Yes, the season has ended and it's time for awards and accolades. Last year, when I did this for the first time I got a mixed - or shall we say, lukewarm reaction from the readership. There was even the accusation that I was "on drugs" a few times. You know the truth: No one ever completely agrees on lists like this. I've spent the last three days off and on pondering these players, reviewing box scores, memories, discussions with coaches - and of course, looking at statistics.
Picking lists like this always involves some tinge of bias. I think that's true no matter what anyone claims. Coaches tend to go for players with "tools" - the players that "look" good, even sometimes when the stats don't really back up the visual appeal. The Sports Information Directors generally are like me in that they DON'T see all the players face-to-face. They have difficult and time consuming jobs and there is a wide variety of ways in which the SID's tend to look at things. I think my list is more a mix of tools/memories & stats than it was last year. The readership can judge it's worth.
As everyone here knows, I am a stats guy: It is how I make my living. Remember, too - I am a fan. I don't have the coaches perspective here. I am not afraid to disagree with them, though. If anything, I am an independent thinker. These things are tough. There are always close calls and the desire to have seen players that you didn't see or see players more than once or have more than one conversation about someone.
Tomorrow is the day I must turn in my annual report for my "real job" as a faculty member at SFA. So, tonight, I will just present the teams that I have selected. I suspect that the conference will release the official lists on Wednesday and so later in the week I will compare the lists and defend my choices. I have a few notes included in this post, but I will elaborate later in the week. My main goal was to get this list published before the conference releases their list so as to not be influenced or open to criticism that I just used the official lists as my basis for selecting players. Hey, who knows. Maybe this list will influence others. Nah, probably not. But, still.. here goes.. I hope the comments box fills up on this one. I openly invite critiques.
Recall, I pick actual teams. Last year, the conference picked 12 players for first team, six for second team and 10 for honorable mention. That's 28 girls. I will pick three teams of seven (21 selections) and then tell you who just missed my cuts.
As I said last year: "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."
1st Team All-SLC:
OH Emma Ridley, TAMUCC (3)
OH Jessica Hays, UCA
MB Jayme Bazile, Lamar (3)
MB MC Bottles, SFA (2)
S Marissa Collins, UCA
L Kelsey Jewakso, UTSA
RS Chloe Smith, UCA (1)
2nd Team All-SLC
OH Carli Kolbe, SHSU (1)
OH Amanda Aguilera, UTA
MB Amber Calhoun, Texas State (3)
MB Laranda Spann, NWLA
S Kelsey Schwirtlich, UTSA
L Alicia Schaffer, UTA
OH Kendra Rowland, UTSA (2)
3rd Team All-SLC
OH/RS AJ Watlington, Texas State
OH Jennifer Brandt, Nicholls
MB Taylor Hammonds, UCA
MB Kim Black, SHSU
S Becky Bekelja, McNeese
L Danielle Daigle, Nicholls
MB Jessica Nagy, UCA
(1) SFA VolleyBlog.net 1st Team last year
(2) SFA VolleyBlog.net 2nd Team last year
(3) SFA VolleyBlog.net 3rd Team last year
OH: Whitney Walls, UTSA (my first cut), Jennifer Brandt and Rachel Yezak (Nicholls), Priscilla Massengale (McNeese), Arielle Daron (SFA) and Kourtney Adams (NWLA)
MB: Jessica Addicks (Nicholls), Briana Mason and Brittney Malloy (UTSA)
S: Reagan Daniel (UTA)
L: I didn't consider any others. The three I have above are relatively interchangeable in their spots, I believe.
Players of the Year: Emma Ridley, TAMUCC and Jessica Hays, UCA
Setter of the Year: Marissa Collins, UCA
Libero of the Year: Kelsey Jewasko, UTSA
Coach of the Year: Laura Groff, UTSA
Freshman of the Year: Marissa Collins, UCA
Newcomer of the Year: Kourtney Adams, NWLA (if she is eligible as an outgoing senior. )
(If not, then: Tina Hobbs, Lamar - if she is eligible given she redshirted at Lamar last year)
The only argument I want to present tonight is for Jessica Hays. The buzz the entire year around the league was about Ridley. I get it. She is a great player. She hits the holy frijole out of the ball. Coaches LOVE her. I'm going to be a little shocked if she doesn't win the actual player of the year award from the conference.
But... I kept hearing arguments like this: "She knocks down 20 a night DESPITE the fact that everyone knows she is main option and gets all those swings. Everyone KNOWS they have really only her to go to and she still puts up numbers."
I understand that logic.. but its overplayed. Actually, I think the reverse is more impressive. Hays puts up virtually the same stats - and before you go "Nuh, uh, she doesn't". YES... SHE... DOES.
Hays is putting up numbers in SPITE of having other options like Smith and Nagy and Hammonds. What's more impressive: Putting up stellar numbers when you are the only option or doing it when you are one of several? Think on that before you give your gut reaction.
Now, someone might ask: "Who are you going to start your club with? Hays or Ridley?" That's a really good argument for Ridley, but before you dismiss Hays as a possible answer, consider this:
Hays has pedigree - she was the Freshman of the Year two years ago. Plus, she is a proven winner. Ridley ain't won jack. Hays has titles to her name and Ridley never played in the postseason. Ridley won 21 games total the last two years at Corpus. Hays' team won 26 this year! You gonna just COMPLETELY ignore that?
I'm not saying it is the most important thing - and realize, I am A-OK if Ridley wins the award. She is a great, great, outside hitter. For that matter, I'm not going to throw a fit if Chloe Smith won again. But Hays is right there people. I'll conclude with the stats:
Ridley: 415 kills, 3.95 k/s, 1234 attacks, .173 attack %, 319 digs, 3.04 d/s, 37 blocks, .35 b/s, .21 aces/set
Hays: 434 kills, 3.91 k/s, 1140 attacks, .171 attack %, 317 digs, 2.86 d/s, 56 blocks, .50 b/s, .62 aces/set
All things considered, Hays generated more points per set for her team than did Ridley.
Ridley is fiery, flashy and has the "it" factor that coaches drool over. I get it.
Hays has conference championships and the same numbers. Flash is trumped by wins, my friends.
The only reason I listed them both is because I have heard coach after coach after coach talk up Ridley and I have to use all the data available to me.
The "look/tools" side of me picks Ridley. The stats side of me picks Hays. Trouble is.. the "look/tools" side of me isn't refined.. the stats side is. I've had some good conversations with fans, parents, coaches, etc. about the fact that stats don't tell it all. But could we please not pretend this is a slam dunk for Ridley, because it's not. If for some insane reason both aren't really first team All-SLC when the voting comes out, the website you are currently reading might explode.
I eagerly await the coaches and SID picks. Let the debates rage on...