Monday, November 18, 2013

5th Annual SFA 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. Like last year, I suspect I will periodically comment on this article over the next week.  I will indicate updates at the bottom of the post with boldface time stamps.  If the conference waits to release the official lists until Wednesday, then I will certainly comment at the bottom of this post on Tuesday night with some defense.  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 puts 12 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 have said each of the last four 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."

2013 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

OH Devaney Wells-Gibson, Sam Houston
OH Sara Pope, Oral Roberts
OH Heather Schnars, Central Arkansas
MB Jessica Pancratz, Oral Roberts
MB Haley Neisler, Sam Houston State
S Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
L Keelie Arneson, Northwestern State

Second Team:

OH Malina Sanchez, McNeese
OH Briana Brink, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
OH Sierra Whittaker, Lamar
MB Lexi Mercier, Abilene Christian
MB Chelsea Grant, Lamar
S Tayler Gray, Sam Houston State
L OJ Olson, Stephen F. Austin

Third Team:

RS Jill Ivy, Stephen F. Austin
RS Jessica Nagy, Central Arkansas
OH Ivy Baresh, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
MB Jacque Allen, Stephen F. Austin
MB Caiti Wenger, Houston Baptist
S Logan Borque, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
L Bruna Silva, Oral Roberts

Just Missed:  RS Ashley Phelps, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, OH Kayla Burling, Nicholls, MB Justice Walker, SFA, MB Jovanna Poljasevic, Oral Roberts, S Laura Taylor, Oral Roberts, S Kayla Armer, HBU, L Shelbee Berringer, UCA

Player of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Setter of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Libero of the Year:  Keelie Arneson, Northwestern State
Newcomer of the Year: Sara Pope, Oral Roberts
Freshman of the Year:  Chelsea Grant, Lamar
Coach of the Year:  David McFatrich, Central Arkansas

EDIT:  Tuesday, 8:00 PM

A few tidbits on Tuesday night as we await the official lists from the conference which should be released tomorrow.  First, my Google Stats tell me that there were 185 independent views of this page within the first day of it being printed, so thanks very much for coming over here to check things out.

On Collins at UCA:  What more can we say?  She's the main reason why UCA looks like it may steam roll through the tournament and back into the NCAA's.  I thought she should have been Player of the Year last year, and I think she now has shown she actually deserved it two years in a row.  This year, I am more confident that she will actually win it when the official lists are published.  UCA lost Hammonds and Hays, and what they got was nice production from Petties and Gantar to pair up with Dittrich who returned and then Schnars made another leap forward offensively.  Couple all that with offensive mastermind McFatrich, a fast tempo, and voila.. they go undefeated and look poised to repeat as tournament champs.  The engine to it all, though.. is definitively Collins.  Schnars is quickly becoming one of my favorite hitters in the conference, though.  She and Pope are beasts.

On Arneson at NSU:  Dominating.  Just dominating.  Are you kidding, me?  Six time defensive player of the week and four of the last five?  Probably the most shocking think that could happen in the SLC voting is that Arneson not get Libero of the Year.  I've talked with enough people to be pretty certain she'll get it.

On Middle Blockers:  Is it just me or is this a slightly "weak" year for middle blockers in the Southland?  Everyone knows I think Pancratz walks on the moon, and Neisler deserves to be honored as well, but overall, I'm not sure the TOTAL level of play in the middle this year across the entire conferernce was as high as in some years past.  Talk to me about this in Corpus if you have a different opinion.  It just "feels" like a slightly down year at that position.  By the way, to be fair to Lexi Mercier at ACU - given that I wrote entire articles last year about Pancratz:  You can check that Mercier is listed on the NCAA's stat website as in the "reclassifying" schools section (bottom of rank page) and her numbers would currently place her at 11th in the NATION in blocks per set.  Grant and Mercier will be exciting to watch the next three years, but in the end, I gave the nod to the seniors.

On Malina Sanchez:  Legit.  This was the hardest "1st Team" decision I had to make.  I think she'll easily make the Top 12 list that the conference puts out and be an official first-team All-SLC pick.  To stay true to my system of picking "teams", I had only three spots for hitters.  If you are a McNeese fan and you want to swap out a player for Sanchez on my list, then I really can't fault you.  What an improvement in reducing attack errors she has made.  It is astonishing how much improvement from last year to this year she's made.

On Northwestern State:  They suffer on lists like this because of the fact they have a ton of players that are "above average".  Actually, I think their absence from the lists points to just how balanced and complete the OVERALL team is.  But, the point of All-SLC voting is NOT (or should NOT be) to reward teams.  We have more important things called trophy cases and standings for that.  No, the point of these type lists is to reward individuals who have performed at the highest level THIS YEAR as players.  NSU doesn't have a single pin hitter that ranks in the Top 9 among all pin hitters in the conference in total kills, kills per set or attack percentage .  Not a single one.  Glynna Johnson, NSU's best middle, ranks 7th in blocks per set among MB and 19th and 13th, respectively among MB's in kills per set and attack percentage.  NSU doesn't set their middles a ton. So, statistically, overall, mixing Johnson or Vanessa Coleman's ranks around in some proportion doesn't land them in the Top 9 at their positions in purely a statistical sense either.  Johnson was the first player that just missed my "just missed" list if that gives you some perspective.  Even if you bump them up a spot or two for intangibles or team effect, they wouldn't get in the top 6 at their position.  Think of NSU individually just on the cusp of basically every list at every position...

But, when you put Elrod, DiFrancesco, O'Connell, Neely, Johnson, Coleman all together, you get a very, very formidable set of players and a front row to be reckoned with.  This across the board "above average", but nowhere stellar list of players (at least in terms of 2013 numbers) creates a depth that is basically unrivaled.  This is actually the highest complement I can give the Demons.  They have no obvious weakness. All six of their attackers are good. Where NSU deserves praise is as a collective, and not really in terms of individual accolades.  Isn't that the praise that is most important?  Of course, NSU coaches, parents, and fans would probably enjoy more limelight on their players.  Truth be told, they'll all trade it for hoisting a trophy.. it's the only thing that really counts anyway.