Well, with the regular season almost over (there’s just one match left for everyone in the league after Friday night), it’s time to make some award picks for Big East volleyball in the year 2019. I wanted to wait until after Friday’s results as they were going to decide how I picked for one specific award for sure, and had the Marquette/Creighton clash gone another way, perhaps there would have been some other changes along the way. We’ll never know, as I made the picks after the Bluejays had locked up at least a share of the Big East regular season title.
Alrighty, let’s dive on in, and I’m sure the Creighton fans out there will be upset about this first one, somehow. Just keep reading past that one, y’all.......
Player of the Year: Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Marquette has the most accurate offense in the conference, and a heavy amount of that is because of Barber. The Big East’s kills per set leader at 4.63 is also the sixth most accurate attacker in the conference. Even after a rough night against the Bluejays on Friday night, Barber is still hitting .303 on the season. All five women in front of her in the hitting percentage department have fewer than 650 attacks on the season and four of them are below 550. Barber, on the other hand is cruising around up north of 1,100 on the year. It’s a great hitting percentage at face value, and the fact that she’s doing it with twice as many attacks as the few people who are outdoing her is incredible.
Barber also had more Offensive Player of the Week awards (six) than anyone else this year. She actually tripled up Efrosini Alexakou from St. John’s, who was the only other woman to get more than one honor at some point since the start of the year.
Libero of the Year: Brittany Witt, Creighton
She’s averaging more than five digs per set for the Big East’s best hitting percentage defense. There’s only 35 women in the country getting that many digs or more this season. That’s really good. Witt also earned two Defensive Player of the Week honors this season and
Freshman of the Year: Keeley Davis, OH, Creighton
The redshirt freshman from Colorado racked up nine of the 12 Freshman of the Week awards in the Big East this season. This doesn’t have to be hard. She’s also fifth in the conference in kills per set and one of just seven attackers averaging more than three kills per set. She was also the Offensive Player of the Week in the conference the week when she had 31 kills in five sets to guide the Jays past Marquette in Milwaukee.
Coach of the Year: Kirsten Bernal Booth, Creighton
I’m of two minds on this one. Marquette has had their best season in program history relative to their AVCA rankings, as they’ve been in the top 10 for the majority of the season. It’s hard to ignore a coach that’s guiding his team to the biggest heights that the school has ever seen. However, at the end of the day, I think this is really an award for league play more than the entirety of the season. Marquette was picked to win the league, and Creighton actually won the league and swept the Golden Eagles in the process. Thus, the trophy goes to KBB. If it’s Ryan Theis, I’m definitely not going to say that’s wrong.
All-Big East Team
Efrosini Alexakou, OH, St. John’s
Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Jayda Carlton, MB, Xavier
Madelyn Cole, S, Creighton
Keeley Davis, OH, Creighton
Hope Werch, OH, Marquette
Brittany Witt, L, Creighton
I’m going with seven women here. Teams announce seven starters, including their libero, so I’m naming a seven player team. Obviously, Barber and Witt are here by way of their individual honors. Davis didn’t make it in purely because of hers. However, the reasons why she’s Freshman of the Year — namely that she led the regular season champs in kills per set — means that she pretty much has to be in here.
Those were the only automatics, which means I had four spots to fill. One of them has to go to a setter, and while Marquette leads the Big East in assists, the Golden Eagles use a setter rotation. On top of that, Lauren Speckman missed a decent chunk of the year, meaning MU used three different setters with regularity this year, so we can’t tab one of them. Thus, we turn to Madelyn Cole, who is one of just three women averaging more than 10 assists this season and the only one averaging more than 11. Creighton is the #2 passing team in the league, so it’s only fair.
I like recognizing middle blockers because I feel like sometimes they don’t get quite the attention that they deserve. It was easy to do that the past few years given the overall contributions of Jenna Rosenthal, so I’m going out of my way to include Xavier’s Jayda Carlton here. The Big East’s leader in blocks per set this season at 1.22 also had four Weekly Honor Roll appearances, so she’s more than worthy for inclusion.
That left me with two spots to go. Hope Werch was a homer pick for me, but I can justify it. She’s 11th in kills per set, 16th in digs, first in service aces, fifth in hitting percentage, and ninth in points. As the season has wore on, Werch has had to do a little big more than perhaps the Marquette coaching staff had even anticipated, as KJ Lines went out mid-year with a knee injury and Madeline Mosher missed time late in the year as well. While Barber gets the headlines for the Golden Eagles, Werch is a glue player for MU that flies a little under the radar.
I rounded out the all-conference team with Alexakou for a few reasons. Obviously, there’s the two Offensive Player of the Week awards, and she has five Honor Roll appearances, too, which is tied for the most in the conference with Werch, Villanova’s Regan Lough, and Georgetown’s Iva Vujosevic. She’s also second in the conference in kills per set, and quite honestly, we should probably honor one of the two teams that are currently 12-5 and tied for third in the Big East this season. Could I have put Villanova’s Emma Decker in as the setter just for representation for the Wildcats? Sure, but that would be dishonest.