The end of the regular season means it’s time for postseason awards, and that’s what we got from the Big East for women’s volleyball on Wednesday afternoon. The big headline for the discerning Marquette fan is that right side hitter/setter Taylor Wolf was named Big East Co-Player of the Year.
It’s the first time in conference history that the voting from the league’s coaches has resulted in a tie for the POY trophy. Wolf shares the honor with right side hitter Rachele Rastelli from St. John’s. Here’s how the Big East wrote up Wolf for the honors:
Marquette’s Taylor Wolf was one of the best all-around players in the conference this season, making her presence felt both offensively and defensively. Wolf ranked in the top-10 in the conference in both kills per set (2.89) and digs per set (3.50), while also adding in 5.42 assists per set to rank 11th in the BIG EAST in that category. The graduate also collected five triple doubles during BIG EAST play, the most in a single season since Seton Hall’s Shelbey Manthorpe back in 2013. Wolf’s seven triple-doubles overall on the season are tied for the second most in the country.
And here’s the write-up on Rastelli:
The senior was the only player in the BIG EAST this season to average north of four kills per set, and her 4.64 kills during conference play led the league by nearly an entire kill per set. Rastelli had the three highest match kill totals among BIG EAST players this season, including a career-high 35 kills against Georgetown on Oct. 29. The Parma, Italy native had seven matches with 20+ kills, just two shy of tying the BIG EAST record for such matches in a single season. Rastelli’s 475 total kills on the season ranked 12th in the country.
One thing that the league leaves out in talking about Rastelli is how she was suddenly shoved forward from the 1A attacker on the team behind Big East Preseason Player of the Year Efrosini Alexakou to the clear and obvious #1 option for the Johnnies’ offense. I don’t disagree with the coaches who voted for her given her prolific offensive numbers..... but I do wonder why they decided to vote for a player on a team that went 6-12 in the league and missed the four-team Big East tournament by six full games in the standings. There wasn’t an option on the Marquette, Connecticut, or DePaul rosters that you really liked?
I know for a fact that there are options on those rosters that the coaches all liked, as eight of the 18 women on the all-Big East team were unanimous choices and five of those eight play for one of the four teams who qualified for the conference tournament. One of them, unsurprisingly, is Taylor Wolf. C’mon. What are we doing here?
“What are we doing here?” also goes for why there’s an 18 player all-conference team. It’s a sport where only six women are on the court together, and if you wanted to say it’s technically seven because of the libero, I’m not going to argue with you. A six or seven woman all-league team would seem to be the right answer there, and I could even get to 12 or 14 if you really wanted to say that “Six or seven doesn’t properly recognize the outstanding athletes in the league.” Okay, fine, that’s what a Second Team does for you. But 18 women just all thrown together in one group as the all-conference team? C’mon. Make some decisions, Big East.
As mentioned a second ago, yes, Taylor Wolf is on the all-conference team and she was a unanimous choice for said squad. Wolf is not the only Golden Eagle to make it as a unanimous selection, as the same benefit was extended to Hope Werch. That provides what I presume will be a nice cap to Werch’s collegiate career as the super-senior/grad student suffered a knee injury in the first set of MU’s second-to-last regular season match and I will be shocked if she plays again this season. For more on what Werch did this season, other than being an all-around badass, we turn to the MU press release on the awards:
Werch has totaled 3.02 kills per set while leading the BIG EAST with 0.51 service aces per frame. The six-rotation hitter sits atop the MU career leaderboard for service aces and is the first Marquette player to reach 1,000 kills, 1,000 digs and 150 service aces. The graduate student earned an All-BIG EAST selection the previous two seasons, was an AVCA All-East Coast Region honoree in 2019 and the 2017 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
Wolf and Werch are joined on the all-conference team by middle blocker Savannah Rennie, who earns her second straight all-Big East honor after doing the same in the spring season. The MU press release notes on her keep it simple:
Rennie makes her second-straight appearance on the all-conference team after transferring to MU from the University of California. The middle blocker has totaled 286 kills on a .322 hitting percentage in the regular season, while adding a team-best 109 blocks.
What it does not say is that she is third on the team in kills per set behind Werch and Wolf, and her hitting percentage is second on the team behind only fellow starting middle Carsen Murray and seventh best in the Big East. Rennie averages out to 1.06 blocks per set, making her the only Golden Eagle north of 0.85 this season and one of just eight women in the entire conference to average more than a block per set this year.
The rest of the individual awards in the league were spread around the Big East with no team getting more than just one winner. Butler’s Jaymeson Kinley was named Libero of the Year after leading the league in digs per set and ending up as the only Big East player to average more than five per set. UConn’s McKayla Wuensch was tabbed as Setter of the Year, which is a fascinating choice as she was not the league’s assists leader this season and Creighton’s Kendra Wait was the only setter to clear 10 assists a set as an average. The coaches can’t even hide behind “well, conference play” as an excuse, as Wait has Wuensch beat 10.49 to 10.20 there. I guess seniority is the “tiebreaker” here as Wait is only a freshman this season.
Freshman of the Year is where Creighton pops up on the list, as outside hitter Norah Sis earns that trophy. Sis led the Bluejays in kills and points this season, so she’s just going to be torturing the Golden Eagles for years to come. Coaching Staff of the Year went to DePaul, and that’s well deserved as Marie Zidek and her staff guided the Blue Demons to the Big East tournament for the first time since they joined the league in 2005. If you’re saying “well, that’s quite the accomplishment, particularly with a four-team tournament in an 11 team league,” remember that it was an eight team tournament before the Reformation when more than half the league qualified for the field because Providence wasn’t playing volleyball in the Big East.
Marquette returns to the court later today as you’re reading this, as the Big East semifinals get started on Friday. The #2 seeded Golden Eagles face off against #3 Connecticut in the first match at 12:30 Central, while the second semifinal will be #1 Creighton against #4 DePaul at 3pm or about 30 minutes after the MU/UConn match ends, whichever is later.
Let’s close out with a rundown of the awards, both individual and team:
Big East Co-Players of the Year
Taylor Wolf, Marquette, Gr., S/RS
Rachele Rastelli, St. John’s, Sr., RS
Big East Libero of the Year
Jaymeson Kinley, Butler, Jr., L
Big East Setter of the Year
McKayla Wuensch, UConn, Gr., S
Big East Freshman of the Year
Norah Sis, Creighton, Fr., OH
Big East Coaching Staff of the Year
DePaul (Head Coach: Marie Zidek)
All-Big East Team
Melody Davidson, Butler, R-Sr., MB ^
Jaymeson Kinley, Butler, Jr., L ^
Kennadie Jake-Turner, UConn Sr., MB
Caylee Parker, UConn, Sr., OH ^
McKayla Wuensch, UConn, Gr., S
Abby Bottomley, Creighton, Sr., L
Norah Sis, Creighton, Fr., OH ^
Kendra Wait, Creighton, Fr., S
Jaela Zimmerman, Creighton, Sr., OH ^
Donna Brown, DePaul, Sr., MB
Jill Pressly, DePaul, So., OH
Emma Price, DePaul, Gr., RS
Savannah Rennie, Marquette, Gr., MB
Hope Werch, Marquette, Gr., OH ^
Taylor Wolf, Marquette, Gr., S/RS ^
Ariadni Kathariou, St. John’s, Sr., MB
Rachele Rastelli, St. John’s, Sr., RS ^
Carrigan O’Reilly, Xavier Musketeers, Jr., S
All-Big East Freshman Team
Mariah Grunze, Butler, Fr., OH
Norah Sis, Creighton, Fr., OH ^
Kendra Wait, Creighton, Fr., S ^
Shaliyah Rhoden, Providence, Fr., OH ^
Giorgia Walther, St. John’s, Fr., OH ^
Rose Crist, Villanova, Fr., OH
^ - denotes unanimous selection