo from St. John’s, but the shocking news doesn’t stop there. Barber was also named to the All-Big East First Team, where she was joined by three teammates: senior middle hitter Meghan Niemann, redshirt sophomore middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal, and redshirt sophomore Taylor Louis.
Look, I am in no possible way saying that Allie Barber had a bad season. I thought she was pretty good, especially considering that head coach Ryan Theis was planning on redshirting her back in mid-August. Playing in 102 of Marquette’s 113 sets, Barber averaged 1.91 kills per set while hitting .282. Considering that she was fighting against two all-Big East First Teamers for playing time in the middle, that’s a pretty successful season for a freshman. I just didn’t see her as the best rookie in the league because there were five freshmen that won at least two Freshmen of the Week awards, and Barber wasn’t one of them. In fact, she had just one Weekly Honor Roll appearance to her name, while Di Maulo was also the only freshman with two Weekly Honor Roll appearances, and she had two FOW awards as well. Barber averaged 2.20 kills in Big East matches while hitting .318, so you can see why the league’s coaches would cast ballots for her based solely on that.
Louis, Niemann, and Rosenthal ending up on the all-BE First Team is no surprise. It’s the fourth straight First Team award for Niemann, and the second straight appearance for Louis, who was a unanimous choice yet again this year after winning the Big East’s kills title. It’s the first all-league honor for Rosenthal who turned into a cheat code in her second season in blue & gold, posting the second best hitting percentage (.373) and the second best blocks average (1.29/set). Rosenthal boosted her kills average from 2.32 to 2.56 in league play while hitting an absurd .416 against Big East foes and blocking 1.41 attacks per set.
Onwards to the other major awards, which all went exactly where I thought they would.....
Player of the Year: Lydia Dimke, Setter, Creighton
The Bluejays went undefeated in league play without a player in the top five in hitting percentage or kills. Dimke led the league in assists with the 11th best average in the country without a dominant attacker, and that makes her the perfect choice for this award.
Libero of the Year: Tessa Fournier, Seton Hall
She finished with the best digs average in the league, and her 5.03 digs per set amounts to more than a third of the digs that the Pirates managed to post. It’s the third straight Libero of the Year award for Fournier, so it’s no surprise that the coaches voted for her.
Coaching Staff of the Year: Creighton
They went 16-0. The end.
All-Big East First Team
Allie Barber, Marquette, Fr., OH
Abbey Bessler, Xavier, Sr., OH *
Erica Di Maulo, St. John’s, Fr. Setter
Lydia Dimke, Creighton, Jr., Setter *
Tessa Fournier, Seton Hall, Sr., Libero
Taryn Kloth, Creighton, So., OH
Anna Logan, Butler, So. OH *
Allie Loitz, Villanova, Jr., MB
Taylor Louis, Marquette, RS-So., OH *
Brittany Maxwell, DePaul, So., RS
Meghan Niemann, Marquette, RS-Sr., MB
Sofia Peterson, Xavier, RS-Sr., RS
Jenna Rosenthal, Marquette, RS-So., MB
Jaali Winters, Creighton, So., OH *
The asterisks mark the five unanimous selections on the all-league team, and none of those five are terribly surprising. It is surprising that Fournier is not a unanimous choice, but that’s neither here nor there. 10 of the 14 women listed there were on my 12 player team, which means the coaches should have had a pretty easy job picking players out. I missed on Marquette’s Lauren Houg because I thought the team needed a second libero and Creighton’s Lauren Smith, who I had on the team because it needed more Bluejays. They were replaced by Barber and Kloth, so I guess at least my brain was on the same team wavelength as the coaches. I’m kind of surprised by Di Maulo making it in seeing as she was third in the Big East in assists this season, but whatever. Peterson is a total shocker. She finished fifth in hitting percentage, 17th in kills, and 22nd in points. She wasn’t noticeably better in Xavier’s 18 Big East matches, so I have no idea why the coaches thing she deserved a spot here.
All-Big East Second Team
Jasmine King, DePaul, Sr., MB
Danielle Schroeder, Seton Hall, Sr., RS
Lauren Smith, Creighton, RS-Sr., MB
Symone Speech, Georgetown, So., MB
Marysa Wilkinson, Creighton, Jr., MB/RS
Officially, the Big East says there is a 14 player First Team and five player Second Team due to “voting policy.” I think it’s weird that they name a First Team that’s bigger than six players, based on the fact that there’s six players on the court in a volleyball match. Andrew Goldstein of the Marquette Wire suggested the idea of going to seven players for the six on court players and a libero, and I’d be okay with that, too. Anyway, that’s how you get to 19 players in the league getting all-league honors, and hey, look, there’s Lauren Smith.