FRISCO, Texas (UCA) - Central Arkansas senior Marissa Collins was named the 2013 Southland Conference Volleyball Player and Setter of the Year by a vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors, the league announced Wednesday in conjunction with the release of the all-conference teams.
Collins, a Pearland, Texas, native, is the first Sugar Bear to claim player of the year honors since Chloe Smith, who won three consecutive awards from 2008 to 2010. Collins, a four-time all-conference representative, also becomes the first player in Southland history to win both player and setter of the year awards in the same season. Collins led the league in assists per set (12.07) and is fourth in the nation while the Sugar Bears led the conference with 13.89 assists per set. Collins, the 2010 freshman of the year, has won the setter of the year award three times in four years. The senior led UCA to a perfect 18-0 record league record to claim the regular-season conference title and the No. 1 seed in this week's conference tournament.
Along with Collins, Central Arkansas coach, David McFatrich was named coach of the year. McFatrich, who is in his third year at UCA, earns his first coach of the year honor. The Sugar Bears started the season with a 3-1 victory against No. 20 ranked Kansas, picking up the first win against a ranked opponent in school history. McFatrich led Central Arkansas to its second consecutive regular-season title. He currently has the Sugar Bears on a 19-match winning streak with a 26-3 record overall, which includes 16 sweeps.
Keelie Arneson, a two-time all-conference representative, claimed the libero of the year award, becoming the first Northwestern State player to win the award. The junior from Tomball, Texas, ranks ninth nationally with 5.56 digs per set. The six-time defensive player of the week leads the conference in overall digs and digs in conference play, averaging 6.00 per set against Southland opponents. Arneson broke the single-season school record for digs with 634 on the season.
Northwestern State outside hitter Ashley Elrod became the second Lady Demon to be named freshman of the year, joining teammate Stacey DiFrancesco, who notched the award in 2011. Elrod, an Arlington, Texas, native, ranks 14th in the Southland in kills per set (2.88). Elrod recorded double-digit kills 16 times during the season including 12 double-doubles.
Oral Roberts junior Sara Pope, a transfer from Albany, was named the league's newcomer of the year. Pope, a Jenks, Okla., native, is the first Golden Eagle to win the award. The outside hitter ranks third in the Southland in kills per set (3.68) and sixth in the conference with a .297 hitting percentage. Pope earned MVP honors at the Texas Southern Invitational and has won the conference offensive player of the week award twice.
Six schools are represented on the all-conference first team. Central Arkansas led all teams with three while Northwestern State, Oral Roberts, Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi each placed a pair and Houston Baptist had one representative.
Joining Collins on the team from UCA is sophomore Heather Schnars and senior Jessica Nagy. The Sugar Bears have placed three players on the first team four times in the last five years.
Schnars, a three-time offensive player of the week, led the conference in service aces per set (0.47), and was fourth in kills per set (3.50) and sixth with a .273 hitting percentage. The outside hitter notched double-digit kills in all but seven matches this season. The Downey, Calif., native registered a season-high 19 kills in a four-set win against Northwestern State.
Nagy, who finished 11th in the Southland with a .266 hitting percentage and 12th in kills per set (3.04), helped Central Arkansas lead the conference to a .275 hitting percentage.
Sam Houston State junior Deveney Wells-Gibson and senior Tayler Gray earned first-team recognition after leading the Bearkats to a 14-4 record in conference play and a No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. Wells-Gibson, the 2012 Southland player of the year, led the Southland in kill per set (4.62), which ranks 10th nationally.
Gray, a Huntsville, Texas, native, finished third in assist per set (10.83) and 15th in digs per set (3.51). The setter earned second-team accolades last year.
Along with newcomer of the year Pope, senior Bruna Silva represented Oral Roberts on the first-team list. The junior libero from Rio de Janerio, Brazil, finished second in digs per set (5.16). The 2012 libero of the year had a season-high 37 digs in a 3-1 victory against Texas-El Paso.
Joining the libero of the year, Northwestern State's Stacey DiFrancesco earned first-team accolades for the second consecutive year after leading the Lady Demons to a 15-3 conference record. The outside hitter from The Woodlands, Texas, helped the Lady Demons to their highest regular-season finish and tournament seeding in program history.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi senior Logen Bourque and sophomore Ivy Baresh earned first-team recognition, marking the first time two Islanders made the first team. Bourque, a setter from Houston, Texas, finished second in conference play with 11.35 assists per set.
Baresh, an Arlington, Texas, native finished seventh in kills per set (3.42), 11th in digs per set (3.63) and 13th in service aces per set (0.28). The outside hitter had a career-high 21 kills and 22 digs in a 3-1 victory against Southeastern Louisiana.
Houston Baptist's Caiti Wenger earned a spot after she finished eighth with .281 hitting percentage. The Allen, Texas, native, is the first Husky to earn first-team honors.
Second-team all-conference members include McNeese State sophomore Malina Sanchez, Northwestern's freshman Ashley Elrod and ORU's senior Jessica Pancratz. Stephen F. Austin's O.J. Olson and Jill Ivy earned second-team honors as well as Lamar's senior Sierra Whittaker. This is the second all-conference honor for Ivy and Whittaker.
The 2013 All-Southland Conference teams are comprised of 12 first-team and six second-team members. Teams are chosen by vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors. Recipients are placed by the number of votes received.
The 2013 Southland Conference Volleyball Tournament gets underway Friday in Corpus Christi, Texas, with four matches. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches of the tournament will be streamed live on the Southland Conference Digital Network, available at southland.org and on the league's iPhone and Android mobile and tablet apps. The championship match will be carried exclusively on ESPN3 on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2:05 p.m., with Lincoln Rose and Laura Alford on the call.