MARSHFIELD, Mass. – The New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) announced its 2018 women's volleyball all-conference teams and major award winners on Monday with Southern Vermont College taking claim to three of the top accolades.
Senior captain Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) was selected as the league's Player of the Year while making her way to a second-straight All-NECC First Team. Senior libero Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) was also voted onto the All-First Team in addition to collecting her second consecutive NECC Defensive Player of the Year award. SVC second-year head coach Pat Robidoux had his peers from around the Conference choose him as the 2018 Coach of the Year.
Joining those three in reeling in all-NECC laurels were junior Meg Maddalena (Portola, Calif.) and freshman Logan Wheeler (Red Bluff, Calif.) who had selections to the Third Team and Del Malloy Sportsmanship Team, respectively.
Sowles had a terrific senior year which saw her climb up to second on the SVC all-time record list in kills. She led the NECC with 4.25 kills per set in league play, and she was also atop the Conference in points per set with 5.0. The Mountaineer captain was named the NECC Player of the Week twice while helping lead Southern Vermont to its second-straight playoff appearance. Sowles is winning SVC's first Player of the Year decoration since 2013 (Jessica Delgado).
"Liv has been an amazing player for us, and I am very fortunate for the opportunity to coach such a wonderful person," Robidoux said. "Her ability to score is unquestionable as she has recorded 42 percent of our team's points this season. Having someone on the court who can perform so well and so consistently is vital for any program's success, and we are so proud of this young woman for everything she has done for us."
Benitez was once again stellar on the defensive end for Southern Vermont while becoming the program's all-time digs leader in 2018. She tallied 5.51 digs per set and ranked fourth in the league with 5.34 against Conference opponents. She is the second Mountaineer in team history to bring home two top defensive laurels in her career (Joanna Hogue 2010, 2011). Benitez is landing on the All-First Team after making it to the All-Second Team in 2017.
"Heidy is an outstanding defender, and it goes without saying that she has done some pretty remarkable things for us on the floor," Robidoux commented. "She is one of the hardest-working players on our team and has given an incredible amount to our program. She is 57 digs shy of 1,000 in her career which is a phenomenal achievement for any player—let alone a two-year player. We are so proud of her for defending her title as the Defensive Player of the Year."
Robidoux led SVC to its most wins since 2012—which was also the last time a Mountaineer head received the Coach of the Year accolade (Josh Stokes). Southern Vermont's 18-6 record saw the team only get swept once while chalking up 13 3-0 victories.
"I owe it all to the players," Robidoux said of his award. "They show up to work every day and want to improve and win. I am honored that the Conference coaches voted for me and appreciate it greatly."
Maddalena had a great first season in the Mountaineer uniform and demanded attention from the other side's defense. She had 2.09 kills per set in NECC matches and had the best hitting percentage on the team among players who took at least 50 swings against league opponents (.222). The junior had the second-most blocks per set in Conference play (0.69) and totaled 60 on the year to currently sit with the fourth-most in team history for a single season.
"Meg has been a phenomenal addition to our program and has brought us a ton of success," Robidoux said. "Her versatility has aided our success and enabled us to utilize her skill set in ways that give us the edge over our opponents."
Wheeler only played in the first four matches of the season before being sidelined for the remainder of the campaign with an injury sustained during the opening weekend. She did not let that prevent her, however, from being supportive of her teammates and providing helpful insight to the coaching staff.
"Not many people can experience what Logan has and still be an active member of the program's success," Robidoux noted. "We lost an extremely strong player early in our season, but we are so excited for her as she begins the road to recovery with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic."
Coaches from around the league voted for the major honors and all-conference teams following the conclusion of the regular season.
2018 All-NECC Women's Volleyball Teams & Major Awards
NECC Player of the Year – Liv Sowles, Southern Vermont (Sr., OH, Sacramento, Calif.)
NECC Defensive Player of the Year – Heidy Benitez, Southern Vermont (Sr., DS, Tulare, Calif.)
NECC Rookie of the Year – Ruth Aguilar, Eastern Nazarene (Fr., S/OH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras)
Coach of the Year – Pat Robidoux, Southern Vermont
All-NECC First Team
Ruth Aguilar, Eastern Nazarene (Fr., S/OH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras)
Courtney McCarthy, Eastern Nazarene (Jr., OH, Merrimack, N.H.)
Dakota Stewart, Elms (So., S, Victoria, Texas)
Tihani Ehia, New England College (Fr., OH, Kaneohe, Hawaii)
Heidy Benitez, Southern Vermont (Sr., DS, Tulare, Calif.)
Liv Sowles, Southern Vermont (Sr., OH/OPP, Sacramento, Calif.)
All-NECC Second Team
Lydia Clifford, Bay Path (Fr., M, Coventry, R.I.)
Kianna Lozada, Elms (Fr., L, Bayamon, Puerto Rico)
Danielle Redding, Elms (Sr., OH, Las Vegas, Nev.)
Ayanna Meadows, Elms (So. ATK, Springfield, Mass.)
Maile Counts, Lesley (Fr., S, Vista, Calif.)
Dreka Griffin, New England Col. (So., MH, Calera, Ala.)
All-NECC Third Team
Joanna Bampi, Becker (Fr., L, Peabody, Mass.)
Kayla Dupree, Becker (Sr., MB/OH, North Bergen, N.J.)
Kaitlyn Anderson, Dean (Jr. MB, Clinton, Conn.)
Cassidy Wygonik, Lesley (Jr., OH, Madison, Conn.)
Cameron Childs, Mitchell (Fr., S, Gainesville, Fla.)
Meg Maddalena, Southern Vermont (Jr., MB/OPP, Portola, Calif.)
Del Malloy Sportsmanship Team
Lexi Cears, Bay Path (Sr., Agawam, Mass.)
Sofia Cullina, Becker (Jr., Deep River, Conn.)
Tara Griffith, Dean (Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
Samantha Caldwell, Eastern Nazarene (So., Quincy, Mass.)
Sabrina Christie, Elms (Fr., Agawam, Mass.)
Amy Dai, Lesley (So., Milton, Mass.)
Ariana Carter, Mitchell (Jr., Central Falls, R.I.)
Maggie Dadmun, New England College (Fr., Cape Elizabeth, Maine)
Sophia Ortiz, Newbury (Fr., Arlington, Tenn.)
Logan Wheeler, Southern Vermont (Fr., Red Bluff, Calif.)
– #LetsGoSVC –