Well, the Big East volleyball regular season wraps up this weekend. Most teams are playing two matches, one on Friday and one on Saturday, while Marquette and DePaul have played 17 of their 18 matches this year and only have a meeting between them in Chicago left to go.
With that being the case, we have to pick some postseason awards before the league sneaks the announcement out on Sunday afternoon or something similar. Don’t think I’m not watching, New York! I know what you’re doing!
We’ll get you a Player of the Year, Libero of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year, and an all-Big East team. We’re going to go with a six-woman team, because that’s how many women are on the floor at a time. The league likes honoring players, so they’ll probably go with 12, but I’d rather make my job hard to narrow the list down as opposed to making it hard to find an 11th or 12th player that deserves to be on the team.
Player of the Year: Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Ok, look. Creighton appears to be ready to win the league by two games, barring a complete meltdown by the Jays in the final week of the season. It would stand to reason that a Bluejay should be Player of the Year. But..... here’s the thing. Head coach Kirsten Bernal Booth has assembled such a machine that no one stands out head and shoulders above someone else. At #6 in the Big East in kills per set, Jaali Winters is just as close to #5 as she is to #10. Lydia Dimke is dishing assists, but she’s more than an assist short of the lead in that department and doesn’t really have other notable stats to help push her forward.
So, we go with Allie Barber, Marquette’s leading attacker. She’s leading the Big East in kills at 4.87/set, which is 0.77 more than anyone else in the league. She’s 5th in the country in kills, where there are just 16 players averaging 4.5 or more per frame. Thanks to her aces and blocks, Barber is averaging nearly a point per frame more than anyone else in the league. She’s an absolute wrecking ball that the entire league has to cope with on a night in and night out basis, and thus, is my pick for Player of the Year. Oh, and she’s holding on to four Offensive Player of the Week awards, twice as many as anyone else in the Big East.
Libero of the Year: Brittany Witt, Creighton
Hooray for Meredith Klare and her league leading 4.43 digs per set. Neat. Xavier’s also 6-10 in Big East action and 11-19 overall. #2 in digs is Witt, and if I couldn’t manage to feel good about giving a Jay the POY award, then I’m absolutely going out of my way to give this one to Witt. Those five Defensive Player of the Week plaques aren’t hurting her case, either.
Freshman of the Year: Mallory Potts, OH, Villanova
Sometimes these things are easy. When you’re the only freshman in the top 25 in the Big East in kills per set, you get to win the award for best newcomer. Now, working against her is the fact that she’s only played 73 sets this season, including missing all eight in last week’s matches. She’s also (essentially) tied with Allie Loitz for the team lead in kills, and Loitz has missed a bunch of time this season too. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are still alive for a Big East tournament berth as we head to the final weekend of the season. At least part of that is because Potts has come up big for VU when they needed someone to come up big.
Coach of the Year: Kirsten Bernal Booth, Creighton
You know how I keep talking about how no one on Creighton is standing that far out of the pack? Yeah, well, the Bluejays have lost five games all year and only one in league play, and that one came on the road against the team that’s already clinched second place in the conference. KBB gets the win here going away.
All-Big East Team
As usual, Barber and Witt get the nod here thanks to their individual awards, and as I was trying to figure out a way to argue for Dimke to win her second straight POY trophy, she’s the choice as setter on the six player squad.
That leaves us with three spots to fill. Julia Cast is the only other player in the league averaging more than 3.7 kills per set in the Big East, so even if the Johnnies aren’t going anywhere this season, we have to respect that. The other two spots went to the best attackers on the two teams that are currently holding on to Big East tournament spots. Thelen has four weekly Honor Roll spots this year, which is tied for the most in the conference, and she ranks fourth in the Big East in kills. Beck has only the 11th best kills average, but she’s chipping in elsewhere, too. She averages an ace once every fourth set or so, and she gets to 3.13 digs per frame, which is a pretty good number for the best attacker on a top four squad.
I’m going to turn things over to Broadway Brown for the rest of the way here. He’s been our reliable volleyball previewer all season, and thus, has more than enough authority and knowledge to knock down some picks here.
Big East Player of the Year
I think this is a no brainer. Now of course I am biased to Marquette, but what Allie Barber has done this season has been out of this world. During the middle of the season, Barber was averaging almost six kills per set, which is unheard of. Now she has calmed down and came back to earth and is averaging 4.87 kills per set which leads the Big East. She has broken her career high in kills multiple times, and it stands at 30 in the five set thriller against Seton Hall. Allie Barber has won five Big East Offensive Player of the Week awards along with being named AVCA National Player of the Week once.
Big East Libero of the Year
This was a tough one. I was choosing between Meredith Klare of Xavier and Brittney Witt of Creighton. Each player had a great season defensively and that is why I am going with Witt. The sophomore out of Omaha is second in the Big East with 4.26 digs per set, but she is also fourth in the Big East in service aces with 27 (.29 SA/set). The ability to be a presence both defensively and offensively is why I chose Witt.
Freshman of the Year
My prediction for this award is Allie Barber. But wait, Allie Barber is a sophomore, she leads the Big East in kills and is super good. Yeah, I am talking about Providence’s slightly less awesome Allison Barber. She is a freshman and putting up solid assists numbers for the Friars. She has missed only one set all season and is averaging 10.22 assists per set. She has had a promising freshman campaign for a young and improving Providence team.
Coach of the Year
This was super hard to figure out. The standings are almost identical from last year. I am just going to go ahead and give it to Ryan Theis. I am doing this because I am a huge Marquette fan and the team is on the verge of winning two more games than they did last year. Theis also got his first win over Creighton this year so that was cool.
You could make the argument for Kirsten Bernal Booth from Creighton because they have been so good for so long, but eh, go Golden Eagles.
All Big East Team
Allie Barber- SO. Marquette OH
Jaali Winters- JR. Creighton OH
Julia Cast- SR. St. John’s OH
Symone Speech- JR. Georgetown OH
Lauren Speckman- SO. Marquette S
Brittney Witt- SO. Creighton L
This was kind of a tricky task to do. I did not want to just pick the statistically best players, I wanted to pick the best players that contributed most to their team. I say each of the award winers above make it, so there is not much more to say about them. Now for the remaining three spots it took me awhile to figure them out, I am not going to lie. Jaali Winters is, well, she is Jaali Winters. She is an absolute monster on the court and is pretty much good at everything. Her kills per set numbers are a bit low, but that is because Lydia Dimke likes to spread the ball around because the entire Creighton front line is very good. I almost feel inclined to put her on this list. Next is Julia Cast from St. John’s. She is second in the Big East in kills and has literally carried St. John’s all season. She has been provided with no help at all and is responsible for a majority of St. John’s offense. The final member of my All Big East Team is going to be Symone Speech from Georgetown. “Hey, Broadway Brown, did you just pick a member of Georgetown’s volleyball team to be on your All Big East First Team?” Yea I did because I feel so bad for her. She is third in the conference in kills per set with 3.69 and is first in the conference in hitting percentage. She has literally carried the 2-14 Hoyas all year and the Hoyas are wasting her talent.