Sun Belt Conference announces 2021 volleyball awards

Published 10:27 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

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Texas State’s senior setter Emily DeWalt was named the Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Player of the Year to highlight the 2021 Sun Belt Volleyball Awards and All-Conference Teams, announced on Wednesday. The honors were voted upon by the league’s 12 head coaches.

South Alabama won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship for the first time in program history in 2021.

In addition to being named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, DeWalt also garnered the league’s Setter of the Year honor. DeWalt earned the Setter of the Year honor for the fourth consecutive year, making her the first four-time Setter of the Year honoree in league history. DeWalt totaled 612 assists in 51 sets played against conference opponents this season. She was instrumental in helping the Bobcats lead the Sun Belt Conference with a 14.21 assists per set mark. She averaged a conference-best 12.00 assists per set in league matches and directed an offense that averaged a Sun Belt-best 15.02 kills per set in conference matches. DeWalt also guided a Texas State offense that led the Sun Belt with a .288 attack percentage in league matches. She totaled 11 double-doubles on the season and had nine conference matches with 40 or more assists.

Texas State senior outside hitter Janell Fitzgerald was named the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. She becomes the Bobcats’ first-ever honoree in that category. Fitzgerald led her team with 203 kills and a 4.06 kills per set average in conference play. She hit .340 in 50 sets played against conference foes. She earned 11 double-doubles in 16 conference matches and will enter the Sun Belt Tournament on a streak of six consecutive double-double matches. In conference matches only, Fitzgerald ranked fourth in the league with a .340 attack percentage and led the conference with a 4.66 points per set average. She charted double-digit kills in nine of her 10 matches against SBC West Division opponents and in 13 conference matches overall.

Georgia State senior middle blocker Meisheia Griffin was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first person in school history to earn that accolade. In conference matches only, Griffin ranked second overall in blocks per set with 1.30 and was the league leader in total blocks with 92. Her play in the middle helped Georgia State lead the Sun Belt in total blocks (172.0) in league play. She charted five or more blocks in nine conference matches this season. Earlier this season, Griffin became Georgia State’s all-time career leader in block assists.

Arkansas State junior libero Tatum Ticknor earned the Sun Belt’s inaugural Libero of the Year award. She was a four-time Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week honoree during the 2021 season. In conference play, Ticknor was the league leader in both total digs (353) and digs per set (5.88). In all matches combined, Ticknor ranks second in the nation in total digs (607) and is fifth nationally in digs per set (5.52). She recorded 16 or more digs in all but one match during conference play. Ticknor became just the eighth player in Sun Belt Conference history to record 2,000 or more digs.

Coastal Carolina graduate transfer Cheyenne Jones was named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year. She played in all 16 league matches with 13 starts. Jones ranked seventh in conference matches only with a .311 hitting percentage. In league matches only, she led her team in points with 197, was second on her team with 0.98 blocks per set and third in kills per set at 2.76.

Georgia Southern defensive specialist Ashlyn Lovett earned the league’s Freshman of the Year honor. She becomes the first player in school history to achieve that distinction. A two-time Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week selection in 2021, Lovett ranked fourth in the league in digs – first among freshmen – in conference matches only (4.72 per set). She totaled double-figure digs in 15 of 16 league contests. Lovett totaled just seven reception errors in 254 attempts in conference play. She also averaged 0.64 assists per set and 0.20 aces per set in league action. Lovett played every set at libero during conference play.

South Alabama’s first-year head coach Jesse Ortiz was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year. He led the Jaguars to their first-ever Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and set a program record for Sun Belt wins (15) in a season.

The 2021 Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament will take place November 18-21 at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex in Foley, Ala.

2021 Sun Belt Volleyball Awards

Player of the Year: Emily DeWalt, Texas State

Offensive Player of the Year: Janell Fitzgerald, Texas State

Defensive Player of the Year: Meisheia Griffin, Georgia State

Libero of the Year: Tatum Ticknor, Arkansas State

Setter of the Year: Emily DeWalt, Texas State

Newcomer of the Year: Cheyenne Jones, Coastal Carolina

Freshman of the Year: Ashlyn Lovett, Georgia Southern

Coach of the Year: Jesse Ortiz, South Alabama

First-Team All-Conference
Macey Putt, Arkansas State
Tatum Ticknor, Arkansas State
Laura Jansen, Little Rock
Ani Bozdeva, Coastal Carolina
Baylor Bumford, Georgia Southern
Meisheia Griffin, Georgia State
Kelsey Bennett, Louisiana
Kailey Keeble, South Alabama
Briana Brown, UTA
Emily DeWalt, Texas State
Janell Fitzgerald, Texas State
Julia Brooks, Troy

Second-Team All-Conference
Emma Reilly, App State
Doris Carter, Coastal Carolina
Cheyenne Jones, Coastal Carolina
Brigitta Petrenko, Coastal Carolina
Coco Gillett, Louisiana
Hannah Maddux, South Alabama
Maddie Soboleski, South Alabama
Kennedy Wallace, South Alabama
Alli Wells, UTA
Jada Gardner, Texas State
Tyeranee Scott, Texas State
Amara Anderson, Troy

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