Courtesy: Southern Conference
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – ETSU’s Leah Clayton was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year for the 2018 season. In addition, ETSU’s Lindsey Devine was named coach of the year and ETSU sophomore Marija Popovic repeated as libero of the year. Samford’s Lauren Deaton earned the Rayna Taylor Award, given annually to the league’s freshman of the year. The league coaches voted on a pair of all-conference teams, an all-freshman team, libero of the year, and coach of the year. They were not allowed to vote for themselves or their own players.
Clayton claims the award after leading the Bucs to a 15-1 mark in conference play en route to the regular-season title. The Danville, Virginia, native led ETSU with 438 kills, nearly four kills a set, and was second on the team behind only Popovic with 298 digs. She added 46 blocks, 25 service aces and 22 assists in her impressive junior campaign. She also tallied 13 double-doubles, including four in a row in conference play from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2. A 2017 first-team all-conference selection, Clayton was the SoCon offensive player of the week three times this season. Clayton’s 438 kills are second-most in the conference, though her 3.91 kills per set are a league best. The outside hitter is ETSU’s seventh player of the year, tying Furman for the most in conference history, and the Bucs’ first since Briana Allmon was honored in 2016.
ETSU led the conference with nine postseason awards including Devine’s coach of the year nod. In her 16th season, Devine guided the Bucs to their conference-leading sixth regular-season title, losing only one conference match and ending the year on a 10-match win steak and 14-match win streak in conference play. ETSU amassed 16 sweeps, 10 of which came against conference opponents. Two Bucs – Popovic and Alyssa Kvarta, the Bucs’ setter – joined Clayton on the all-conference first team, which included eight players due to a tie in the voting. Kvarta paced the Bucs’ offense, finishing the regular season second among conference players with 1,210 assists. She was the September offensive player of the month. Popovic, the 2017-18 freshman of the year and libero of the year, totaled a league-best 587 digs and was named the September and October defensive player of the month. The Belgrade, Serbia, native tallied double-digit digs in all but two matches and had 20-plus digs in 14 contests.
Samford added two to the first team, placing seniors Taylor Anderton and Krista Boesing on the squad. The Bulldogs, the lone team to beat ETSU, finished conference play 11-5, good enough for second. Anderton, a setter, leads the country in total assists with 1,332 this season. Boesing leads the conference with 447 total kills on the year.
Furman’s Carris Campbell, Wofford’s Catie Cronister and Mercer’s Paige Alsten rounded out the first team. Campbell, a middle blocker, led the Paladins with 266 kills and 84 blocks and hit a team-high .303 in her senior campaign. Cronister, the 2017 co-player of the year, led the Terriers with 377 kills and was second on the team with 273 digs. The junior from Chicago, Illinois, compiled a league-high 48 service assists. Alsten, a senior middle blocker, hit a league-best .344 on the year.
The second team also featured eight players due to a tie in the voting, led by two selections from ETSU and two from Furman. The Bucs placed Mariah McPartland and Braedyn Tutton, both senior middle blockers, on the squad, while Furman placed libero Meg DeMaar and setter Hunter Thompson, both redshirt seniors, on the team. McPartland led the league with 125 blocks, while Tutton’s .337 hitting percentage was second among conference players. The SoCon active career leader in digs, DeMaar led Furman with 521 on the year, while Thompson led the Paladins with 1107 assists. Deaton, the freshman of the year, was named to the second team, along with The Citadel’s Sharlissa De Jesus, Chattanooga’s Dani Szczepanski and Wofford’s Colleen Reilly.
Along with Deaton, the all-freshman team includes Furman’s Neci Harris, Mercer’s Annie Karle and Brittany Major, Chattanooga’s Gylian Finch and Jaquelyn Langhaim and Western Carolina’s Merry Gebel.
The Southern Conference Volleyball Championship will begin Friday, Nov. 16, on the campus of UNC Greensboro in Greensboro, North Carolina. Action kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with a showdown between eighth-seeded Western Carolina and ninth-seeded The Citadel. ETSU is the top seed in the tournament and will face the winner of that match in the quarterfinal round at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. The championship match is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m.
2018 All-Southern Conference Volleyball Teams and Awards
Player of the Year – Leah Clayton, ETSU, Jr., OH
Libero of the Year – Marija Popovic, ETSU, So.
Rayna Taylor Freshman of the Year – Lauren Deaton, Samford, OH
Coach of the Year – Lindsey Devine, ETSU
All-SoCon First Team
Leah Clayton, ETSU, Jr., OH
Alyssa Kvarta, ETSU, Sr., S
Marija Popovic, ETSU, So., LIB
Carris Campbell, Furman, Sr., MB
Paige Alsten, Mercer, Sr., MB
Taylor Anderton, Samford, Sr., S
Krista Boesing, Samford, Sr., OH
Catie Cronister, Wofford, Jr., OH
*eight players due to a tie
All-SoCon Second Team
Sharlissa De Jesus, The Citadel, So., OH
Mariah McPartland, ETSU, Sr., MB
Braedyn Tutton, ETSU, Sr. MB
Meg DeMaar, Furman, R-Sr., L
Hunter Thompson, Furman, R-Sr., S
Lauren Deaton, Samford, Fr., OH
Dani Szczepanski, Chattanooga, Jr., MB
Colleen Reilly, Wofford, Sr., MB
*eight players due to a tie
Neci Harris, Furman, MB
Annie Karle, Mercer, OH
Brittany Major, Mercer, OH
Lauren Deaton, Samford, OH
Gylian Finch, Chattanooga, OH
Jaquelyn Langhaim, Chattanooga, S
Merry Gebel, Western Carolina, OH