Well, I did it. I went a year (basically) without bringing up the name Jessica Pancratz on this website. Readers will remember that last year I was utterly shocked when the Oral Roberts middle blocker didn't show up on All-Conference lists. It turns out there was more to that story that I originally knew and in all honesty more than is intended for me to know. I get that. We rarely know exactly why things like that happen. Still, the absurdity of her being left off the lists became a theme for me last November. In fact, I've written several times that I think the way the Southland Conference structures its balloting for postseason honors is flawed. Pancratz's situation aside, I think the voters last year did an excellent job. I don't have a problem with the voting in general - instead, I have a problem with the fact that the ballot is constrained artificially by the conference.
For anyone who cares to rehash the entire "Pancratz Fiasco of 2012", you can go back and read the string of posts here for my original picks, and then here for the original post defending Pancratz and finally here for sounding off about the Southland balloting protocol
We all have certain players that aren't on our "home" teams that we appreciate watching and Pancratz has been one of those players for me the past two years. She was a natural person to try and interview because of the posts from 2012. Several people have asked if I had ever talked with her directly...assuming that she was keenly aware of all my lobbying. I can honestly say yesterday was the first time I have ever spoken to her and she was not aware of my writing last year. Maybe that was a good thing.
Nevertheless, it is actually refreshing to hear her honesty in this interview as she reflects on the honor missed. As much as I enjoyed finally getting a chance to talk to her, I'll have to admit the conversation caught me off guard a few times. The honesty in her answers reflected just how much these type honors can mean to athletes. It just reinforced to me that the voting system is flawed no matter how well the research is done. The whole balloting structure...well... as Jessica puts it in this interview..."sucks".
The other great thing about this chat is that it also showcases Sara Pope. This newcomer-of-the-year candidate was the America East Player of the Year at Albany (NY) last year. From the greater Tulsa area, Sara transferred to ORU prior to this season and has instantly made her mark on both the ORU offense and the Southland Conference in general. Before the match I was commenting to a few folks that ORU may be the only collegiate team that has TWO former MVP's of other conferences on their current squad. Libero Bruna Silva was the Player of the Year (Defense) in the Summit League before ORU joined our conference.
While this is Pancratz' senior season, Pope has one more at ORU. As good as she's been this year it is kind of scary to imagine her taking another step forward. If that happens, then she may be a candidate for Player of the Year honors in our conference in 2014.
ORU looks locked in to the 4 vs. 5 matchup in the Southland Tournament next week. If that happens, then if UCA knocks off the #8 seed, we might see a repeat of last years' final in the semifinals this year.
I anticipate expanding my coverage of the conference tournament this year over and above what I have been able to do in the past. This is often a time of year where I post frequently, so check back often. Once we get to Corpus Christi, I anticipate scheduling multiple (sit down) interviews per day as well as on-the-spot interviews after matches.
Definitely plan to use www.sfavolleyblog.net as one of your primary SLC Tournament resources along with the conference and tournament websites.
Click Here to Listen to the Interview with Jessica Pancratz and Sara Pope