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Unscientific Predictions: 2016 Big East Women’s Volleyball Preseason Awards

Last year, volleyball was the first sport to release their preseason awards, so we’ve got to stay ahead of the curve with our picks.

Marquette's Taylor Louis
Marquette outside hitter Taylor Louis is my pick for preseason player of the year.
Facebook.com/MarquetteVolleyball

We get closer and closer to the start of the fall sports season, and with men’s soccer and women’s soccer predictions already on the board, we turn our attention to Big East women’s volleyball.

Marquette’s volleyball team gets the season started on Friday, August 26, when they head out to Los Angeles to take part in a tournament hosted by USC. In fact, their first opponent will be the host Trojans, and they’ll also tangle with UC Irvine and Santa Clara on the following day.

But enough of that, let’s turn things over to the predictions.

Preseason Player of the Year: Taylor Louis, OH, Marquette

If you read the prediction posts for men’s and women’s soccer, then you know my thought process on these awards is to keep it simple. If you won the postseason version of an award last season and you’re back again the next season, then you should be the preseason winner. This is generally a safe bet.

However, I still don’t know how Xavier’s Abbey Bessler won Player of the Year last year over both Louis, who was one of the five most prolific hitters in the country last season and my pick for POY and Freshman of the Year, and Creighton’s Jaali Winters, who was nearly my pick for POY and actually did win Freshman of the Year. So, because I had Louis as POY last year and because I thought she (and Winters) got completely ripped off, I’m going with Louis here. If it’s Winters, then that’s fine. If it’s Bessler, just because she’s a senior while Louis and Winters are sophomores, well, then there’s going to be hell to pay.

Preseason All-Big East Team

Abbey Bessler, OH, Xavier
Jess Bird, OH, Creighton
Sara Blasier, S, Marquette
Tessa Fournier, L, Seton Hall
Lauren Houg, L, Marquette
Allie Loitz, OH, Villanova
Taylor Louis, OH, Marquette
Kristin Massa, OH, Xavier
Meghan Niemann, MH, Marquette
Alyssa Sinnette, OH, Georgetown
Lauren Smith, OH, Creighton
Jaali Winters, OH, Creighton

Obviously Louis gets here easily, as does Winters. While I can’t support Bessler as Player of the Year, she’s clearly deserving of an all-BE team spot.

The rest of this list was pretty easy. Fournier, Loitz, Massa, Niemann, and Smith were all-Big East First Teamers last year, so in they go. That got us to eight players of the 12 that the league seems to love honoring without including a single setter. Blasier was one of three setters to average more than 10 assists per set last season and she’s the only one returning for 2016. Easy inclusion.

These lists tend to discriminate against defensive specialists for some reason, so I included Houg, who actually led the Big East in digs per set last season. She beat Fournier by 0.01 dig/set, so I can’t really fault the coaches for voting for her over Houg for Libero of the Year. Jess Bird was the preseason player of the year last year, and she was all-BE Second Team at the end of the season, so I’ll add her, too. That’s 11, so I decided to pass over St. John’s Julia Cast, Butler’s Anna Logan, and Xavier’s Sofia Peterson to add Sinnette. Somehow she finished fifth in the league in kills/set, which was better than three women who earned all-conference honors, but Sinnette didn’t make it. I had her as all-BE last November, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here, too.

Top Five Teams

1 - Creighton
2 - Marquette
3 - Xavier
4 - Villanova
5 - Georgetown

At this point, I’m just plugging Creighton in at the top of the league standings until someone can prove that they can knock the Bluejays out. I wasn’t entirely planning on putting Marquette second until I realized how many all-league players they ended up with. With Bessler back for 2016, I have to go with Xavier third, and even though Villanova lost their all-Big East setter from last season, Loitz should be enough to send the Wildcats back to the conference tournament again.

Literally everybody else in the Big East finished under .500 in league play last season, so I’m not brimming with confidence for anyone in particular. Georgetown had a freshman in the top five in kills (Sinnette), assists (Paige McKnight), and digs (Kenzie Higareda) last season, and they’re all back again this year. Sure, the Hoyas finished 10-21 last year, including 4-14 in conference play and closed on a six match losing streak. Someone’s gotta finish fifth, why not Georgetown?