Courtesy: Conference USA
IRVING, Texas – A year removed from being crowned Conference USA Co-Freshman of the Year, Nicole Lennon steered Rice to its first C-USA Regular Season Championship and was named the 2018 Player of the Year. The Owls’ head coach Genny Volpe was honored as the C-USA Coach of the Year. The nation’s leader in assists per set, Ivone Martinez of Florida Atlantic, received Setter of the Year. Charlotte’s defensive prowess was highlighted as junior Yumi Garcia claimed Libero of the Year for the second-straight season and freshman Tyra Galloway nabbed Defensive Player of the Year. UTSA newcomer Kirby Smith was selected as the league’s Freshman of the Year. All awards are by vote of the C-USA’s 13 coaches.
Lennon became an All-C-USA First-Team selection this season, her second career-nod after taking home a second-team honor in 2017. She was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week twice and has compiled 10+ kills in 21-straight matches and a double-double in 12 of 14 league tilts. A sophomore from Katy, Texas, Lennon was masterful on both sides of the ball for the Owls. She leads the squad and owns the league’s top-six numbers with 17 double-doubles, 4.55 points per set, total points (473), 419 kills, 4.03 kills per set and total attacks (1,037), while hitting .309. The outside hitter is the lone player in C-USA to rank inside the top-eight in both kills per set and digs per set. Lennon also pulls her weight defensively, producing a team-second best digs (329) and digs per set (3.16).
Volpe coached her fifth 20-win season in 2018, totaling eight for her at the helm. She remains the winningest coach in program history as Rice was able to secure the No. 1 seed in the league championship for the first time. The Owls’ previous overall record of 21-4 was the second-best 25-match mark in school history. The team crafted a 15-match win streak this season, breaking a record that stood since 1995.
Martinez has been recognized nationally for two-straight seasons as the NCAA’s Division I leader in assists per set (12.60). The Mexico product crafted seven double-doubles in 2018 for a total of 31 in her career. In her senior campaign, Martinez has reached second in program history in career assists (3,424) and her 1,222 helpers are the fourth-best single-season mark in Florida Atlantic history.
In 46 career matches, Garcia became the second-fastest player in NCAA history to reach 1,000 digs, even breaking her own school record from last season with 663 (5.62/set) to lead the conference. Her 44-dig performance in August still stands as the highest single-game mark in the NCAA this season. Fellow 49er Galloway made an immediate impact for Charlotte as she leads the conference in three different blocking categories. Her 148 blocks are top-10 in the nation and league-high 117 block assists are third-most in a single Charlotte season. The honor comes just three weeks removed from a C-USA Freshman of the Week nod.
In her breakout season, Smith’s 3.00 average kills lead the Roadrunners, as well as her 10 double-doubles. The newcomer chipped in 2.94 digs per set, 24 service aces and 0.31 blocks per set. Her numbers stand out in UTSA freshmen history and sit seventh all-time in total kills (258), fifth in average kills, 10th in hitting percentage, fourth in digs per set and fifth in total digs (252).
Player of the Year
Nicole Lennon, Rice
Setter of the Year
Ivone Martinez, Florida Atlantic
Libero of the Year
Yumi Garcia, Charlotte
Defensive Player of the Year
Tyra Galloway, Charlotte
Freshman of the Year
Kirby Smith, UTSA
Coach of the Year
Genny Volpe, Rice