BENNINGTON, Vt. — The New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) announced on Monday its 2015 men's volleyball All-Conference teams and special award winners with Southern Vermont College laying claim to four all-league selections and three of the major accolades.
Mountaineer senior Tino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) was named the NECC Defensive Player of the Year while freshman Stewart Ramirez (Los Angeles, Calif.) was chosen by league coaches as the NECC Rookie of the Year. Ramirez also made his way to the All-NECC First Team, being joined there by senior setter Herson Canta (Lagunitas, Calif.) and senior Joey Dighton (Riverside, Calif.); in the previous eight seasons as a varsity program, SVC had only two all-conference first team selections before gaining the three this year. Senior captain Scott Fitzgerald (Queensbury, N.Y.) also picked up an All-NECC Honorable Mention while the Mountaineers were bestowed with the NECC Team Sportsmanship Award.
Following the conclusion of the NECC championship tournament, Escovedo led the Conference with 276 total digs and 3.14 digs per set; he has already tallied the third-most digs in a year for a Southern Vermont player with 276, setting the SVC career bar high with 1,020 in his time as a Mountaineer. "The numbers show that he was deserving of this," commented Southern Vermont interim head coach Stephanie Perna. "His attitude, aggression on the court, and all-around hustle are what helped him get this honor." His top defensive nod is the second in team history.
Ramirez was named the NECC Rookie of the Week four times in 2015, ranking highly in many of the league categories. He was second in the Conference with 300 total kills, already the most in SVC single season program history, racking up that many in two less matches than the league leader. The freshman is also third in the NECC and 22nd in NCAA Division III with 3.33 kills per set and third in the Conference in hitting percentage (.295). "Stewart definitely deserves both of these honors," said Perna. "He played phenomenally all year long, and anyone who's seen him play knows that there is almost no stopping him."
Ramirez's top rookie laurel is the first for Southern Vermont since Dighton collected it after his freshman season in 2012. Dighton was named to the All-NECC First Team that same year, making his 2015 selection the second all-league honor for the departing Mountaineer. He was fifth in the NECC this season with 225 total kills while ranking second with a .317 hitting percentage. The senior is also sixth in the league with 69 total blocks heading into the weekend, helping him extend his SVC all-time career record to 264. He is second on the Mountaineer career kill list with 846 while being fourth with 64 service aces. "Joey is one of our main men," mentioned Perna. "He provided for us in every match, and he has a great attitude. He's a powerhouse, pure and simple." Three times in 2015, Dighton was selected as the NECC Player of the Week.
Canta is collecting his first-ever men's volleyball all-conference accolade after three seasons at SVC, picking up his second All-NECC First Team honor after making his way to the top squad on the men's cross country side of things this past fall. The senior has tallied 229 more assists than any other player in the league, ranking first in both total assists (949) and assists per set (10.32). He is currently sixth in NCAA Division III in assists per set heading into the ECAC tournament. "He is an amazing athlete," continued Perna. "Herson impressed me this season with his ability on the court and how he can call plays and change things at the net. He was our quarterback, and he's a really great player."
Fitzgerald joined Dighton by also being named the NECC Player of the Week three times during the 2015 campaign. He ranks sixth in the league in total kills (217) and ninth in total digs (150). His Honorable Mention is his first all-conference selection in his two-year stint as a Mountaineer. Fitzgerald registered the fifth-most service aces in SVC single-season history with 28, making him third on the all-time career aces list (67). He currently has 447 career kills for fourth on the all-time Mountaineer record list. "I'm very happy he's being recognized," commented Perna, "even though I thought he might be a little higher up. He's a great player and a great communicator. He has experience that no one else on the team possesses, and he also has great leadership."
The Mountaineers collected the Team Sportsmanship Award for the third time since the NECC's inception for the 2009 season, picking up the laurel in 2011 and 2010.
2015 NECC Men's Volleyball Awards
Player of the Year – John Osborne, Endicott College, Jr., OH, Freehold, N.J.
Defensive Player of the Year – Tino Escovedo, Southern Vermont College, Sr., L, Fresno, Calif.
Rookie of the Year – Stewart Ramirez, Southern Vermont College, Fr., OH, Los Angeles, Calif.
Coach of the Year – Mark Thomas, Newbury College
Team Sportsmanship Award – Southern Vermont College
2015 NECC Men's Volleyball All-Conference Team
- Herson Canta, Southern Vermont College, Sr., S, Lagunitas, Calif.
- Joey Dighton, Southern Vermont College, Sr., M, Riverside, Calif.
- John Osborne, Endicott College, Jr., OH, Freehold, N.J.
- Stewart Ramirez, Southern Vermont College, Fr., OH, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Wade Robidoux, Newbury College, Fr., MH, Agawam, Mass.
- Daniel Toth, Endicott College, Jr., MB, Vernon, N.J.
2015 NECC Men's Volleyball All-Conference Honorable Mention
- Sean Bisnett, Regis College, So., OH, Oxnard, Calif.
- Scott Fitzgerald, Southern Vermont College, Sr., M, Queensbury, N.Y.
- Joel Hendrix, Daniel Webster College, Sr., MB, Kane'ohe, Haw.
- Ryan Howdeshell, Daniel Webster College, Jr., S, Fairbanks, Ak.
- Ryan Sutherland, Endicott College, So., MB, Fairport, N.Y.