PrepVolleyball.com recognizes five players and two teams this week for national honors emanating from a fun opening weekend of volleyball action.
Player of the Week, Power 5
Kayla Lund, RS, Pittsburgh — Lund was named Panther Challenge Tournament MVP after leading nationally-ranked Pitt to a 3-0 weekend, including a win over nationally-ranked Cal Poly. The sophomore notched two double-doubles and led the team in kills, kills per set and hitting percentage. Lund set a new career high in kills against Cal Poly with 20 and a new high in hitting percentage in a 3-0 win against Butler by posting a .769 clip.
Player of the Week, Non-Power 5
Carlyle Nusbaum, OH, Lipscomb – The senior was named ASUN Player of the Week for the 10th time in her career, most in conference history, after playing key roles in wins over SMU and Iowa. Nusbaum notched double-doubles in both matches, including 21 kills and 13 digs while hitting .356 in a five-set win over Iowa from the B1G Ten.
Freshman of the Week, Power 5
Raquel Lazaro Castellanos, S, USC — Lázaro made her collegiate debut with flair as she posted 55 assists in a weekend win over highly-ranked Kentucky to mark the highest single-match total by a Trojan since 2012. The freshman also recorded her first-career double-double with 53 assists and 22 digs against Creighton and guided the 3-0 Women of Troy to a .248 hitting percentage with 175 kills in the three matches versus current top 20 teams in PrepVolleyball.com’s College Top 64.
Freshman of the Week, Non-Power 5
Katie Forsythe, libero, Loyola Maryland – Forsythe led all freshmen nationally in digs and digs per set on opening weekend and was named Patriot League co-Rookie of the Week as Greyhounds went 2-1 at the Baltimore Bash. Forsythe averaged 6.58 digs per set for the weekend and her 41 digs in a win over Towson set a school record and was second-most all-time in the Patriot League. Forsythe also led the Greyhounds’ serve-receive effort, passing 61 serves with only one receiving error.
Unsung Hero of the Week
Jelena Slijepcevic, S, Akron – The Zips flew to California last weekend. Slijepcevic, a junior from Serbia, sat in the aisle seat with two of her teammates who don’t enjoy the flying experience. She did a great job of comforting them both, literally holding their hands, which meant she had to reach out across to the freshman in the window seat during our final descent.
“It’s a little thing that meant a lot to those two players and showed me a lot of what I already knew about Jelena and our team culture,” said coach Tom Hanna. “She had their backs and was going to do whatever she could to support them.”
Team of the Week
Cal Baptist – In their first weekend in Division I, the Lancers went 4-0, including a sweep of Mississippi State from the SEC. “But Cal Baptist went 29-1 in Division II last year,” you say? Head coach Branden Higa graduated NINE off of that squad, including four All-Americas, a setter and libero! With essentially a re-tooled squad stepping for the first time into the Division I cauldron, Cal Baptist defeated Louisiana Monroe, Georgia State and Mississippi Valley State at Starkvegas in Starkville, Mississippi before taking down the host school.
“Mississippi State was the best win for a couple reasons,” said Higa. “It was a true road match complete with player intros, cheerleaders, media coverage, Challenge Review System, etc. They are also a well-known program from the SEC and in a Power 5 conference, plus it was the 4th game of the tournament and we were a little beat up (our starting middle was out, so our freshman middle had to step in). Any of those factors could have easily become a distraction/excuse for us to not compete and execute well, but the team came in, played our brand of volleyball and we got out with a win.”
Upset of the Week
Air Force over B1G Ten school Maryland.
The Falcons dropped their opener in five to UNC Greensboro on Friday, then responded with a Saturday for the ages. First, Marc Swindle’s team got by Wake Forest of the ACC in four sets. Air Force followed that up with a five-set win over Maryland, handing the new-look Terps their first loss under first-year head coach Adam Hughes after two season-opening sweeps.
The win over Wake was the first for Air Force over an ACC school. The win over Maryland was the first for the Falcons over a school from the vaunted B1G Ten.
Denise Ssozi, Abigail Miksch and Elizabeth Pennington teamed for 48 kills for Air Force, which got 21 digs from Alex King.
“We have one of the best small players in the country in Denise Ssozi,” said Swindle. “We also have a 5th year senior, Liz Pennington, which is rare at the Academy and four other seniors who have contributed immensely to our team culture.”
Swindle said that his squad had no reason to be intimidated playing teams from Power 5 conferences.
“If you have been tear gassed and knocked unconscious in an altitude chamber, not much fazes you on the volleyball court,” he explained.
The goal going forward is to confer national recognition as follows:
*Three National Players of the Week, one from a Power 5 Conference (ACC, SEC, Pac-12, B1G Ten, Big 12), one from a Non-Power 5 Conference in Division I and one from a Non-Division I Conference.
*Three National Freshmen of the Week, one from a Power 5 Conference, one from a Non-Power 5 Conference in Division I and one from a Non-Division I Conference.
*Three Unsung Heroes of the Week, one from a Power 5 Conference, one from a Non-Power 5 Conference in Division I and one from a Non-Division I Conference.
*Three Teams of the Week, one from a Power 5 Conference, one from a Non-Power 5 Conference in Division I and one from a Non-Division I Conference.
*Upset of the Week, one in Division I and one in Non-Division I.
That was not possible this week, for two principal reasons:
1) The Senior Aces countdown took valuable time from this endeavor; and
2) PrepVolleyball.com did not receive sufficient nominations to fill every category.
Any coaches or SIDs wishing to nominate in any of the categories in the ensuing weeks may email firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday evening.