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College: Bestows National Player, Freshman, Unsung Hero and Team of the Week Honors

It may be Halloween but it’s not at all spooky that recognizes seven players and four teams this week for national honors. We’ve been doing it all season long! Please note that if you were named Division I National Player of the Week by the AVCA, like Purdue’s Sherridan Atkinson after her incredible weekend, you will not be recognized here. With so many great players and outstanding performances, we will always try to spread the love around.

Player of the Week, Power 5

Leah Meyer, MB, Duke – Meyer was named ACC Player of the Week after recording 11 kills and nine blocks in helping the Blue Devils defeated previously-unbeaten Pittsburgh at home on Sunday. The redshirt junior also had seven kills and four blocks in Duke’s Friday sweep of Virginia Tech. Duke (13-8) has now won four matches in a row.

Runner up: Tessa Grubbs, OH, Tennessee
Last week’s winner: Madison Lilley, S, Kentucky

Player of the Week, Non-Power 5

Jaali Winters, OH, Creighton – Winters powered Creighton to a 2-0 week, averaging 4.57 kills, 3.57 digs and 0.43 blocks per set on .389 hitting. The six-rotation senior also handled 30-of-31 serve receptions successfully and helped CU convert those into 16 first-ball kills. The Big East Offensive Player of the Week led the Bluejays in kills (25), digs (19) and hitting percentage (.442), including nine kills and six digs in the opening set, as Creighton snapped nationally-ranked Marquette’s nine-match winning streak on Friday and opened up a two-match conference lead over the Golden Eagles with six to play. One day later, Creighton’s career kill leader added seven more to her ledger in a sweep at DePaul.

The record-setting Winters

Runner up: Piper Thomas, MB, Northern Iowa
Last week’s winner: Quinn Sutphin, MB, Kennesaw State

Player of the Week, Non-Division I

Ashton Jesse, MB, University of Hawaii Hilo – Jesse had a great week for the Vulcans, a team that is 18-5 in NCAA Division II action despite a roster filled mostly with freshmen and sophomores. The Anchorage native helped Hawaii Hilo go 5-0 on its trip to Northern California, including 3-0 last week. On Tuesday Oct. 23, she notched seven kills and a whopping 13 total blocks in a four-set win over Fresno Pacific. She followed that up with seven kills and 11 blocks in a five-set win over Dominican and completed her effort with three kills and seven blocks in a Friday sweep of Notre Dame de Namur. Jesse is the PACwest Conference blocks leader.

Runner up: Kasie Leftridge, OH, Stevenson University
Last week’s winners: Shayla Conner, S, Washburn and Taylor Reiss, OH, Southwest Minnesota State University

Freshman of the Week, Power 5

Brooke Nuneviller, libero, Oregon – When the Arizona native lined up for home matches against Arizona and Arizona State late in September, Nuneviller struggled and the Ducks lost both matches. This past week, playing in the Grand Canyon State, Oregon returned the favor and Nuneviller played a starring role. The USA Youth National Team libero the past two summers piled up 45 digs over seven sets in the desert. She was especially effective against nationally-ranked Arizona on Sunday, recording 27 digs, six assists and four aces. Nuneviller was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for the third time this season.

Runner up: Andrea Fuentes, S, Missouri
Last week’s winner: Brooke Heyne, OH, Kansas State

Freshman of the Week, Non-Power 5

Heather Gneiting, MB, BYU – The WCC does not recognize a Freshman of the Week. If it did, Gneiting would have won several times by now. She is second in the conference in both blocks per set (1.54) and hitting percentage (.492) while averaging 1.99 kills per set. Last week, in road sweeps over Portland and Gonzaga, the Utah native far surpassed those averages. Playing in front of a record crowd on Thursday at Portland, Gneiting had 13 kills, nine blocks and hit .524 over three sets as the Cougars downed the Pilots. Two days later, Gneiting added 11 kills on .625 hitting and five blocks in the win over the Zags.

Runners up: Efrosini Alexakou, OH, St. John’s
Last week’s winner: McKenna Melville, OH, UCF

Freshman of the Week, Non-Division I

Camille Smith
, MB, Colorado Mesa University – Smith plays opposite AVCA Division II National Player of the Week Kasie Gilfert, but also had a strong week for the Mavericks. The freshman had 25 kills, five blocks and eight digs over 10 sets for CMU, including a career-high 14 kills, four blocks and four digs in a five-set win over Colorado School of Mines, a team that had been receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Poll.

Runner up: Mari Prazak, libero, Austin College
Last week’s winner: Ellie Pedersen, MB, University of the South, Sewanee

Unsung Hero of the Week

Baylee Petersen
, DS/OH, Northern Iowa – Petersen had big shoes to fill this past weekend playing for injured star outside Karlie Taylor on the nationally-ranked Panther squad. The freshman, who happens to be a daughter of UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen, had nine kills, 21 digs and four blocks in Friday’s five-set win over Valparaiso, which kept the Panthers perfect in the Missouri Valley Conference. Petersen added five kills, 14 digs and four blocks one day later in a sweep of Loyola Chicago, including a solo stuff to end a close second set one point after she rolled her ankle blocking. Petersen could not come out of the match because UNI did not have another healthy outside on the bench.

Petersen taking a break from playing DS to crack a few balls for UNI. Photo by UNI Relations

Runners up: Claire Cudney, libero, Peru State College and Jordan Murray, DS, College of Wooster
Last week’s winner: Aubrey Sowers, S, Missouri Science and Technology

Team of the Week, Division I

La Salle University – The Explorers defeated Fordham and Rhode Island over the weekend to clinch a spot in the six-team Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time EVER. The team, which is 16-9 overall and 7-3 in conference after being selected by our Insider to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the pre-season, also celebrated individual milestones by junior setter Katie Wood (3,000 assists) and senior libero Jensen Sharrits (2,000 digs). Devin Corah also was named A10 Co-Player of the Week and is the first Explorer ever to win that award. Seniors Sharrits and Madi Kuch get big kudos for committing to a program that was on a 39-match A10 losing streak. They have led the program to where it is now.

Happy Explorers! Sideline Photos/Greg Carraccio

Team of the Week, Non-Division I

Queensborough Community College
– The Queensborough Tigers recorded seven post-season wins during the week to capture the CUNYAC championship for the fifth time in a row, the Region XV championship for the third year straight, and the District G Championship. For the third year in a row, the Tigers will advance to the NJCAA Nationals in Minnesota.

Upset of the Week, Division I

Stetson over Kennesaw State in three on Saturday.

The Hatters were on a four-match losing streak when they welcomed ASUN leaders Kennesaw State to Deland. The Owls came into the match 20-4 overall and 11-0 in conference play and had won 14 matches in a row.

Stetson swept, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23.

Making just her fourth start of the year, sophomore Riley Nieporte contributed a career-high and match-high 13 kills while hitting .367. Setter Emily DeStaffino finished with 30 assists and engineered the Hatters to .310 hitting for the match. Hao Jin had eight kills and six blocks. Eva Deisa and Chelcie Spence combined for 25 digs.

“Coach talked about two things before the game – playing together and always being relentless,” Nieporte said, according to the Stetson website. “Just going for the ball and putting your body out for everything, and that’s what we did. We left it all out on the court.”

Upset of the Week, non-Division I

Palm Beach Atlantic over the University of Tampa in four on Saturday.

Two teams on impressive winning streaks met on Saturday in Tampa. When Tampa swept PBA in West Palm Beach on Sept. 21, the Spartans had won six matches in a row en route to 19 straight, and a No. 4 national ranking in NCAA Division II, before Saturday. Palm Beach Atlantic got its revenge and handed Tampa its first Sunshine State Conference loss of the year by winning the final two sets, including Game 4 in extra points on successive kills from senior Ally Rohn. Jennie Anderson joined two other Sailfish in double figure kills with 11 and also contributed a massive 10 blocks. Molly Burkhardt had a triple-double for PBA, recording 11 kills, 15 assists and 17 digs. Rohn narrowly missed a triple-double of her own, coming up with 14 digs, 24 assists and nine kills.


The goal every week 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.

*One Unsung Hero of the Week.

*Two Teams of the Week, one from Division I and one from a Non-Division I Conference.

*Two Upsets of the Week, one in Division I and one in Non-Division I.

Any coaches or SIDs wishing to nominate in any of the categories in the ensuing weeks may email by Tuesday evening. In the alternative, there is a form they can complete at this link:


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