Monday, November 16, 2015

7th Annual SFA All Conference Teams


Well, for the 7th time, here we go.  This is my list for All-Conference performances in 2015. In case you are reading this after 11/19/15,  please note that this list was released well before the official conference announcement which will come on Wednesday, November 18.

Like in previous years, 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.  For now, I will repeat a few phrases from years gone by about my selection process:

Recall,  I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Typically, the conference puts 12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and has 6 to 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 24 to 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 lists and "just missed".

As I have said each of the last six 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."

2015 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

OH Heather Schnars, Central Arkansas
OH Ivy Baresh, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
MB Chelsea Grant, Lamar
MB Justice Walker, SFA
MB Jacque Allen, SFA
S Kristyn Nicholson, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
L Kate Klepetka, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Second Team:

OH Malina Sanchez, McNeese
OH Jessica Wooten, HBU
MB Megan Nash, Central Arkansas
MB Allison Doerpinghaus, HBU
OH Jennifer Loerch, ACU
S Michelle Griffith, Sam Houston State
L OJ Olson, SFA

Third Team:

OH Autumn Lockley, Incarnate Word
OH Landry Bullock, Southeastern Louisiana
MB Glynna Johnson, Northwestern State
MB Cortney Moore, Lamar
OH Jordan Vaughn, Sam Houston State
S Kayla Armer, HBU
L Madison Hoover, ACU

Just Missed (in order of position played):  OH Brooke White (SHSU), OH Kaci Eaton (Nicholls), OH Anna Niederhauser (Nicholls), RS Morgan Carlson (TAMUCC), MB Blair Gillard (HBU), MB Brittany Gilpin (TAMUCC), S Sarah Siemens (ACU), S Amy South (UCA), L Bridget Justis (McNeese)

Player of the Year:  Heather Schnars, Central Arkansas
Setter of the Year:  Kristyn Nicholson, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Libero of the Year:  Kate Klepetka, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Newcomer of the Year: Bridget Justis, McNeese
Freshman of the Year:  Autumn Lockley, Incarnate Word
Coach of the Year:  Tony Graystone, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Tuesday, November 17 9:00 PM:  Thought Processes

I wanted to come back and edit this post before the official lists are released tomorrow and add a few lines about some of my thought processes and difficulties in making these lists.

1) On one hand, it seems like UCA, being the 2nd seed, should possibly have more representation than just two girls on my three teams.  But, who?  Should South be moved up?  I personally, just can't justify that.  Samantha Anderson?  Who?  Nobody else's individual performances stand out to me.  Now, the way this goes is that coaches submit ranked sets of names.  So, knowing how the conference does it, I'll bet South is higher on the actual list than mine.  That's just a guess.

2) New Orleans?  Nobody on my list.  That seems odd, right?  I mean, they did have a season that to this point has FAR exceeded other folks expectations.  But again, who stands out here?  Maybe this is actually symbolic of the fact that UNO - as a TEAM - has collectively achieved at a higher level than what was originally predicted.  I looked over things many times looking for a UNO representative.  Blessing Dunn and Kaitlyn Grice got onto my radar - meaning they made the "spreadsheet" of massive statistical analysis.  But, even when I talked to others about their thoughts of UNO, I got different names every time.  So, I am really curious if any of their girls show up on the official lists.  I am anxious to see their freshman play Friday, but can you take one over Lockley for this list?  I just can't do that.

3) Newcomer of the Year.  I didn't see an obvious pick.  Maybe someone can help me here, but I thought this one was tough because no one really seems to jump out.  I went with Justis for two reasons:  a) she stabilized the Cowgirl back line and that allowed some of the new players and Sanchez to contribute more on the front, which I think was a key to their "getting out of the pit" and b) I like back row players as a default.  So, that one was rather unscientific.

4) As I've said in past years, I think the official lists tend to under represent strong performances by athletes on low-seed or out-of-tournament teams.  I have had very respectable people (read:  coaches/administrators) tell me that the top teams should have a FIXED number of first teamers, second teamers, etc... and/or that if a team doesn't make the tournament then they don't deserve players to make All-SLC.  My response to that:  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? So, no dissing the Lockley/Bullock/Niederhauser placing. Bullock was 6th among all pin-oriented players in total kills AND attack percentage.  That's doesn't deserve at least 3rd team?  Chelsea Grant:  First teamer.  Any other conclusion is team bias.

Other quick hits on some things:

  • In one version of this, I had Malina Sanchez on first team.
  • I have to refrain from being a hypocrite concerning my incessant dogging of the conference for leaving off Kayln Egea at Nicholls last year after she was Top 5 in digs/set in DI NCAA.  Thus, I can't hometown it concerning Olson and Klepetka.  Klepetka's stats are just too much to look away from.  They BOTH should be on the official first team or I'm going to go bananas.
  • Wooten could also be higher.  Automatic official list first teamer.
  • Schnars and Nicholson are complete runaways.  It's a joke of amazing proportions if they don't win POTY/SOTY, respectively.  Same, with Graystone... it's a lock.
  • Cortney Moore might finish higher in the actual lists, but I prefer to weigh defense high for MB's.  Moore was 14th among all MB's in blocks per set.
  • I might take some heat for Gilpin.  But, in my view, just because you lead the conference in attack percentage doesn't mean that you deserve All-Conference.  I know some people will disagree. Among all blockers, she was 17th in total blocks and blocks per set.  Players with more blocks:  Emily Weimer (NICH), Kaitlyn Grice (UNO), Monica Hudgins (McNeese), Sarea Alexander (UIW), Samantha Anderson (UCA), Lauren Walker (ACU)... and her teammate Madeline Doud.  That's my point.  We know that MB's are going to be at the top of the attack % leaderboards. Don't give extra points for what is normal.  That said, Gilpin's .377, Johnson's .376 and Grant's .369 are REALLY high for this conferences' typical attack percentage leaders.  The leader is usually around .330-.335.
  • I see such a separation between Allen, Walker, Grant and the next tier of MB's that I bumped a hitter (Wooten/Sanchez) off my first team to accommodate all three.
  • Kayla Armer might make the list next year even after she has graduated.  I'm joking of course, but we all have just our personal favorites as fans. Like Jessica Pancratz of ORU a few years ago and Egea at Nicholls last year, you just have your players that in your eyes can do no wrong.  Good thing I've already got Blair Gillard - also of HBU - picked out for fan club status in 2016.
  • Fun times! Page view counts up 500% over last two days!  Glad you are reading.

Reaction to Official All-Southland Teams Announced Wednesday, November 18

Honestly, I think this is the most pleased I've been with the Southland voters in the last four of five years.  I breathed a sigh of relief that we didn't have any true absurdity.  There have been years in the past where I have truly felt the deliberation in some choices was not up to par.  This year, I think the list is really well done and I take this as a step forward in the necessity of using both traditional scouting techniques and analytics to reach a group of great picks.

Of the 12 players on the SLC First Team, 10 of them appear on my Top 12 (Teams 1 and 2).  If you notice Autumn Lockley is the first name on my 3rd team, then the similarity improves to including 11 of the conference's top 13 picks.  So, at the top of the heap, the voters and I disagree rarely.

There is one player - a very good player - that appears on the official SLC First Team that I have already addressed in my "Thought Processes" section from last night.  You can read that logic above.  I address this situation again below coupled with my main point that is coming.

There is also one name that is on my Top 12 (Teams 1 and 2), that appears nowhere on the official lists.  Regarding that situation... I have wised up through the years.  I think I know what is going on there.  My personal opinion is that IF.. and that's a big IF... I am right, then what is happening is shameful.  But, since I can't prove I am right, I will just go back to stating that if there is only a difference of two players of 13, then clearly there is little disagreement.

Now, to my only real main point of this reaction:  The one thing that we need as a group to get better at is to realize that these are NOT TEAM AWARDS.  I write this every year and I am going to keep flying this flag and making this point until I am blue in the face.  Team awards are what we are playing for this weekend.  They are trophies, championships, regular season titles, and NCAA bids.  All-Conference lists are INDIVIDUAL awards.  Surely, great teams will be comprised of great individual performances to some reasonable degree.  My point is, we've taken it too far.

SLC voters, please:  STOP biasing these lists against players from teams with low-seeds or that didn't make the tournament.  It is entirely reasonable for an outstanding player on a last place team to make the top of one of the All-Conference lists.  STOP giving extra points to players that have average to above average overall seasons so that we falsely claim they are among the very best in the conference.  This trend is incredibly disingenuous to players who have outstanding seasons, but whose teams are sub-par. Their teams have already suffered the fate of not making the tournament or having to play from a low seed.  Don't turn around and deny them individually so that what you are really doing is discarding their great season just because the rest of their team couldn't match their output.  It's just wrong.

When you figure out why Player A is a 1st Team Pick, Player B is Honorable Mention and Player C got nothing.. then you let me know.  Player A is a good player.  I'm arguing more FOR a harder look at Player B and C than I am arguing AGAINST Player A.  They all three play middle blocker and to be completely fair, I tend to weigh defense at that position more than others.  So, if you are someone that believes that offense at middle blocker should weigh more than defense, then you probably won't agree with my overall conclusion.  And of course, you are not obliged to agree with me ever.

Player A: 240 kills, 2.45 k/s, .363 %, 74 blocks, .74 bl/s
Player B: 204 kills, 1.92 k/s, .377 %, 101 blocks, .95 bl/s
Player C: 318 kills, 2.84 k/s, .336 %, 93 blocks, .83 b/s

You know what the difference is between hitting .363 and .336?  Do the math, it's pretty simple subtraction and division.  If Player A got one less KILL A WEEK each week, then she would have hit exactly .336.  So, since Player C's stats are better in EVERY way except hitting percentage, then are you willing to say that one extra kill a week is the difference between 1st Team Honors and Nothing?  And that's assuming that you think it's a tie before comparing hitting percentages... and clearly, it's not.

So, what gives?  Look, every year people tell me there are things that stats can't measure and they are absolutely correct.  No doubt, there are intangibles.  That is at least one - possibly the only one - reason why coaches submitting ranked lists is defensible of how the process begins.  More on that below. But, you've got A LOT of explaining to do if you think Player A and Player C are so separated on intangibles that one deserves a first team selection and the other deserves nothing.  

Maybe the coach of Player C left her completely off the ballot.  It wouldn't be the first time that's happened.  So, if that is true we have a whole other issue that is way more bewildering.  I've gone to this well too many times to count.  Read in years' past commentary.  Coaches have too much power when it comes to these lists.  They shouldn't submit lists.  The pool of players to pick from should be those that wear a jersey.  Period.

Even if Player C was left off the ballot, I'd still like my overall point to be thoughtfully considered.

Is it at least possible that why Player A and Player B and Player C got such different accolades is that there are people who make a policy of just refusing to vote for girls on poor teams?  

Kick the habit, guys and gals.  Teams get trophies.  Give players, regardless of their team, the recognition they deserve.