SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Sunshine State Conference released their 2009 All-Conference Volleyball Team on Thursday morning and it was littered with Green & Gold as Saint Leo placed five of their six starters on either the first or second teams and Head Coach Sam Cibrone was named the SSC’s Coach of the Year.
The first team saw three Lions earn recognition as senior setter Michelle Nogueras, junior middle blocker Kaitlin McKenna and junior outside hitter Emily Calderon-Reyes all earn nods.
Nogueras will graduate as the best setter in Saint Leo history as she had another stellar year piloting the SLU attack. Playing and starting in every match this season, the native of Cayey, Puerto Rico assisted on over 1,150 attacks and averaged almost 11 assists per set. Despite her diminutive 5’8” frame, Nogueras still managed over 160 kills and a .262 attack average. The one-time AVCA National Player of the Year also ranked first on the team in service aces with 31.
Although she was the focus of attention for the Saint Leo attack, McKenna still managed to have an outstanding season, leading the Lions’ starters in attack average as she has flirted with .400 for the entire season. Finishing the regular season with 330 kills, the NCAA Hitting Percentage champ her freshman year, posted an average of 3.11 kills per set. Already taking home the CoSIDA Academic All-District honor and an All-American last season, the native of Farmington Hills, Michigan repeats on the All-SSC First Team as she has made all-conference every season in the Green & Gold. This season she nearly tied a Sunshine State Conference record earning SSC Player of the Week honors three consecutive times.
Rounding out the first-team list for the Lions, Calderon-Reyes added a serious threat at the pins for the Saint Leo attack. Leading the team in kills in the regular season with 333, the Caguas, Puerto Rico native was a feature all around the court for the Lions. Posting 3.17 kills per set she led SLU in three of seven team categories including total attacks and receptions and was third on the team in digs with 315, averaging over three digs per set. Her powerful jump-serve also proved to be a valuable threat to the Lions, notching 28 aces, her delivery earned Saint Leo important set wins on more than one occasion.
Earning second team recognition was junior outside hitter Bruna Rocha and sophomore middle blocker Danielle Bletso. Rocha, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil who joined the Lions this season, finished with over 300 kills, almost 350 digs and 25 service aces as she earned AVCA national and conference player of the week honors this season. Bletso, coming off region and conference freshman of the year honors, did not see a sophomore slump as she hit .321 and notched 243 kills. The 6’1” native of Boardman, Ohio averaged almost a block per set with 104 total blocks during 2009.
The biggest award of the season came on the coaching side as Sam Cibrone beat out the eight other volleyball coaches in the Sunshine State Conference to claim the conference’s Coach of the Year award. Currently in his fifth season at the helm, Cibrone led the Lions to a share of the program's first SSC title. Saint Leo tallied a 28-3 overall record and a 15-1 conference mark. The squad is set to make its fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance, receiving the No. 2 seed for this week's South Region Championship. The Lions rank among the SSC's leaders in nearly every statistical category. They placed first with an opponent hitting percentage of .169. They rank second in team hitting percentage (.270), assists (13.08 per set), kills (14.28), and blocks (2.26). This marks the first Coach of the Year honor for the Saint Leo volleyball program.
After winning the Sunshine State Conference, the No. 12 Lions will now look to tackle the NCAA South Region Tournament as they face the University of North Alabama on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinal round beginning at 2:30 p.m.
2009 ALL-SUNSHINE STATE CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL TEAM
OH - Lydee Benoit (Eckerd, Senior)
OPP - Julia Borecka (Florida Southern, Senior)
OH - Emily Calderon-Reyes (Saint Leo, Junior)
OH - Kaleigh Cunningham (Tampa, Junior)
MB - Kaitlin McKenna (Saint Leo, Junior)
S - Michelle Nogueras (Saint Leo, Senior)
OH - Melissa Vanderhall (Tampa, Junior)
L - Kathleen Yony (Nova Southeastern, Junior)
Player of the Year - Melissa Vanderhall, Tampa
Freshman of the Year - Carly Perschnick, Nova Southeastern
Coach of the Year - Sam Cibrone, Saint Leo
MB - Danielle Bletso (Saint Leo, Sophomore)
OH - Nikki Hartman (Rollins, Senior)
S - Valia Petrova (Nova Southeastern, Senior)
OH - Bruna Rocha (Saint Leo, Junior)
S - Meghan Sherman (Tampa, Junior)
OPP - Julia Teixiera (Barry, Junior)
L - Julie Howlett (Tampa, Sophomore)
L - Lacy Redwine (Lynn, Junior)
OH/MB - Caitlyn Ballweber (Florida Tech)
MB - Taylor Manning (Eckerd)
MB - Carly Perschnick (Nova Southeastern)
OH - Mikayla Pierce (Rollins)
OH - Anne Pietkiewicz (Florida Southern)
MB - Danielle Selkridge (Tampa)
RS - Chelsey Semprini (Lynn)