Casper Named Defensive Player of the Year
University of Kentucky freshman volleyball player Jenni Casper was named the first-ever Defensive Player of the Year by the Southeastern Conference at the annual SEC Tournament banquet on Thursday, Nov. 20 to lead UK’s honorees. Casper also was named the All-SEC first team defensive player and was named to the All-Freshmen team, where she was joined by teammate Melissa Popp.
Casper has led the league all season in digs, averaging 3.75 digs per game for all matches and 4.02 digs per game in SEC play. The 5-4 libero from Louisville, Ky., totaled a career-high 33 digs in UK’s victory at Auburn, the most by any conference player this season. She’s tallied double-figure digs in 23 of UK’s 29 matches this season.
Popp also has enjoyed a strong season, averaging 3.24 kills per game in all matches and 3.52 kills per game in conference action. Her hitting stats are second on UK’s team while she ranks fourth in digs with 2.13 per game. Popp, a native of McCordsville, Ind., has 10 double-doubles on the year with a career-high 21 kills on four occasions.
This marks the first year that the league coaches have voted for an All-Freshmen team. Joining Casper and Popp on the seven-player squad are Sarah Blum (Tennessee), Denitza Koleva (Arkansas), Lynae Vanden Hull (South Carolina), Lauren Leaumont (LSU) and Kele Brewer (Arkansas). Koleva and Vanden Hull shared SEC Freshmen of the Year honors.
The conference office also released the 2003 Volleyball Good Works Team on Wednesday, comprised of one athlete from each league institution who gives back to her community in superior service efforts. Liz McCaslin, a senior outside hitter for the Wildcats, was Kentucky’s representative.
McCaslin, who completed her bachelor’s degree in seven semesters and has already begun work on her master’s degree, has been devoted to giving back to the Lexington community since arriving at school in 1999. She has been involved with the Salvation Army, muscular sclerosis charities, several area retirement homes, the Hope Center for the Homeless and the Bellewood Children’s home.
As the SEC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s representative to the NCAA, McCaslin has been key in organizing several community service projects for the more than 500 student-athletes at UK. McCaslin has helped to organize food drives and fundraisers, all while being named to the Dean’s list in each of her seven undergraduate semesters.
Other awards presented at the banquet included SEC Coach of the Year to Arkansas’ Chris Poole and SEC Player of the Year to league-champion Florida’s Aury Cruz. It was the third consecutive year that Cruz was named the conference’s top player, a first in SEC volleyball history.
The SEC Student-Athlete of the Year award went to Alabama’s Erin Price.