As is our tradition around these parts, we’re not going to wait for the regular season to end before handing out some postseason awards for Big East volleyball here in 2018. Friday and Saturday are the final two match days of the regular season this year, and with the conference tournament kicking off in Omaha next week Friday, the league office could announce the award winners at any moment once the last ball hits the floor for the final point.
So let’s get to it! We’ll start with what I think has to be the most obvious award pick in the league......
Player of the Year: Jaali Winters, Outside Hitter, Creighton
If you thought I was going to homer up and pick Marquette’s Allie Barber, you are wrong.
Here’s the deal: Yes, Barber leads the Big East in kills per set, and yes, she’s the second most accurate hitter in the league, which is not something you usually see with someone with her attack totals. However: Winters is third in kills, trailing Barber and teammate Taryn Kloth. She’s also averaging 3.06 digs per set, second best on the team and 13th best in the league. Winters has Barber easily beat there, and over in the blocking department, where the 6’5” Barber should have a little bit of an advantage on the 6’3” Winters, the two are essentially the same. Barber averages just 0.39 blocks per set, while Winters stuffs 0.36 per frame.
If you needed anything else to tip it over the top, well, the Bluejays are 16-0 in league play and Marquette is 14-2 with two losses to Creighton. Kinda have to go with the best player on the best team when the league champ is staring down an undefeated season, and that’s Winters. Apologies to Kloth, who I didn’t even really consider here, even though she’s been super great, too.
Libero of the Year: Martha Konovodoff, Marquette
This is going to be close. Konovodoff is currently running 0.14 digs per set behind St. John’s Amanda Sanabia for the whole season, but the gap gets much bigger when you look at only league play. They’ve both been named Defensive Player of the Week three times this season, and both have four Weekly Honor Roll appearances, too. On top of all of this, it’s actually Villanova’s Regan Lough who leads the league in digs per set.
I’m giving it to Konovodoff because her passing is underrated, which, yes, is an inherent bias from watching a lot of her and not watching Sanabia at all due to the Red Storm not coming to Milwaukee until Saturday night. There’s also the issue of Marquette being the runaway second best team in the league, so I think coaches are going to want to reward that. With that said, St. John’s is in the Big East tournament for the first time since 2012, so maybe that earns votes for Sanabia.
Freshman of the Year: Efrosini Alexakou, Outside Hitter, St. John’s
Votes for Alexakou might end up being what tips Libero towards Konovodoff if the coaches are looking to reward St. John’s for their jump up in the standings this season. It’s possible that Villanova’s Clare Delaplane gets votes her as well, as the two led the league in Freshman of the Week awards during the season. However, Alexakou is fifth in the Big East in kills per set and fourth in points per set. Those are all clearly the best marks for a freshman in the conference this season, so combine that with the Red Storm’s record, and I think you’ve got a winner here.
Coaching Staff of the Year: Creighton
Duh. Kirsten Bernthal Booth and her assistants have the Jays two home wins over Providence (they have an arrangement with the league to avoid both teams traveling for one match against each other during the season, it’ll be two in Rhode Island next year) away from finishing 18-0 in league play. Yeah, you get the trophy.
All-Big East Team
Efrosini Alexakou, OH, St. John’s
Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Madelyn Cole, S, Creighton
Martha Konovodoff, L, Marquette
Symone Speech, OH, Georgetown
Jaali Winters, OH, Creighton
Okay, look. The league is probably going to announce a 12 woman all-conference team. I am not picking six in order to look like a genius when I get all six correct. I don’t know why they pick 12. Volleyball is a six player sport, so I’m picking six. If you wanted to go to seven and include a libero, I’d get where you’re coming from, and even follow along. Besides, once you get past the six most obvious candidates, things start getting way too complicated to figure it out.
In addition to being sure to put Konovodoff onto my team, I also went out of my way to put a setter in the group. That honor goes to Cole, because when you’re leading the Big East in assists and you’re one of just three full-time setters in the league, it makes it pretty easy to pick you. That leaves Speech as the pick that I haven’t mentioned yet here. This is a guess and stems from trying to spread these awards around a little bit. I would suspect that Kloth is going to get into the 12 woman team, and the same goes for Marquette’s Jenna Rosenthal. We’re already up to two Jays and two Eagles, though, and I wanted to make sure that the team represents the top end of the league accurately. That means putting in Speech, who is sixth in the league in points per set. I could have also gone with Alyssa Sinnette to get some Hoya representation here, as GU is on the verge of clinching a spot in the Big East tournament. Sinnette has Speech beat easily in the kills department, so it will come down to what the coaches like to vote for more.