SEATTLE – Husky junior Krista Vansant has been named the Pac-12 Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year, one of the top honors in college volleyball. The outside hitter from Redlands, Calif. led Washington to the Pac-12 title this year, and is one of four Huskies named to the All-Pac-12 Team by a vote of the conference head coaches.
The Pac-12 coaches have also voted UW head coach Jim McLaughlin the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, the fourth time that McLaughlin has won the honor and the first since 2005. That ties him with Stanford’s John Dunning for the second-most Coach of the Year awards in Pac-12 history, one behind former UCLA coach Andy Banachowski.
Fourteen athletes earn a spot on the All-Pac-12 Team, with additional athletes receiving votes named honorable mention. With nine Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tourney this year, competition for the All-Pac-12 Team was as tough as ever. Along with Vansant, now a two-time All-Pac-12 member, junior outside hitter Kaleigh Nelson was named to the top-14, the first honor of her career. Senior libero Jenna Orlandini and sophomore middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon each earned honorable mention for the first time.
Vansant becomes the third Husky to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, following Sanja Tomasevic in 2005 and Christal Morrison in 2006. With three Players of the Year, UW is third in conference history behind only Stanford (14) and UCLA (5). She was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week three times this season, and Defensive Player of the Week once. Her 4.99 points per set rank second in the Pac-12 and 15th nationally. Vansant averages 4.31 kills per set while hitting .318, and she ranks seventh in the league with 0.30 aces per set, and third on the Huskies with 2.67 digs per set, all career-highs.
“It’s a return on a lot of hard work on every part of her game,” McLaughlin said of Vansant’s honor. “How she approaches the game and thinks the game, she has upgraded in every area. She adds a lot to our team and I believe she deserves this honor.
Vansant was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2011 and last year was a Second Team All-American, but McLaughlin says that Vansant “held herself to a much higher standard this year in everything she did in practice. That’s hard to do but that’s where the toughness comes from. She did it and set an example for the other girls to do it, and it became part of the identity of the team. She gives everything she has emotionally. She learned how to move and how to see her game, and I still think she’s getting better.”
Nelson has gone from rarely seeing the court as a freshman in 2011 to an All-Pac-12 selection just two years later. She is second on the team with a 3.12 kills per set average, up from the 2.42 she produced last year, and is hitting .281, taking most of her swings from the right side opposite Vansant. Nelson, a native of Salem, Ore., led the Huskies in kills in seven matches this season, including five Pac-12 matches.
“She changed her entire approach,” McLaughlin said of Nelson. “I asked her two years ago how important this was to her, and what she wanted to become. She wanted to be great and I said her behavior would define it and she changed and came to work every day with a nice edge and mentality, became more mindful and that is still developing. The sky is the limit with her but I’m proud of the work she’s done.”
Orlandini was one of just two liberos named on the All-Pac-12 Team, as USC’s Natalie Hagglund earned a spot in the top-14. The Huskies and Trojans have given up the fewest opponent service aces in the Pac-12 this year, with Orlandini a key part of UW allowing just 0.5 opponent aces per set. The La Cañada, Calif. native has moved up to 12th in Pac-12 history with 1,905 career digs, and ranks third in UW history. She is also averaging a career-best in aces this season with 0.30 per set, which ranks sixth in the Pac-12.
Sybeldon has stepped into a critical role for the Huskies this year, and responded extremely well. The Folsom, Calif. native is averaging 2.02 kills per set and leads the Huskies with 1.29 blocks per set, which ranks fourth in the Pac-12. She has hit at a .350 attack percentage, ranking sixth in the Pac-12.
“Jo and Li, they’re both deserving. Lianna is starting to learn about herself, so this is a nice step in the right direction. With Jo, Natalie Hagglund is a great player and she and Jo are right there. I think Jo contributes to our team as much as anybody; her leadership has been unbelievable.”
As for McLaughlin, this is the fourth Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor in his 13th season at Washington. He previously won the award in 2002, 2004, and 2005. He led the Huskies to the program’s third Pac-12 title this year with an 18-2 record, earning UW the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament which begins this Friday with a match against Alabama State at Alaska Airlines Arena.
2013 PAC-12 WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL POSTSEASON HONORS
Player of the Year: Krista Vansant, WASH
Freshman of the Year: Ebony Nwanebu, USC
Setter of the Year: Madi Bugg, STAN
Libero of the Year: Natalie Hagglund, USC
Coach of the Year: Jim McLaughlin, WASH
2013 ALL-PAC-12 WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL TEAM
PLAYER, TEAM POS. HT. YR. HOMETOWN
Inky Ajanaku, STAN** MB 6-3 So. Tulsa, Okla.
Liz Brenner, ORE** OH 6-1 Jr. Portland, Ore.
Samantha Bricio, USC** OH 6-2 So. Guadalajara, Mexico
Jordan Burgess, STAN** OH 6-1 So. Fort Meyers, Fla.
Macey Gardner, ASU** OH 6-1 So. Gilbert, Ariz.
Adrienne Gehan, CAL OH 6-3 Sr. Dallas, Texas
Natalie Hagglund, USC*** L 5-9 Sr. Encinitas, Calif.
Madi Kindgon, ARIZ OH 6-1 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz.
Karsta Lowe, UCLA OH 6-4 Jr. Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Kaleigh Nelson, WASH OH 6-2 Jr. Salem, Ore.
Ebony Nwanebu, USC OH 6-4 Fr. Lucas, Texas
Alexis Olgard, USC MB 6-5 Sr. Spokane, Wash.
Krista Vansant, WASH** OH 6-2 Jr. Redlands, Calif.
Carly Wopat, STAN*** MB 6-2 Sr. Santa Barbara, Calif.
** two-time selection *** three-time selection
Honorable Mention: Madi Bugg, STAN; Joan Caloiaro, CAL; Nicole Edelman, COLO; Christina Higgins, CAL; Kyra Holt, WSU; Brittany Howard, STAN; Jenna Orlandini, WASH; Lauren Plum, ORE; Erin Redd-Brandon, UTAH; Kelly Reeves, UCLA; Taylor Simpson, COLO; Lianna Sybeldon, WASH; Ariana Williams, ORE; Rachel Williams, STAN.