FORT MYERS, Fla. – After winning the Atlantic Sun regular season title and securing the No. 1 seed in the A-Sun Conference Tournament, the FGCU volleyball team (22-9, 16-2 A-Sun) landed a pair of student-athletes on the All-Conference teams and saw head coach Dave Nichols earn Coach of the Year honors, as the conference office announced its postseason awards on Tuesday.
Highlighting the postseason accolades, Nichols earned his first A-Sun Coach of the Year. The Green and Blue also landed two players on the All-Conference first team.
Nichols led the Eagles to their third regular season title since joining the A-Sun in 2007. Prior to their loss to ETSU on Nov. 2, Nichols, who owns an 85-62 record in his five years at FGCU, guided the Eagles to a 15-game win streak, tying them for the second-longest win streak in the nation.
“I am honored to represent the Atlantic Sun Conference as the Coach of the Year,” Nichols said. “I am truly humbled by the selection, but it is really a reflection of my outstanding assistant coaches, Danny Mahy and Audrey Campbell, and the incredibly talented group of student athletes that I have the great fortune to coach. This award really belongs to the team.”
In her second year on campus, sophomore Jill Hopper (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown HS) has been a dominant force on the court, earning a unanimous All-Conference first team nod. Hopper leads the Eagles in kills (2.94), points (370) and service aces (36) and is ranked second in the A-Sun in service aces and sixth in kills in A-Sun matches. The Muncie, Ind. native, who has recorded 10 double-doubles this season, ranks 60th in the nation in aces per set.
Junior Kaitlin Holm (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS/Marshall) joined Hopper on the All-Conference first team. Holm, who was named to a pair of All-Tournament teams this season (UF Tournament, Wyoming Cowgirl Classic), is hitting .253 and has racked up 259 kills and 76 total blocks on the season. The Fort Myers, Fla. product, hit .305 in conference matches to rank seventh in the A-Sun.
“I am so proud of Kaitlin and Jill,” said Nichols. “Not only did they play outstanding volleyball for our program, but they also represented our university with class and pride. They stand for all that is right with college athletes. They’re dedicated students, hard working on the practice court and in the weight room, terrific teammates, and were extremely clutch for us all year long. For Jill to switch positions and play outside hitter for the first time in her career, highlights how hard she works and how talented she is. For Kaitlin, this season is the culmination of a young woman who worked her tail off all spring and summer, came into camp in incredible shape and has been our most consistent player all season long. The awards are well deserved and our entire program is thrilled for their recognition.”
Making the program’s third-ever appearance, the Green and Blue will continue into the postseason as the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament No. 1 seed. FGCU plays the winner of No. 4 UNF/No. 5 Jacksonville on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (CST) at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena. The Eagles are 2-0 against both North Florida and JU this season and have only lost one set (at UNF) to the two squads.
Live stats for the tournament will be available at Lipscombsports.com and Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s final can be seen live on ESPN3. Friday’s games are at 5 and 7:30 p.m. (CST) and Saturday’s final is at 3 p.m. (CST).
2012 A-Sun Volleyball Postseason Awards
Player of the Year: Megan Devine, ETSU
Libero of the Year: Nicole Baran, UNF
Freshman of the Year: Sammie Strausbaugh, Jacksonville
Coach of the Year: Dave Nichols, FGCU
All-Atlantic Sun First Team
*Megan Devine, ETSU
*Jill Hopper, FGCU
*Meredith Hardy, ETSU
Jenna Schreiver, NKU
Kaitlin Holm, FGCU
Paige Pridgeon, UNF
Nicole Baran, UNF
* - Denotes an unanimous selection
All-Atlantic Sun Second Team
Kaycee Green, Lipscomb
Lauren Ford, Lipscomb
Jewell Dobson, Lipscomb
Kayla McAvoy, USC Upstate
Kelly Morrissey, NKU
Caitlin Dotson, Lipscomb
Emily Rochefort, Mercer
All-Atlantic Sun Freshman Team
Sammie Strausbaugh, Jacksonville
Molly Locke, Mercer
Khadijah Wiley, ETSU
Kayla Eversgerd, USC Upstate
Molly Spitznagle, Lipscomb
Gabriela Roman, Jacksonville
Lexi Gober, USC Upstate