Western Athletic Conference volleyball regular-season champion Utah State collected nine conference postseason awards, including Aggie head coach Grayson DuBose being named WAC Coach of the Year and redshirt-freshman Elle Brainard being tabbed WAC Freshman of the Year. Paige Neves, Rachel Orr, Shay Sorensen and Josselyn White all earned first-team all-WAC honors, while Brainard and Kaitlyn VanHoff were tabbed to the second-team. Brainard was also named to the all-Freshman team.
The all-WAC teams and awards were voted on by the league's 10 coaches and announced at the banquet Sunday night on the eve of the start of the WAC Tournament.
UTSA's McKenzie Adams was named WAC Player of the year, while teammate Annie Kunes was named Libero of the Year.
USU's three first-team honorees is the most in its eight years in the WAC and only the second time in school history to earn three first-team all-conference honors.
Utah State's five all-conference selections are also the most during its time in the WAC.
"They’re all great kids and they work hard and they really push each other every day in practice. I think if you don’t have that whole team of a compliment of great kids, then you don’t have those opportunities, so it’s a really nice thing," DuBose said.
DuBose was named the WAC Coach of the Year for the second time during his Aggie tenure, as he also collected the accolade in 2007, becoming the first volleyball coach in school history to garner conference Coach of the Year honors. Now in his seventh season at the helm of the Aggie program, DuBose has a 112-97 (.536) record. DuBose earned his 100th career win with the Aggies’ win over Seattle on Sept. 20, 2012. DuBose becomes just the second coaching position to reach 100 wins as Marilyn McReavy and Mary Jo Peppler hold the school record with 209 wins as they were co-head coaches from 1976-81. USU has won 20 matches a total of 11 times in school history, including two under DuBose in the last three years.
"It’s a humbling experience to be recognized by your peers because it means you’ve done something well. At the end of the day, if you don’t win, you don’t get those kind of awards. So thanks to the team and to my coaching staff who makes me a better coach than I am," DuBose said.
Brainard, a redshirt-freshman middle blocker (Saratoga Springs, Utah), is the Aggies' second WAC Freshman of the Year honoree, joining Chelsea Fowles in 2007. Brainard is the fourth Aggie freshman to earn the conference Freshman of the Year accolade. Brainard's all-freshman team honor is the fifth during USU's time in the WAC, joining Melissa Larson in 2006, Fowles in 2007, Emily Kortsen in 2008 and Neves last year. Brainard is the 133th all-freshman team honoree for an Aggie.
"I’m really proud of Elle. She’s never really played middle before until this year and she has really developed into a nice middle blocker," DuBose said. "It was nice for her to get recognized as well. Once again, it’s a tribute to our whole team.”
Brainard is second in the WAC in overall blocks per set (1.43), while ranking third in conference only matches (1.38). Brainard also is ninth in the WAC overall in hitting percentage (.296). With 149 total blocks, Brainard is third in the league for total blocks, as well also ranking fourth in the league for WAC only matches with 90 total blocks. Brainard is 17th in the most recent NCAA statistics with 1.44 blocks per set. Brainard now has 143 blocks on the season, moving up to No. 3 on the Aggies’ single-season block assists list and now has 149 total blocks, moving up to No. 4 on the single-season total blocks list.
"It feels really good. It was super fun and a big surprise for me, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coaches. It's basically because of them. I just do what they tell me," Brainard said. "It was kind of unexpected. I really wasn't expecting anything. Grayson always says that no matter what, personal awards all go back to the team and it is so true. It's all their hard work that makes me look good."
Sophomore setter Neves (Otto, Wyo.) is third in both the WAC overall and WAC stats for assists per set, with 10.28 aps overall and 10.66 aps in league matches. Neves became the ninth different Aggie player to reach 1,000 assists in a season, and the milestone was accomplished for the 16th time in school history. She also became the 12th Aggie volleyball player to reach the 1,000 career assists milestone, and now with 1,912 career assists, Neves becomes just the ninth player in USU history with 1,500 career assists and is No. 9 on the USU career assists list. Neves needs 53 assists to catch Dominique Arsenault (2003-05) for the No. 8 spot, with 1,965 assists.
Orr, a sophomore outside hitter (Thatcher, Ariz.), is eighth in the WAC for both overall kills per set (3.00) and league-only matches for kills per set (3.12). She is also 10th in WAC only matches for points per set (3.40).
A senior opposite side hitter, Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) is sixth in the WAC in overall kills per set (3.18) and sixth in WAC only kills per set (3.40). She's also fifth for overall points per set (3.90) and fourth for conference only matches for points per set (4.10). Sorensen has a team-leading 11 double-doubles on the season. Sorensen is also climbing USU’s career lists, cracking into top 10 kills list in the regular-season finale, as well as already breaking into USU’s top 10 lists for career block assists and total blocks.
Sorensen became just the 11th player in USU history to reach the 800-kills plateau, doing so on Oct. 20 at Seattle, and fellow senior Josselyn White joined her in the 800-kills club two weeks later, reaching the milestone in the Aggies’ match at Denver on Nov. 1. With 10 kills in USU’s win over Texas State, Sorensen broke into the USU career top 10 kills list, now with 872, vaulting to tie for the No. 9 spot with Ingrid Roth.
White, a senior outside hitter (Smithfield, Utah), is ninth in the WAC for overall points per set (3.40) and 10th overall for kills per set (2.84). White is also climbing USU’s career block assists and total blocks lists. White set a school-record for attack percentage in USU’s win over LA Tech on Oct. 27, hitting .812 with 13 kills in 16 attacks with no errors.
White has climbed up to the No. 6 spot on the Utah State career attacks list, now with 2,969. She needs 30 more to catch Erin Cartwright-Davis for No. 5 with 2,999 attacks.
White has also recently reached the USU top 10 for career total blocks, moving up to No. 7 with 315 total blocks. Now with 282 career block assists, White is in the No. 8 spot on the career block assists list, needing eight more to catch Erin Cartwright-Davis at No. 7 with 290. White also has 33 career solo blocks, needing four more to reach the No. 10 spot on the career solo block list.
VanHoff (Draper, Utah), a sophomore middle blocker, is second on the team and fourth in the WAC overall for blocks with 1.32 blocks per set, ranking fifth overall in the league with 137 total blocks. VanHoff is fifth in WAC only matches with 1.26 blocks per set. She also is 37th in last week’s NCAA stats for blocks per set with 1.31 bps. VanHoff is also climbing up the Aggies’ single-season block assists and total blocks lists, sitting at No. 8 on the block assists list with 128 block assists and tied for No. 9 on the total blocks list with 137.
Top-seeded Utah State volleyball will face eighth-seeded UT Arlington in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament on Monday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m. (MT) at San Antonio, Texas. The tournament is hosted by UTSA at the Convocation Center.
In other quarterfinal matches on Monday, host and No. 3 UTSA will take on No. 6 San Jose State at 11 a.m. (MT), followed by second-seeded Idaho facing seventh-seeded Texas State at 1:30 p.m. (MT). The number four seed, New Mexico State, will take on fifth-seeded Denver at 4 p.m. (MT), preceding the USU-UT Arlington match.
The winner of the SJSU-UTSA match will face the winner of the Idaho-Texas State match in the semifinals Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. (MT), while the USU-UTA winner will take on the winner of the DU-NMSU match in the other semifinal Tuesday at 5:30. (MT). The WAC Championship match is slated for Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. (MT) and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Fans can stay up-to-date with WAC Tournament news and information on USU's website. All the matches of the WAC Tournament will be streamed by clicking on the "Watch Live" links and can also be followed with live stats through the "live stats" link.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
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