Monday, November 12, 2012

4th Annual All Conference Teams

There will be an article that goes along with these selections, but to make absolutely sure that my lists are released before the official All-SLC Teams are announced by the conference, I am posting these late Monday night.

Check back here late Tuesday or early Wednesday for some discussion and my reasoning in a few cases.  For now, I will only repeat a few phrases from years gone by about my selection process:

Recall,  I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Often, the conference puts12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and has 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 27 girls recognized. I will have three teams of seven for 21 girls honored and then a list of the players I considered for the list and "just missed".

As I said each of the last three years: "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."

2012 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

OH Devaney Wells-Gibson, Sam Houston
RS Jessica Hays, Central Arkansas
MB Sheina Fernandes, Oral Roberts
MB Jessica Pancratz, Oral Roberts
RS Jill Ivy, Stephen F. Austin
S Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
L Bruna Silva, Oral Roberts

Second Team:

OH Kendall Cleveland, Sam Houston
OH Stacey DiFrancesco, Northwestern State
MB Sabrina Burns, Stephen F. Austin
MB Kim Black, Sam Houston
RS Shannon Hullum, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
S Tayler Gray, Sam Houston
L Maddie Hanlan, Stephen F. Austin

Third Team:

OH Briana Brink, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
OH Jennifer Brandt, Nicholls State
MB Courtney Donald, Southeastern Louisiana
MB Brooke Alverson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
RS Mackenzie Neely, Northwestern State
S Laura Taylor, Oral Roberts
L Keelie Arneson, Northwestern State

Just Missed:  OH Scout Brooks, UCA,  OH Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State, OH Sierra Whittaker, Lamar,  S Emily Sweet, Northwestern State, S Logan Borque, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, L Micah Nolan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Player of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Setter of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Libero of the Year:  Bruna Silva, Oral Roberts
Newcomer of the Year: Courtni Bauer, McNeese State
Freshman of the Year:  Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State
Coach of the Year:  Tony Graystone, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi

Late Monday Night Notes:

1) I created a ranking/statistical player rater spreadsheet within the last year to help with this years' picks & I'm pretty darn happy with it.

2) I believe middle blockers should be judged at least 2/3 weight based on blocking and hitters judged at least 2/3 weight on attacking.  I know that Hammonds and Dittrich of UCA were completely left off my lists despite finishing 1-2 in attack percentage in the league.  That one stat alone doesn't carry a tremendous amount of weight with me.  In fact, I think it is very clear that the two MB from ORU, Burns, Donald and Black are better choices than the two at UCA.  UCA finished last in the SLC in blocks.  I know one reason for that is that that UCA faced the fewest opponent attacks of anyone in the league.  Even if you adjust for that Hammonds and Dittrich each wouldn't have finished in the Top 10 in blocks or blocks per set.  I can prove it to you if you want. As it stands neither finished in the Top 15 in the league in blocking.

3) Wells-Gibson and Hays are the other reasonable POY candidates.  I really "wanted" to pick Hays since she is my favorite non-SFA player in the league, but this is the year I was sold on how much UCA "goes" because of Collins court leadership.

4) As is almost always the case, the 3rd team setters are interchangeable.  Sweet and Borque ranked basically equal to Taylor using my data.  Taylor is more aggressive and I like that in setters.  She killed 119 balls compared to 33 for Sweet and their assist numbers are basically identical.  Still, Sweet and Borque could get honored and I've got no problem with it.

5) I switched from Ivy Baresh to Caiti O'Connell for Freshman of the Year over the last two weeks.  If the league honors Baresh it won't be a mistake.  She plays 6 rotations.  I just found O'Connell more impressive down the stretch and decided to change my mind on this one.

6) I see little difference in Silva, Hanlan and Arneson.  Order them how you want.

More in a day or so.. this gets them out before the conference sends out their release.  See you in Conway!

Tuesday Night Edits:

On Marissa Collins as Player of the Year:  Please read carefully because you need to understand something - as of this week, Collins is 3rd in the NATION in assists per set.  She is only seven assists shy of leading the entire NCAA Division I ranks in total assists.  This cannot be ignored.  Regarding Hays and Wells-Gibson, I think the decision between those two is tough.  Hays "feels" like the better choice of the two, but when you stack their numbers up against each other you'd be hard pressed to say that Wells-Gibson hasn't matched her pretty much all across the board.  In the end, I am going with the quarterback.  Collins work as the Sugar Bears setter this year has been undeniably outstanding.

On Dittrich and Hammonds of UCA:  Please understand me, I think these are great players, but one needs to consider the entirety of the situation.  Among middle blockers, Dittich ranks first in attack percentage and fifth in each of kills and kills per set.  She ranks 18th in blocks and blocks per set.  Like I said yesterday, even if you scale her numbers up for the fact that UCA didn't face as many attacks as other teams those rank 18's wouldn't get any higher than 15's.  The numbers on Hammonds are 2nd in attack percentage, but 9th in kills and 8th in kills per set among MB's.  She 17th among blockers in blocks and blocks per set.

Now, consider Pancratz.  I don't want to hear an argument for Fernandes.  Picking her is obvious.  There is no doubt in my mind that Fernandes is a first team MB.  Now, Pancratz is the one I may take some heat for.  Pancratz is 12th in attack percentage, 11th in kills and 10th in k/s among MB.  Those numbers are marginal.  But, I only weigh them 1/3 of the total count and I weigh defense 2/3 of the total weight.  Pancratz is 1st in both blocks and blocks per set in the conference.  Her position is middle BLOCKER, I remind you.

So, I ranked Pancratz first on defense and 11th on offense among blockers.  I ranked Dittrich tied for first with Donald on offense, but 18th on defense.  Hammonds ranked 4th in offense, but 17th on defense.  When you give 2/3 weight to defense, then that shows Pancratz should be ranked ahead of them both (by quite a ways actually when you mix in other blockers that fall between them in similar analysis.

On Right Sides:  I thought Hays, Ivy, Hullum and Neely were clearly the best right sides in the conference this year, so I wanted to make sure they made the lists.  So, I'll admit this year to making sure there was a right side on each team.  Folks that don't like that constraint can move one of my "just missed" left sides up onto the lists and that'd be fine with me.

On Graystone and Newcomers: I may have missed some newcomers, but I couldn't identify many girls that were eligible for that award.  I took a look at the entire conference obviously, but if I missed a candidate then I'll issue an apology if need be.  Finally, the Hernesman's at Northwestern State are also good candidates for Coach of the Year, but frankly, I don't know how that would work with each of them listed as co-head coaches.  I genuinely believe Graystone is the right pick here.  Other than the addition of Baresh, he had a lot of the same players as he did last year and they didn't make the tourney in 2011 and this year they are the #3 seed.  That's an amazing one year improvement.

I'm quite happy with the picks this year.  Actually, I didn't struggle with them as much in 2012 as I did last year.  That's because of the spreadsheet data that I've been keeping during the year this year.  I feel like I was better prepared than ever to cast my "ballot".  If anyone would like to see the actual data, I'd be happy to show you how I did it in Conway.  Introduce yourself... I am always willing to talk volleyball with anyone and I'd love to meet some readers that I haven't had the chance to chat with if you are going to be in Conway supporting your team.

I hope you enjoy the lists, and I anxiously await the "real" lists tomorrow.  Last year the coaches and SID's did a great job.  I know they will honor some great players and I certainly concede that they are the experts.  My goal, as always, is just to shower more attention on our great sport and give a small honor to a few of the players that I believe have had worthy performances this year.  Of course, there are plenty of others not on end of season lists that had fine seasons as well.