SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo volleyball team learned just before squaring off with Florida Southern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that three of their own had been selected as All-Conference members for 2008. 

Junior Michelle Nogueras and sophomore Kaitlin McKenna were named to the Sunshine State Conference Second Team while Danielle Bletso was named the Conference’s Freshman of the Year as well as being named to the All-Freshman team.

Bletso marks Head Coach Sam Cibrone’s second freshman in a row to receive the award as McKenna received it last year.  So far in her first season the middle blocker has played a key role on a Saint Leo front line that ranks third in all of Division II with an average of 2.51 blocks per set.  She ranks second in the conference with an average of 0.97 blocks per set.  She also ranks second with a .377 hitting percentage.  A native of Boardman, Ohio, Bletso is averaging 1.84 kills per frame.

McKenna, last year’s NCAA statistical hitting percentage champion, is again vying for that title as she stands sixth in the nation in attack accuracy at .401.  Earning the SSC Player of the Week in early September she averaged 2.56 kills per game and had a team-leading 135 blocks, 29 coming as solo blocks, which is second in the SSC.  The native of Farmington Hills, Michigan, McKenna has always managed to post the big kill when the Lions needed her to contribute the most.  Her powerful arm took nearly 700 swings this season and dropped down 373 kills.

Nogueras, also on the second team, was not only named the Conference’s Player of the Week, but also earned National Player of the Week honors in late September.  The 5-8 setter from Cayey, Puerto Rico can seemingly do everything for the Lions as she finished the regular season with 1,273 set assists and still managed a .344 attack percentage, using that quick dump-attack everyone has become accustom to seeing on the Bowman Center floor.  Completing her trio of threats, Nogueras also added 67 blocks and 45 aces to the stat sheet this year.  This marks the second year that the junior has earned All-Conference honors.

A total of 25 student-athletes representing all nine conference institutions were named to the All-Sunshine State Conference Volleyball Team.  Joining Bletso in the individual honors was Tampa's Melissa Vanderhall who was selected Player of the Year, while Spartan head coach Chris Catanach was chosen Coach of the Year.

Voting for the all-conference team was conducted among the league's volleyball coaches and sports information directors.

SUNSHINE STATE CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL TEAM

FIRST TEAM
OH - Danielle Durham, Florida Southern, Senior
MB - Danielle Higginbotham, Florida Southern, Senior
OH - Camila Lins, Lynn, Senior
OH - Camilla Pagnan, Barry, Senior
S - Valia Petrova, Nova Southeastern, Senior
OH - Melissa Vanderhall, Tampa, Sophomore
L - Camila Saade, Tampa, Senior

Player of the Year - Melissa Vanderhall, Tampa
Coach of the Year - Chris Catanach, Tampa
Freshman of the Year - Danielle Bletso, Saint Leo

SECOND TEAM
OH - Lydee Benoit, Eckerd, Jun ior
OH - Nikki Hartman, Rollins, Junior
RS - Danielle MacDonald, Tampa, Senior
MB - Kaitlin McKenna, Saint Leo, Sophomore
S - Michelle Nogueras, Saint Leo, Junior
MB - Daris Rodriguez, Lynn, Senior
L - Lauren Evans, Barry, Senior

HONORABLE MENTION
MB - Emily Carle, Nova Southeastern, Senior
MB - Sacha Gumbs, Florida Tech, Senior
MH - Sam Macks, Tampa, Sophomore

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
MB - Danielle Bletso, Saint Leo
OH/MB - Janelle Branch, Florida Tech
RS - Ariana Chinn, Eckerd
L - Phoebe Corder, Rollins
RS - Eva Dupay, Tampa
MB - Jessica Shirey, Lynn
MB - Molly Sigerich, Nova Southeastern
S - Libby Walter, Barry