You may not realize it, but in terms of matches played we are at the half-way point of the season. Oh, I know - we are barely into SLC Conference play and now the number of games per week slows down. But still, in terms of compiling statistics, we are half done. So, below, I am presenting my choices for first team all-SLC based on the pre-conference part of the schedule. Last year, the conference placed 12 girls on the "first team". I will stick by that count. As we go through conference play, watch for these players and we'll see how my opinion changes when we get to November - when it really counts. Then we'll see how the picks made here compare with the coaches and sports information directors.
Just one more prefacing point: I am definitely a "stats guy" - it's what I do for a living. But, I did not just look at leader boards here. Sure, they play a role for anyone that puts themselves in this position. But, I really have looked through and read game wraps and articles posted on other school's websites to try and get a feel for the "whole picture" the best I can.
In alphabetical order by last name:
First-Team ALL SLC (Mid-Season)
MB Ashley Bailey (SFA)
MB MC Bottles (SFA)
MB Nicole Bowden (McNeese)
MB Jayme Bazile (Lamar)
L Cristin Curl (Central Arkansas)
L Danielle Daigle (Nicholls)
OH Carli Kolbe (Sam Houston)
S Adrienne Meengs (Lamar)
RS Chloe Smith (Central Arkansas)
S Robyn Smith (Central Arkansas)
OH Chanel Tyler (McNeese)
OH Jessica Weynand (Texas State)
Just missed: Anna Ferguson (Sam Houston), Sarah Cartie (McNeese), Madison Hanlan (SFA), Priscilla Massengale (McNeese), Emma Ridley (TAMUCC)
Player of the Mid-Year: Chloe Smith, Central Arkansas
Freshman of the Mid-Year: Jayme Bazile, Lamar
Newcomer of the Mid-Year: Emma Ridley, TAMUCC
Setter of the Mid-Year: Robyn Smith, Central Arkansas
Libero of the Mid-Year: Cristin Curl, Central Arkansas
Coach of the Mid-Year: Debbie Humphreys, SFA
Comments: It seemed strange to only include one player from Texas State on the list, but so far they have seemed a little sluggish. That may be due to their grueling non-conference schedule. I think they are about to get it together, so watch for setter Brittany Collins or newcomer Mo Middleton to jump on this list. The thing about Texas State is that they don't have many dominant players aside from possibly Weynand, but gosh do they have a TON of above average ones (Collins, Middleton, Watlington, Cave, Calhoun, etc.).
If McNeese continues to impress, Dale Starr is a good choice for Coach of the Year, but I just can't quite pull the trigger on that yet. The players I have named for them above are veterans and established quality players. I actually think that SFA is in as good a position as anyone in the conference going into this weekend - which is why the mid-year award goes to Humphreys.
Some people could argue that I should have left Meengs off this list. I can't. She is so different than any other setter in the SLC in that she presents herself as an offensive weapon. A tip of the hat to Reagan Daniel at UT-Arlington in this regard too.
Listen, we have some fantastic player of the year candidates here at SFA in Bailey and Bottles, but the best player in this conference was Chloe Smith last year, it will be this year, and probably will be next year. It is entirely possible she will go down as one of the greatest players ever in the Southland. That's my opinion any way. With all due respect to the program that Central Arkansas is building, she is too good for them.
One omission from the above list is last year's freshman of the year Jessica Hays - again from UCA. Last year, I didn't even think it was close in terms of her being the best freshman. Hays, along with Lamar's Kaci Brewer, were my two favorite players to watch from opposing teams last year. I was "wowed" by both of them when they played in Johnson Coliseum. Of course, Brewer was MVP of the tourney last year.
Don't forget the names Pricilla Massengale [Freshman] of McNeese and Mo Middleton [Transfer] of Texas State. They'd be my runners-up for freshman and newcomer. Hanlan would be right in there too (for Freshman honors)....I am not forgetting about her.
If our own Melissa Miksch keeps putting up double-doubles in conference, then her name emerges on the awards bubble too.
Finally, after watching freshman Courtney Wypisznyski of A&M-Corpus Christi last week, I am convinced that if she will keep defenses honest by dumping and hitting more, then she could turn out to be a good player. I was really impressed with her size. She looks like she should be an offensive force, but seemed timid in terms of attacking. Any setter 6'1" should look to pick and choose her spots, but she didn't. There is no other primary setter in the conference within two inches in height of her...she needs to use that to her advantage.