Monday, November 14, 2016

8th Annual SFA All Conference Teams

For the 8th time in as many years, here are my picks.  This is my list for All-Conference performances in 2016. In case you are reading this after 11/17/16,  please note that this list was released well before the official conference announcement which will come on Wednesday, November 16.

The "system" by which I am making these picks has become more and more refined each year.  I'm confident that my combination of season notes that I take coupled with statistical analysis (which is my "day" job) has led to a more and more defensible set of picks as I've had more and more practice.  That isn't to say that this is easy.  It's very hard.  I'll get into some of this years' difficulties below.

Like in previous years, I suspect I will periodically comment on this article over the next week.  People love to debate this stuff and I'm fine with that.  After all, trying to decide who to honor is a noble pursuit and I can appreciate the passion that other fans have for their picks.  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 seven 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."

I am happy to show anyone my spreadsheet of notes and statistics.  There is nothing black-box or secretive in what I do.  That said, I let the numbers talk.  In God We Trust.  All Others Must Bring Data.

2016 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

OH Brittany Gilpin, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
OH Bailey Banks, HBU
MB Justice Walker, SFA
MB Megan Nash, Central Arkansas
MB Madi Fitzsimmons, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
S Kayla Armer, HBU
L Lexus Cain, SFA

Second Team:

OH Chelsea Grant, Lamar
OH Autumn Lockley, UIW
RS Morgan Carlson, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
MB Blair Gillard, HBU
MB Danae Daron, SFA
S Kristyn Nicholson, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
L Kate Klepetka, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Third Team:

OH Brooke White, Sam Houston
OH Jordyn Vaughn, Sam Houston
RS Samantha Anderson, Central Arkansas
MB Lexi Mercier, ACU
MB Taylor Cunningham, Sam Houston
S Michelle Griffith, Sam Houston
L Channing Burleson, Northwestern State

Just Missed (in order of position played):  OH Haley Tippett (UCA), OH Jacey Smith (ACU), RS Abby McIntyre (SFA), MB Lauren Walker (ACU), S Alexandra Aguilera (McNeese), L Bridget Justis (McNeese), L Amanda Chapa (ACU).

Player of the Year:  Justice Walker, SFA
Setter of the Year:  Kayla Armer, HBU
Libero of the Year:  Lexus Cain, SFA
Newcomer of the Year: Madi Fitzsimmons, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Freshman of the Year:  Danae Daron, SFA
Coach of the Year:  Steve Greene, Texas A&M Corpus Christi


Some Thoughts At the Time of Posting the Lists:

Maybe some more defense later, but for now.. some thoughts:

  • I'm perfectly fine with Gilpin or even Banks winning Player of the Year.  I picked Walker not exclusively from the fact that she plays for SFA, but instead, I think it is clear she had the best year of any middle blocker in the conference.  I do NOT think it is clear that Gilpin had the best year of any outside hitter:
Banks:  3.66 k/s, .232, 3.29 d/s, .38 bl/s, 32 aces, 1 POW, 6-rotations
Gilpin:  3.46 k/s, .262, 2.61 d/s, .51 bl/s, 4 aces, 3 POW, 6-rotations

Banks was 2nd in k/s and 2nd in attack % among 6-rotation OH's
Gilpin was 4th in k/s and 1st in attack % among 6-rotation OH's
Neither led the SLC in either statistic.

Walker was 1st in blocks per set AND attack percentage among all MB's and led the SLC in BOTH statistics.

I'm going to be surprised if I am right on both Walker and Cain.  The conference tends to WAY overweight team records in this process.  They always have and there is no denying it.  I do NOT believe these are team awards at all and I have plainly made my arguments in this post in years' past.  You can read them there or talk to me in person about it.  I've had coaches tell me they would support a fixed number of spots on these teams based on season record, which is both wrong and boring.

There is no real clear cut Player of the Year this year in my opinion.  The Walker, Gilpin, Banks talk pales a little to years past when I was deliberating over Heather Schnars and Devaney Wells-Gibson, etc, etc.  Islander fans will clamor that since they were 16-0, they deserve some of the individual player awards.  I get that.  Gilpin, Nicholson and Klepeka are all great.  Everyone who has read here or seen my interviews knows I respect them.  The choices above don't disrespect their efforts and I think the Islander fans that know me realize that.  I'm not going to cry foul if Gilpin wins POY and Klepetka wins LOY again.

  • Lexus Cain was in the Top 10 in digs per set in the nation all year until last week.  She missed finishing in the Top 10 by two digs.  She finished 13th in the nation.  If anyone asks me why I picked her over Klepetka I will repeat the above three sentences until I am blue in the face.

  • Hardest Decision at the Top:  Trying to separate Nash, Fitzsimmons and Gillard at middle blocker.  I think those three with Walker are clearly the top four MB's this year.  You could rotate Nash, Fitzsimmons and Gillard in any permutation and I'd be OK.  All four of these players should make the long list of actual SLC first-teamers that the conference will give out.  It was hard putting 163 blocks on my second team, especially because I am president of the Blair Gillard fan-club.

  • Given they finished 3rd, I looked hard for spots to honor ACU, but I couldn't justify it except for Mercier (who, her whole career has been woefully underrated) and a plethora of "just missed".  Smith was my 10th ranked pin hitter, Lauren Walker might should have bumped Cunningham down..they were virtually tied in my ranks and Chapa was rated my 5th libero.  For what it's worth, Justin Bibler makes a fine honorable mention for Coach of the Year.  Hey, AMCC was PICKED to win it, maybe Bibler should get it outright (ACU was picked 6th/7th).  Can't go there, though.  Walking into a program that was 16-0 as a new coach and keeping it there rather than having no real dropoff when you lose 2015 tourney MVP Baresh? That isn't as easy as it sounds.