MACON, Ga. - A year after breaking through with their first conference title, the Lipscomb Lady Bisons stampeded to the top seed in this week's Atlantic Sun Championship. Sophomore Alex Kelly led the Lipscomb charge with three Player of the Week honors, and capped off the regular season as the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year the conference office announced Tuesday afternoon.
Kelly also earned First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors a year after being named the All-Freshman team. Teammate Jake Pease (sophomore, setter) joined her on the first-team. Kelly led the A-Sun in kills per set with 4.09 and ranked second with a .343 hitting percentage. The Kansas City, Mo. native averaged 4.32 kills and hit .362 against conference foes. FGCU seniors Ana Kokanovic and Roberta Santos earned their second consecutive first-team selections. Kokanovic ranked second in the league with four kills per set, while Santos finished third in assists, averaging 9.55 a frame. Belmont senior outside hitter Cat Mundy (fifth in the A-Sun in kills and kills per set), earned her second consecutive first-team selection. Jacksonville senior outside hitter Sara Bendorf ranked third in the league in both kills and kills per set, and finished her stellar career with her first career First-team selection. Bendorf's teammate, junior libero Shelley Walroth rounded out the first-team honorees.
Walroth, who ranks fourth in the nation with 5.89 digs per set, posted more than 550 digs for the third consecutive season en route to also claiming Defensive Player of the Year honors. The psychology major enters the A-Sun Championship second in digs in conference history.
Belmont led the way on the league's second-team, placing three competitors on the list. Preseason All-Conference selection Emily Cahill capped her career with her second straight Second-Team selection. Junior Jenny Gray ranked fourth in hitting percentage and 10th in blocks per set to earn her first career postseason honor, and freshman Channing Salava, the only freshman on the list, ranked second in the league in assists per set. Jacksonville's Abby Gruenbacher shut down opponents at the net all season, leading the league with 1.16 blocks per set, and cross-town rival Kaley Read, of UNF, earned her first career selection after ranking fifth in kills per set. A Mercer pair rounded out the second team with senior libero Claire Tucker (second in the A-Sun in digs) and senior hitter Karen Dorris (sixth in the A-Sun in kills).
With two all-conference performers, the third-best conference winning percentage in school history and the most conference wins in school history to her name, the Bears head coach, Noelle Rooke was named the league's Coach of the Year. Rooke helped guide Mercer to its highest tournament seeding since 2003.
Six different schools placed players on the All-Freshman team with Belmont outside hitter Maggie Johnson joining Salava as the only teammates on the list. Salava's stellar first season replacing four-time First-Team selection Colleen Nilson earned her unanimous Freshman of the Year accolades.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.