Highlighted by Missouri Valley Conference Libero of the Year Julianne Mandolfo, the Creighton Volleyball team had three players named first-team all-conference on Thursday at the league’s annual postseason banquet. Two other Bluejay women were named to The Valley’s All-Freshman Team.
Mandolfo was joined by Creighton teammates Laurel Sanford and Megan Bober as first-team all-Valley choices, just the second time (also 2008) that the Jays had three first-team all-league picks.It’s the first career recognition for Mandolfo and Sanford on the first-team, and second-straight season Bober has been honored.
The Valley coaches also voted a pair of Bluejays to the All-Freshman Team for the first time since 2005, as Leah McNary and Michelle Sicner were recognized.
UNI, along with Missouri State, Wichita State and Creighton, the league’s top four finishers combined to place 15 athletes on the first- and second-team all-conference squads. The Shockers placed five players on the first team, the most in the league, while UNI earned four combined honors on the first and second team. Missouri State and Creighton, the tournament’s No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, totaled three players each on the all-conference first and second teams.
Bre Payton, an all-around talent that runs the offense of the league’s undefeated and nationally-ranked UNI Panthers, was named MVC Player of the Year. She ranks second in the league with a 10.72 assists per set average, and helped her team to the nation’s sixth-best kills per set average, with 14.76 per set. She owns 16 career triple-doubles, the most of any Panther and the most by any player in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference. In her four seasons she has tallied more than 4,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 700 kills. Payton becomes just the second player to earn Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors in three consecutive seasons, joining former Panther Molly O’Brien.
Wichita State’s Camri Zwiesler earned MVC Defensive Player of the Year plaudits. She ranks second on her team in both kills and digs, recording 14 kill-dig double-doubles, the most in the Valley this season. She also registered double-digit kills in all but six league matches. Her 33 aces ties for the league lead and she ranks in the top-15 in the Valley in aces, points, kills and digs. She is the second Wichita State player to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honor, joining 2010 winner Sarah McGee.
Mandolfo, one of the league’s most consistent back row players, leads the league with 5.96 digs per set – which also ranks fifth nationally. She set a single-season Creighton record with 674 digs, smashing the previous mark of 618 – and her 674 digs also ranks third-most in MVC single-season history. She owns 20 or more digs in 21 of Creighton’s 30 matches this season, including seven matches with 30 or more, and a career-high 36 at Illinois State. She is the first Creighton player to win the league’s Libero of the Year honor.
Freshman of the Year accolades went to Missouri State’s Olivia Brand, who ranks sixth in the league in kills per set – averaging 3.09 in Valley contests. She recorded double-digit kills in eight matches, including a season-high 22 against Illinois State on Sept. 16 – which were the most by a Missouri State freshman since 1994. She is the sixth Missouri State player to earn the conference’s Freshman of the Year honor.
UNI’s Bobbi Petersen has guided the Panthers to a 30-1 overall record and a perfect 18-0 record in Valley action for the third-straight season. UNI won its 15th regular-season title – finishing with an unblemished record in league play for the seventh time in program history. The Panthers enter the championship winners of 21 consecutive matches and as the No. 12 team in the latest AVCA poll. UNI has won 58 straight matches against Missouri Valley Conference competition, completing their third-straight 18-0 regular season and have won the last two MVC Tournament titles for the 58 wins in a row against league foes. UNI’s Petersen has been named the Coach of the Year three times previously, having also won in 2010, 2009 and 2006.