South Dakota volleyball won four of the five individual Summit League season awards as senior Audrey Reeg garnered Player of the Year, junior Brittany Jessen was awarded Setter of the Year, Elizabeth Loschen collected Freshman of the Year and head coach Leanne Williamson was named Coach of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year went to North Dakota State’s Mikaela Purnell. The individual and team awards were announced at the Summit League banquet Thursday.
On top of the individual awards, Reeg and Jessen were two of 12 named to the 2016 All-Summit League Team, senior Lindsey Brown was selected to the Honorable Mention Team, and Loschen was one of seven named to the All-Freshman Team.
“I couldn’t be happier that the league saw the tremendous talent on our team and recognized that,” said South Dakota head coach Leanne Williamson. “This team has worked harder than any team I have coached, and I am proud of their accomplishments.
“The best thing about these individuals is that they know they wouldn’t have received these awards without their teammates. It’s a collective effort to have that success.”
Reeg is only the second Coyote to be named the Summit League MVP. She joins USD’s all-time kills leader, Kendall Kritenbrink, in being honored with this prestigious award. South Dakota has won the Player of the Year award two times in the past four years. Reeg ranks second in the Summit and 59th in the nation with 3.95 kills per set. She averages 4.42 points per set. Reeg was named to the All-Summit League Team for the second straight year.
“Audrey set the goal of being player of the year after last season,” said Williamson. “She knew that it would be tough to accomplish, but she was willing to work for it. She is one of the smartest players to ever play for South Dakota. She understands the game so well, and is such a rock-solid all-around player.
“This journey hasn’t always been easy for her, but adversity made her stronger and I am so happy that the league saw what we see on a daily basis.”
Jessen earns back-to-back Setter of the Year awards. She is the fourth athlete to win the award two times, but only the second to do so in consecutive years. She leads the Summit League and ranks 26th in the nation with 11.03 digs per set. She averages 1.16 more assists per set than any other player in the Summit. She joins Reeg on being named to the All-Summit League team for the second straight year.
“I am excited that Britt was recognized again, as the top setter in the conference,” said Williamson. “She continues to learn more about the game in order to become the best player she can be, and those efforts have paid off. Her all-around game has improved greatly, which makes her harder to play against.”
Loschen is the first Coyote to win Summit League Freshman of the Year honors. She was third on the team with 2.31 kills per set and hit with a .260 clip. She is the fifth Coyote to earn Summit All-Freshman Team honors.
“Elizabeth set some high goals for herself when she first committed to USD, and her hard work has paid off,” said Williamson. “She has been a big part of our team offensively, and I am excited to see what she is able to accomplish in the coming years.”
Brown leads the Summit League and ranks 20th in the nation with an attack percentage of .395. She was fourth on the team with 1.72 kills per set, was a defensive anchor and tallied a team-high 63 total blocks.
“Lindsey certainly earned this award,” said Williamson. “She has come a long way from her freshmen year, and I am proud of the player that she has become. She is a steady player that understands her strengths and uses them so well. It takes a lot of consistency to finish with a high hitting percentage, and that is why she has been such a threat in this league.”
Williamson is the first coach from South Dakota to win Coach of the Year. In her third year at USD, the Coyotes set new school records for the most wins at the Division I level, the most wins in Summit League play and won their first regular season Summit League Championship. Williamson coached the Coyotes to a 26-4 regular season record with an 11-match win streak and a 13-3 record in the Summit.
The Coyotes are the No. 2 seed at the Summit League Tournament and have a first-round bye. Their first match is against North Dakota State or IUPUI Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CT. A link to a stream of the match can be found at GoYotes.com.