Albany, N.Y. – Following in the footsteps of a former Great Dane, University at Albany junior setter Brooke Stanley (Hendersonville, N.C./West Henderson) swept both the 2009 Player of the Year and Setter of the Year awards, as voted on by the league’s volleyball head coaches. Teammate sophomore Laurie Gonzalez (Carolina, Puerto Rico/St. Francis School) shared the Defensive Specialist of the Year honor with University of New Hampshire junior Sara Heldman (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove), while UMBC outside hitter Naomi Bush (Fruitport, Mich./Fruitport) was tabbed the Rookie of the Year. Albany Head Coach M.J. Engstrom rounded out the end of season hardware with her first career Coach of the Year recognition.
Stanley, a 5-8 setter, was a seven-time recipient of the Setter of the Week award and also earned the league’s Player of the Week honor once while recording 11 double-doubles. Also earning Setter of the Year last season, the junior led America East in assists with 10.70 helpers per set. Stanley topped 1,000 assists for the third straight season and has already reached 3,000 assists for her career as a junior. Stanley has given opponents headaches with her all-around play though, racking up 31 service aces and 2.83 digs per set, ranking fourth and ninth, respectively. She is the only setter to rank among the top ten in either one of those categories. Come conference matches, Stanley’s numbers become even more impressive, averaging 11.61 assists and 3.64 digs per set, while recording 13 aces in 33 sets against America East foes.
Stanley becomes just the second player in conference history to sweep both the Player and Setter of the Year awards since the Setter of the Year award was first handed out in 2000. The only other recipient of both honors was former Great Dane Blair Buchanan ‘06, who did so for three straight years beginning as a sophomore in 2004.
Gonzalez, a 5-9 libero, is another repeat selection, earning Defensive Specialist of the Year honors as a freshman. The sophomore led the conference in digs with 4.95 per set, ranking 35th in Division I. Gonzalez reached double-digit digs in 22 of 24 matches, setting a season and career high of 31 digs in a four-set victory over Colgate. She finished the regular season with 15 double-digit dig performances, including a 30-dig effort against league-rival Binghamton.
Heldman, a 5-9 libero who changed positions after seeing time as a setter last year, finished with a league-high 5.30 digs per set in conference matches. She finished with a 4.80 digs per set average overall, good for 49th in the country, and recorded double-digits in 25 of 27 matches, including the final 12 contests of the season. Facing a must-win situation in the last weekend of the regular season, Heldman helped New Hampshire surge back from a two-set deficit against Stony Brook by digging out a conference-high 38 balls. She also served up 20 aces this season, good enough for top 20 in the conference.
Bush, a 6-0 outside hitter, becomes the fourth Retriever in the past five years to take home the top award for a rookie, including the second consecutive. Bush, an outside hitter, finished second for UMBC with 2.48 kills per set, hitting at a .233 clip. She is ranked second among America East freshmen in both those categories. Bush led all rookies in the league with 2.85 points per set, which also ranked 13th among all conference leaders. This four-time Rookie of the Week recipient also contributed 10 aces and 29 total blocks in her freshman campaign.
Engstrom is in her second year leading the Great Danes and has a perfect 22-0 record in America East play since she has taken over, including a 10-0 record during this season’s conference slate. The Albany head coach has led the squad to the top seed in this year’s championship with her team sitting atop the league rankings in five of seven statistical categories. Also for the second consecutive year, she has coached the league’s top player, setter and defensive specialist.
Besides Stanley, this year’s All-Conference First Team is also made up of Albany’s Teresa Coppiellie (Canton, Mich./Canton), Valerie Sourbeer (Valley Center, Calif./Valley Center/Pacific) and Hillary White (Aberdeen, S.D./Aberdeen/Colorado State), Binghamton University’s Michelle McDonough (Orland Hills, Ill./Andrew), New Hampshire’s Lindsay Fogarty (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley) and Stony Brook University’s Harmonie Calinda (Huntington, N.Y./Hofstra).
Gonzalez and Heldman are both joined on the second team by Binghamton’s Anna Lejina (Riga, Latvia/Riga Secondary/University of Latvia), UMBC’s Alyssa Lang (Richmond, Va./Deep Run), New Hampshire’s Kirsten Bates (Calgary, Alberta/Bishop Carroll), Stony Brook’s Ashley Headen (Alexandria, Va./St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes HS) and Lindsey Gordon (N. Patchogue, N.Y./Patchogue-Medford).
The six-player All-Rookie Team includes Bush, Binghamton’s Alexandrea Roland (Austin, Texas/Austin), University of Hartford’s Kami Nethersole (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y./Hendrick Hudson), UMBC’s Ali Loynachan (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair), Stony Brook’s Sally Downs (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and Corinne Perry (Northport, Texas/Northport).
Eleven of the all-conference first and second team honorees will be in action at University Gymnasium in Albany this weekend for the 2009 America East Volleyball Championship. The top-seeded Great Danes will take on the fourth-seeded UMBC Retrievers in the first semifinal on Friday at noon, while the second-seeded Wildcats will play the third-seeded Binghamton Bearcats at 3 p.m. The winners will play for an automatic NCAA Championship berth and the league title on Saturday, November 21 at 1 p.m.