The Big East announced the 2017 postseason awards for women’s volleyball on Wednesday, and YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles cleaned up at the podium. Sophomore outside hitter Allie Barber was named Player of the Year, outside hitter Hope Werch was named Freshman of the Year, and Ryan Theis and his staff were named Coaching Staff of the Year. IN ADDITION TO ALL OF THAT, Barber was joined on the all-Big East First Team by redshirt junior middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal, while sophomore setter Lauren Speckman was named to the all-league Second Team.
Barber led the Big East in kills this season, knocking them down at a clip of 4.83 per set. That ramped up to 5.28 per frame in league play, and she finished the regular season hitting .351. While the Golden Eagles finished second in the standings, Barber was the most dominant player in the league and every opponent had to start their defensive game plan with figuring out what to do against her.
Werch is the second straight Golden Eagle to win Freshman of the Year after Barber shared the award with St. John’s Erica Di Maulo a year ago. The Neenah native chipped in 2.25 kills and 2.67 digs per set to the MU effort this season and won three Freshman of the Week awards along the way. She was a perfect compliment to Barber on the opposite pin right out the gate, even if she was slowed by a late season leg injury.
This is the second straight First Team honor for Rosenthal, a redshirt junior from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She anchored the MU net presence with 1.10 blocks per set, the best mark on the team and the fourth best mark in the Big East. The 6’6” Rosenthal also averaged 2.52 kills per frame and hit .341 to help propel MU to the second best team hitting percentage in the conference.
Speckman took over setting duties from Sara Blasier and MU’s offense didn’t skip a beat. She led the Big East at 11.68 assists per set, which is also good enough for the eighth best average in the country. Not for nothing, but Speckman also got involved in the point scoring end of things on occasion, ranking 16th in the Big East in service aces and averaging a kill and a block every other set.
Theis, along with assistant coaches Meghan Keck and Ryan Lengerich, pushed the Golden Eagles to a 15-3 record in league play this season, which is the team’s best record since 2013 and thus the best record since Theis was hired. Marquette led the league in assists and aces this season, and both of those things rely heavily on coaching. It’s one thing for Lauren Speckman to rack up a bunch of assists on her own and have a familiarity with her hitters, it’s another thing for the rest of the team to connect with hitters to the tune of nearly another two assists per set. Aces can depend on a lot on executing a game plan to attack specific parts of the court depending on how the defense is aligned on each swing, and no one in the Big East was better at that than Marquette this season.
Elsewhere in major awards, Creighton’s Brittany Witt was named Libero of the Year in the league. She was Defensive Player of the Week five times this season and led the conference in digs per set in the 18 game league slate. Sometimes you don’t need to overthink these things, and that’s before acknowledging that Witt averaged 1.17 assists, too. As the libero.
Here’s the two All-Big East Teams:
ALL BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Makayla Ferguson, Butler, Sr., S
Bri Lilly, Butler, Jr., MB
Anna Logan, Butler, Jr., OH *
Lydia Dimke, Creighton, Sr., S
Marysa Wilkinson, Creighton, Sr., MB
Jaali Winters, Creighton, Jr., OH *
Brittany Witt, Creighton, So., L
Symone Speech, Georgetown, Jr., MB
Allie Barber, Marquette, So., OH *
Jenna Rosenthal, Marquette, RS-Jr., MH
Erica Di Maulo, St. John’s, So., S
Abby Thelen, Seton Hall, Jr., OH
Allie Loitz, Villanova, Sr., OH
ALL BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Taryn Kloth, Creighton, Jr., OH
Brittany Maxwell, DePaul, Jr., RS
Lauren Speckman, Marquette, So., S
Addison Root, Providence, So., OH
Amanda Pedersen-Henry, Villanova, Jr., MB
Do I understand why there’s a 13 player team when only six women are on the court at one time? No, I do not. Three setters, but not the setter that led the league in assists? Sure, why not. As you can see, Barber is one of three unanimous choices for the First Team, along with Butler’s Anna Logan and Creighton’s Jaali Winters. That’s pretty good.
Marquette returns to action on Friday afternoon when they play Butler in the Big East tournament semifinals. The Golden Eagles and the Bulldogs play in the #2/#3 seed game at 2:30pm at the Al McGuire Center on Marquette’s campus, while #1 Creighton plays #4 Villanova starting at 12:30pm. Both matches will be streamed live on Fox Sports Go.