Monday, November 16, 2009

1st Annual All-Conference Teams

Well, now this is gonna be fun. This is what you think it picks for all-Southland Conference. The rules for me are simple. I want these to actually be teams..not 14 players on first team and eight on second team and all that. The Southland Conference voting is done by Sports Information Directors and coaches and they have their own criteria. Mine are simple. There are seven starters each night for any particular team, so we will pick seven girls per team. Each team is required to have a a setter, libero, two middle blockers, two hitters and a seventh player that can either be MB or OH. Now that you know my rules, let's get straight to it. Comments follow the lists.

1st Team All-SLC
S Robyn Smith, Central Arkansas
L Madison Hanlan, SFA
OH Chloe Smith, Central Arkansas
OH Carli Kolbe, Sam Houston
MB Ashley Bailey, SFA
MB Anna Ferguson, Sam Houston
OH Jessica Weynand, Texas State

2nd Team All-SLC
S Sarah Cartie, McNeese
L Cristin Curl, Central Arkansas
OH Chanel Tyler, McNeese
OH Yelena Enwere, Northwestern State
MB MC Bottles, SFA
MB Nicole Bowden, McNeese
OH Kendra Rowland, UTSA

3rd Team All-SLC
S Adrianne Meengs, Lamar
L Kaylee Hawkins, Sam Houston
OH Emma Ridley, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
OH/MB Lauren Holdorff, Lamar
MB Amber Calhoun, Texas State
MB Evaree Franklin, Central Arkansas
MB Jayme Bazile, Lamar

Setter of the Year: Robyn Smith, Central Arkansas
Libero of the Year: Cristin Curl, Central Arkansas
Newcomer of the Year: Emma Ridley, TAMUCC
Freshman of the Year: Madison Hanlan, SFA
Coach of the Year: Karen Chisum, Texas State
Player of the Year: Chloe Smith, Central Arkansas

Just Missed:
S Michelle Miller, Sam Houston
L Danielle Daigle, Nicholls State
OH Jessica Hays, Central Arkansas
MB Briana Mason, UTSA

So, how do I justify giving Hanlan first team All-SLC, but not libero of the Year? Well, to be honest, I had a really hard time deciding between Hanlan and Curl. In the end, I felt like Hanlan's additional attributes such as her good serve and higher reception percentage made her the better overall player. But, Curl's significantly higher digs per set per her as the top at that position. I went with the better overall player for 1st team, but better specifically in terms of the statistics that defines liberos when it came to the award. Plus, I decided on Hanlan for Rookie of the Year, so that gives her more total accolade anyway. The only person that could knock Hanlan off of Freshman of the Year would be Bazile at Lamar, but I think Maddie's made her case.

What really stands out to me is how balanced Texas State as a team is. Weynand was my hardest choice for 1st team...the others are locks, I believe. Chanel Tyler, or our own MC Bottles almost pushes her out in my mind. The teams announced by the conference may very well include both of those on the 1st team since they usually balloon those beyond seven players. But, for as good as Texas State is, they don't have many players worthy of individual honor - which points to depth, and I believe coaching. Despite our rivalry with Texas State, I believe Karen Chisum deserves the credit for organizing this depth and getting that group of players to truly play as a team. In my mind, they are the definitive favorite this weekend. That being said, any number of teams could trip them up including us. It just won't be Southeastern Louisiana, who is foolish to book any more than one night worth of a hotel.

It would not be an upset in my mind if Anna Ferguson won Player of the Year. I would not argue with that. Compare Smith and Ferguson:

Smith: 442 kills, 4.46 kills/set, .280 attack %, 59 blocks, .60 bl/s
Ferguson: 434 kills, 3.50 kills/set, .283 attack %, 120 blocks, .97 bl/s

So, do the blocks make up for the roughly one kill per set less? That's twice as many blocks as Smith you're looking at there. Of course, she's an MB and Smith hits from the right side. Still, I think Chloe Smith is the best player in this league this year, Ferguson second and Ashley Bailey third.

How is McNeese bad? I think all three of their second team picks are more than defensible. Nicole Bowden had a great year (112 blocks, 1.o1 blocks per set, 242 kills and 33 aces), Cartie is so solid and Tyler could have made my first team. Then, there is Priscilla Massengale, who dropped off a little at the end of the year, but still had a solid freshman season at over three kills per set. How are they terrible? How did they not make the tournament?

For those that want Daigle in place of Hawkins...fine. That was a toss up to me. I saw Hawkins make some unbelievable digs early in the year when they played UL-Lafayette and I wasn't overly impressed with Daigle when she came to Nacogdoches, so I let my own eyes rather than stats break the tie.

The four girls that just missed were my best of the rest picks. I seriously considered them for third team. I will also tell you that I stared hard at the following players: Priscilla Massengale (McNeese), Jennifer Brandt and Jasmine Harris (Nicholls), Alex Greer (SELA), Mo Middleton and AJ Watlington (Texas State), Whitney Walls (UTSA), Tara Frantz and Emily Shearin (UTA), Jessica Korda (TAMUCC) and Arielle Daron (SFA). So, if a girls name is not in this article, I don't think they have a case for the top-three teams at all.

Finally, I want to end where I began with the comments. If you could just lift everything in 30+ posts I've written this year about Maddie Hanlan and put it all in chronological order, you'd realize that at the beginning of the year I was quite skeptical about how sticking a freshman at libero was going to work out. But, when its all said and done.. what more can you say about her? She racked up some serious stats. Midway through the year, I really thought Bazile or Massengale was your best Freshman. But honestly, after reviewing the numbers and thinking back over things I've seen, I don't really think its close: Hanlan is the best. She flies under the radar a bit because she really isn't a flashy player. She's just....there. She's just where the ball is hit. It's not an upset if she gets first team-SLC, Libero AND Freshman of the Year. So, I know it took me an entire year, but the numbers don't lie: Maddie Hanlan can play.

Picking teams like this always creates a wave of emotion and any two people rarely completely agree. Then of course, I do not actually SEE all these teams equally, nor am I paid to follow college volleyball. As I said at the mid-point in the year. I do study and I do read around the conference daily. So, I feel like I've picked the folks that are most deserving. I'm a stats guy, but what was picked above wasn't based solely on numbers. Its also based on observation, conversation, reading and listening at just the right times.

Got a different opinion that me? Snub your favorite player? Let me know what you think. See you in San Antonio! Axe' Em 'Jacks!!