TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009
Volleyball earns four A-Sun all-conference honors
After finishing second in the A-Sun standings for the first time since 2005, the JU volleyball team got two first team selections for the second straight year, a second team honor, an all-freshman selection and Defensive “Player of the Year” accolades on the Atlantic Sun all-conference teams.

Senior libero Shelley Walroth and senior outside hitter Brooke Singleton were each named first team all-conference, senior middle blocker Nicki Kent was selected to the second team and freshman middle blocker Alison Loeppky was named to the all-freshman squad.

“It’s great to see a group of seniors rewarded at the end of their respective careers,” said JU head coach Shaun Kupferberg. ”They have been an intricate part of our successful season and I am just happy that the fellow members of our conference recognize their effort. Also having an all-freshman selection in Alison shows that our future looks bright as well.”

Walroth, who was one of two unanimous selections, was also named conference Defensive “Player of the Year” for the second consecutive season. JU has now had two first team selections in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.

Lipscomb junior middle hitter Alex Kelly was also a unanimous selection and was named “Player of the Year” for the second straight season. UNF freshman outside hitter Paige Pridgeon was named “Freshman of the Year” and Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal was voted “Coach of the Year.”

Walroth is winding down a career that will end as one of the finest in NCAA history. In the NCAA career standings, Walroth moved into seventh place all time with 2,426 and needs 29 more to move into the top five. She is also tied for seventh on the NCAA career digs per set list with an average of 5.50.

Walroth added A-Sun records to her belt this season by overtaking Ann Mullins of Lipscomb (1,969) for career digs with 21 against Sam Houston State on Sept. 5. She then set the conference single-match high with 46 at FGCU on Oct. 17 and the conference four-set record with 40 at Campbell on Nov. 6. She currently leads the A-Sun with an average of 5.72 digs per set and has also moved up to fifth in the national rankings with her digs per set average.

“Shelley is a dynamic force in the back row,” said Kupferberg. “There’s not much to say about her other than what has already been stated. Earning a second defensive player of the year award shows the amount of respect that the teams in our conference give her and rightfully so. She has a lot of talent and I’ve had a great time coaching her over the past four years.” Singleton is enjoying the fruits of her labor after deciding to return to volleyball following three years of basketball at Illinois State.

In only two years with the program, Singleton has been the squad’s top passer while seeing her offensive output increase as a senior. She currently leads the squad with 297 kills and 3.06 kills per set and is second with 293 digs and 3.02 digs per set. Singleton also leads the squad with 11 double-doubles and ranks ninth in the conference in kills per set.

“Brooke has developed over the last two years into a solid, reliable player in all six rotations for us,” Kupferberg said. “She just quietly and consistently puts up solid numbers in every statistical category. I was a little worried she wouldn’t be recognized for that because people tend to vote for flashier players, but our team would be completely different if we didn’t have that type of all-around player contributing night in and night out.”

Kent came into her own in 2009 despite dealing with a nagging knee injury which has plagued her most of the season. Since her arrival as a transfer from Wyoming in 2007, Kent has seen her numbers increase not only for the Dolphins but in the conference rankings. After leading the A-Sun in blocks per set and hitting percentage as a junior, she again has proven to be one of the top middles in the conference by ranking first 1.20 blocks per set and fourth with a .317 hitting percentage.

“Nicki has been through a long journey in her volleyball career,” said Kupferberg. “She has worked very hard over the past three years to improve and was having a great season until injuring her knee. Over the past month she has worked hard to be healthy for the end of the season and it was great to see her set career highs in the last regular season game. She will truly finish her career knowing she put everything she had into having a successful senior year.”

Loeppky had a rocky first season with the Dolphins but when she is healthy and on the court, she is one of the top newcomers in the conference. After missing the first three matches of the season due to playing in the Canada Games, Loeppky suffered a dislocated finger and missed five more matches towards the end of the season. Although she is playing with a splint on her striking hand, Loeppky ranks third on the squad with 0.69 blocks per contest and is fourth with a .238 hitting percentage.

“Alison got a late start to the season and really needed to use our first half of the schedule to catch up and learn all of our systems,” Kupferberg said. “As soon as it clicked in her head, she started producing on the court and has put up some great numbers. This is only the beginning for her and if she works hard she is going to be a very special player.”

JU enters the A-Sun Tournament as the No. 2 seed and will open the weekend against the winner of No. 3 FGCU/No. 6 Campbell on Friday at 7:30 p.m. All matches can be seen live on ASun.TV on JUDolphins.com.