Five Wildcats Earn All-SEC Honors, Napper Libero of the Year
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Five Kentucky volleyball players earned All-Southeastern Conference honors and senior libero Jackie Napper was named the SEC Libero of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.
Napper, senior Lauren O’Conner, junior Morgan Bergren and sophomore Anni Thomasson were named to the All-SEC Team, while freshman Kaz Brown earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors. The four All-SEC accolades are tied for the most in program history since 1993. Four Wildcats were also named to the All-SEC team in 2008, ’09 and 2011. Brown’s recognition on the All-Freshman team continues a streak of at least one UK player being named to the team in head coach Craig Skinner’s 10-year tenure.
“This is an exciting day for Jackie, Lauren, Morgan, Anni, Kaz and Kentucky volleyball” Skinner said. “They all have had great seasons to this point and this recognition is well deserved. Not only is this great for them, but it’s great for our team. For this many players to be named to All-SEC teams is a great reflection of our team's efforts as a whole."
Napper earned her first career All-SEC accolade and Kentucky’s fourth Libero of the Year award since 2010, while O’Conner and Thomasson were named to the conference’s postseason award list for the second time in their careers after being named to the All-Freshman Team in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Bergren and Brown each earned postseason honors for the first time in their careers.
Napper’s record-setting senior season includes being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week four times, the most by one player in a single season in program history. From Sept. 16 - Oct. 6, Napper earned three of the four SEC accolades and became UK’s first repeat Defensive Player of the Week honoree since Stephanie Klefot in 2011.
Currently second in program history in the 25-point rally scoring era and fourth all-time with 1,441 digs, Napper’s 462 digs in 2014 are sixth in UK history in the rally scoring era. The senior has charted 10 or more digs in all but four matches, has 15 or more digs in 18 matches and has posted 20 or more digs on seven occasions. Napper has led UK in digs 26 times and in all but two league matches.
Napper’s 4.44 digs-per-set rank second in the league as her defense has helped force Kentucky’s opponents into a .191 hitting percentage, second-lowest in the SEC.
O’Conner is having a senior season for the record books in 2014. She has earned two SEC Player of the Week accolades and has led UK in kills 11 times and blocks twice. O’Conner has recorded double-digit kills in 17 matches, highlighted by a four-match span where O’Conner had 39 kills on 70 attempts without a single attacking error in nearly 10 consecutive sets from Oct. 29-Nov. 9. Included in the streak was a pair of 19-kill outings in back-to-back contests. The 19 kills in UK’s 3-0 win over Tennessee marked a program record in a three-set match in the 25-point rally scoring era. She also holds the record in a four-set match with a career-high 22 at South Carolina.
The 15th Wildcat to record 1,000 career kills, O’Conner leads all current SEC players with 1,162 career kills. A Taylor Mill, Ky., native, the senior leads UK with 337 kills, 30 aces and 397.0 points in 2014. Her 3.65 kills-per-set in league play ranks sixth in the SEC and her hitting percentage of .333 is 13th. On the season, O’Conner’s career-high 3.30 kills-per-set rate is seventh in the SEC.
Bergren has dished out 1,155 assists in 2014 and has directed the UK offense to a league-best 14.32 kills-per-set and a .274 hitting percentage, second-best in the conference. The junior earned SEC Player of the Week honors on Oct. 6 after she led UK to a .306 attacking percentage with six players averaging 1.29 kills per set or better in UK’s wins over Alabama and No. 21 Texas A&M. Bergren had 43 or more assists in each win and added 11 kills on .579 hitting with no errors.
A Muncie, Ind., native, Bergren’s 11.39 assists-per-set rate in league matches is third in the SEC. In her career, Bergren’s 2,518 assists is third in the 25-point rally scoring era and the ninth-best in program history. Leading UK in assists in every match, her 1,155 this season is sixth in Kentucky’s rally scoring era record books. She has posted six double-doubles in 2014 and ranks in the top three in aces and blocks for the Wildcats along with her team-best assists total.
After an impressive freshman campaign, Thomasson is backing it up with an even better sophomore season. She has recorded a team-best 13 double-doubles and has led UK in kills eight times, digs six times and blocks twice. The sophomore has posted 21 matches with at least 10 kills and 16 matches with 10 or more digs. She notched double-doubles in three consecutive matches from Oct. 19-26, all SEC contests. She is second on the team in kills with 304, aces with 25, digs with 277 and points with 348.0.
In league matches, Thomasson is 12th in the SEC averaging 2.89 kills per set, eighth with 0.28 aces per set and tied for 19th with 2.58 digs per set. The Newark, Ohio, native has six double-doubles in SEC contests, tied for fifth-best in the conference.
Brown has wasted no time making an impact for the Wildcats as a freshman, both offensively and defensively. She has led UK in blocks 11 times, second-most on the team, with eight of her team-high totals in SEC matches. Brown has tallied at least five kills in 10 matches and four or more kills nine times. She has recorded a career-best eight kills four times, all in SEC play.
A Waterloo, Iowa, native, Brown leads the team with 82 blocks, and her 1.19 blocks per set in SEC play is third in the league. Offensively, she is third in the conference with a .401 hitting percentage in SEC matches.
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