SAINT LEO, Fla. – Despite the conclusion of their wonderful, Sunshine State Conference Championship season last weekend with a loss in the South Region Championship Game, the Saint Leo volleyball team earned four spots on the Daktronics All-South Region Team it was announced by Regional Coordinator Ben Greenberg on Tuesday afternoon.

Junior middle-blocker Kaitlin McKenna earned a first team nod as she was the lone representative of the Lions to get on the top team.  The focus in the middle for SLU and three-time winner of the SSC Player of the Week Award, McKenna strung together an outstanding season, leading the Lions’ starters in attack average as she has flirted with .400 for the entire season, finishing at .377.  Finishing second on the team with 359 kills, the NCAA Hitting Percentage champ her freshman year, posted an average of 3.07 kills per set, good enough for 12th in the nation.  Already taking home All-Conference First Team and CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, and an All-American last season, the native of Farmington Hills, Michigan sees this as her first inclusion in the Daktronics All-Region Team.

Green & Gold members on the second team included senior setter Michelle Nogueras, junior outside-hitter Bruna Rocha and sophomore middle-blocker Danielle Bletso. 

The cog in the Lions’ attack, Nogueras played and started in every match this season. The native of Cayey, Puerto Rico assisted on nearly 1,300 attacks and averaged almost 11 assists per set.  She also managed to notch 175 kills and a .264 attack average.  The one-time AVCA National Player of the Year also ranked first on the team in service aces with 33.

Rocha, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil who joined the Lions this season, finished with over 340 kills, almost 380 digs and 25 service aces as she earned AVCA national and conference player of the week honors this season as became a tremendous threat from the pins, having a tremendous NCAA Tournament run where she dropped 39 kills in three matches, including 22 against West Florida. 

Bletso, coming off region and conference freshman of the year honors, did not see a sophomore slump as she hit .335 and notched 270 kills.  The 6’1” native of Boardman, Ohio averaged over a block per set with 115 total blocks during 2009.

Saint Leo led the way with the most selections (4) while Henderson State and North Alabama each had two players selected.

As far as the rest of the South Region team, University of Tampa junior outside hitter Melissa Vanderhall earned the Region’s Player of the Year honor as she helped to propel UT over the Lions in the Championship match and into the NCAA Division II National quarterfinals. She is also one of three repeat First-Team All-Region selections from last season on this year’s first team.

First-Team All-Region selections, including McKenna, are now eligible for the 2009 Daktronics All-American Volleyball team.

Other repeat first team selections are West Florida senior middle hitter Patricia Gandolfo and Henderson State senior libero Bethany Wright.  In addition, Harding senior outside hitter Manuela Nesheva moves up to the All-Region first team this season after being a second team honoree last season.  Arkansas Tech junior middle hitter Sarah Von Lienen and Rollins junior outside hitter Nikki Hartman were repeat Second-Team selection this season.

The team is sponsored by Daktronics, Inc., an acknowledged world leader in scoring, timing and programmable display systems for virtually every sport at every level of competition. Voting for the all-region and All-American teams is powered by ATHLETICSITE.COM, the official website provider of Saint Leo Athletics.

2009 Daktronics NCAA Division II All-South Region Volleyball Team
First Team, Pos., Ht, Yr., School
Kaitlin McKenna, MB, 6-0, Jr., Saint Leo
Alison Jacobs, S, 5-9, Sr., North Alabama
Patricia Gandolfo, MB, 6-3, Sr., West Florida
Melissa Vanderhall, OH, 5-9, Jr., Tampa
Manuela Nesheva, OH, 5-8, Sr., Harding
Tatiana Kuhn, OH, 6-1, Sr., Henderson State
Bethany Wright, Lib., 5-7, Sr., Henderson State

Second Team, Pos., Ht, Yr., School
Michelle Nogueras, S, 5-8, Sr., Saint Leo
Danielle Bletso, MB, 6-2, So., Saint Leo
Bruna Rocha, OH, 5-11, Jr., Saint Leo

Sarah Von Lienen, MB, 6-2, Jr., Arkansas Tech
Sarah Roberts,  MB, 6-0, Jr., North Alabama
Jessica Crook, OH, 5-10, Sr., West Alabama
Nikki Hartman, OH, 5-9, Sr., Rollins [FL]
Spenser Rigg, Lib, 5-10, Jr., Barry [FL]

South Region Player of the Year
Melissa Vanderhall, OH, Tampa