PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Three different schools were represented when the BIG EAST Conference presented its volleyball regular-season awards and named its all-conference selections on Thursday evening at the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Cincinnati senior Stephanie Niemer was the unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Bearcats’ head coach Reed Sunahara was named Coach of the Year. Villanova junior Kim Maroon was selected for Libero of the Year and Notre Dame rookie Andrea McHugh earned Freshman of the Year honors.
This year’s BIG EAST Championship will be held Nov. 19-21 at Fitzgerald Field House on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. All quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be streamed live for free on www.bigeast.tv. The championship match will be exclusively broadcast live on ESPNU on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Niemer followed her Preseason Player of the Year selection with the Player of the Year honor. The 2007 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, Niemer becomes only the second player in the history of the conference to earn Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors. The senior was unstoppable for the Bearcats from her outside hitter position. Niemer led the conference in kills per set (5.20), while ranking third in aces per set (0.40) and fourth in hitting percentage (.339). Her kills average also placed her fourth in the nation, while her 6.06 points per set ranked her fourth. The senior set the record for most BIG EAST Player of the Week honors in a single season with six. Niemer was named AVCA National Player of the Week on Sept. 21 after recording a total of 60 kills over a two-match span in wins over Purdue and then-No. 5 Illlinois.
McHugh was nothing short of impressive for Notre Dame in her rookie campaign on her way to BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honors. She is just the second Notre Dame player to win the award and the first since Lauren Kelbey in 2002. The freshman finished seventh in the conference and first among freshmen in kills per set, averaging 3.45. McHugh was even better in conference play, notching 4.08 kills per set against BIG EAST opponents, placing her second in the league. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week five times this season, the most for a BIG EAST rookie since Connecticut’s Annie Luhrsen also won the award five times in 2008. In addition, McHugh was an All-BIG EAST First Team selection.
A unanimous selection for BIG EAST Libero of the year, Kim Maroon helped boost Vilanova to 11 conference wins, the most in program history. She is the first Wildcat to earn the award. Maroon led the conference in digs per set with 5.57, recording over 100 more digs than her closest competition. The junior also has a tremendous serve, leading the BIG EAST in conference play with 0.70 aces per set, notching 27 for the year. She had 14 matches with 20-plus digs, helping her to an All-BIG EAST First Team selection.
Sunahara earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. He guided the Bearcats to their second BIG EAST regular-season crown with a 13-1 mark, going 26-4 overall. Cincinnati earned a No. 18 ranking in the latest AVCA poll, the highest ranking for a BIG EAST team since 2007 when St. John’s was also ranked No. 18. Sunahara has kept the Bearcats playing the best volleyball in program history, including leading the team to a win over then-No. 5 Illinois on Sept. 17. It was the highest ranked opponent the Bearcats have beaten. Cincinnati is making its sixth-straight trip to the BIG EAST Championship with Sunahara at the helm.
2010 BIG EAST CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL AWARDS
BIG EAST Player of the Year
Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH *
BIG EAST Libero of the Year
Kim Maroon, Villanova, Jr. *
BIG EAST Freshman of the Year
Andrea McHugh, Notre Dame, OH
BIG EAST Coach of the Year
Reed Sunahara, Cincinnati
2010 All-BIG EAST VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, So., OH
Ashley Beyer, Marquette , Jr., OH
Allie Boaz, USF, Sr., RSH
Annie Fesl, Cincinnati, Sr., S
Rabbecka Gonyo, Marquette, Sr., MB
Nikki Klingsporn, Marquette, Sr., S
Kim Maroon, Villanova, Jr., L
Andrea McHugh, Notre Dame, Fr., OH
Maggie Mergen, Villanova, Jr., MB
Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH *
Jordanne Scott, Cincinnati, So., MB
Amy Town, Pittsburgh, Sr., OH
Alyssa Anderson, Villanova, Fr., S
Taylor Brauneis, Louisville, Fr., S
Vanessa Dorismond, Georgetown, Sr., MB
Imani Harper, Pittsburgh, Sr., MB
Emily Juhl, Louisville, Fr., OH
Noemie Lefebvre, Syracuse, Jr., OH
Meghan Matusiak, Seton Hall, Jr., RSH
Sarah Osmun, Seton Hall, Sr., OH
Darlene Ramdin, St. John’s, Jr., MB/OH
Gwen Rucker, Louisville, Jr., MB
Kellie Sciacca, Notre Dame, Sr., MB
Amanda Simmons, Louisville, Sr., MB
* unanimous selection