BATON ROUGE - Northwestern State garnered a pair of special award winners in Freshman of the Year Caiti O'Connell and Coach of the Year honors to the team of Hugh and Stephanie Hernesman to highlight this year's 2012 All-Louisiana college volleyball team announced late Saturday by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
Southeastern Louisiana middle blocker Courtney Donald secured LSWA Player of the Year, while Meghan Mannari came away with the LSWA Libero of the Year for the second consecutive year. Dillard's Carolyn Baker was named the state Newcomer of the Year.
The team was selected based on nominations by the various volleyball playing schools in the state. Under LSWA guidelines, no school voter could vote for athletes from their own schools and each school nominating had to submit a final ballot for their nominees to be eligible for the team.
Donald, a senior middle blocker, powered home 3.65 kills per set on a .330 hitting percentage en route to All-Southland Conference First-Team honors. The .330 hitting clip established a Southeastern single-season record. Her 3.65 per set average was third in the SLC, while her 409 total kills were the sixth-best total in school history. The Tomball, Texas, product wrapped up her career among the Top 10 in nine different Southeastern statistical categories.
Mannari anchored LSU's back row defense from her Libero post. The Frisco, Texas, native amassed 4.88 digs per set, good enough for second place in the SEC rankings. She also became the 12th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career digs during her senior campaign. She racked up a career-best 40 digs at Auburn which was the second-most in program history for a single match.
O'Connell, an outside hitter, was named Southland Conference Honorable Mention as a freshman. She started 15 matches and slapped 337 kills to rank second on the Lady Demons squad. The Friendswood, Texas, product notched a 3.04 kills per set average, seventh-highest among the SLC leaders.
Baker emerged as one of the GCAC's top offense threats and claimed All-GCAC First-Team accolades for Dillard. She headlined the league with a blistering 4.40 kills set which also was the eighth-highest mark in the NAIA. The Missouri City, Texas, native tied for GCAC lead with 0.69 service aces per set.
The Hernesmans guided Northwestern State to a 20-13 mark during the 2012 campaign, a 10-win improvement from last season and the program's first winning season since 1987. The 20 victories also were the most recorded by the Lady Demons as a Division I member. NSU posted 12 Southland Conference wins and finished tied for third place.
Joining Donald and Mannari on the LSWA's First Team are Stacey DiFrancesco of Northwestern State, Desiree Elliott and Madie Jones of LSU, Mandi Gandi of Louisiana-Lafayette and Taylor Reuther of Xavier. It marks the second straight year that DiFrancesco, Elliott and Jones were named to the first team.
With Baker on the LSWA' Second Team are Keelie Arneson and Emily Sweet of Northwestern State, Courtni Bauer of McNeese State, Helen Boyle of LSU, Blair Claypoole of Louisiana-Lafayette and Cori Martone of Tulane.
O'Connell along with Caitlyn Auxillen and Lavinia Tataran of Louisiana-Lafayette and Maria Coelho of Louisiana Tech took home LSWA Honorable Mention status.
2012 All-Louisiana Volleyball
Stacey DiFrancesco, Northwestern State
Courtney Donald, Southeastern Louisiana
Desiree Elliott, LSU
Mandi Gandi, Louisiana-Lafayette
Madie Jones, LSU
Taylor Reuther, Xavier
Libero: Meghan Mannari, LSU
Carolyn Baker, Dillard
Courtni Bauer, McNeese State
Helen Boyle, LSU
Blair Claypoole, Louisiana-Lafayette
Cori Martone, Tulane
Emily Sweet, Northwestern State
Libero: Keelie Arneson, Northwestern State
Caitlyn Auxillen, Louisiana-Lafayette
Maria Coelho, Louisiana Tech
Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State
Lavinia Tataran, Louisiana-Lafayette
LSWA Specialty Awards
Player of the Year: Courtney Donald, Southeastern Louisiana
Voting: Donald 5, Jones 4, Baker 2, DiFrancesco 1
Libero of the Year: Meghan Mannari, LSU
Voting: Mannari 6, Arneson 5, Auxillen 1
Freshman of the Year: Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State
Voting: O'Connell 6, Berry 3, Pirkl 2, Fryer 1
Newcomer of the Year: Carolyn Baker, Dillard
Voting: Baker 6, Bauer 5, Labrezycki 1
Coach of the Year: Hugh & Stephanie Hernesman, Northwestern State
Voting: Hernesman 6, Hamilton 5, Mazeitis-Fontenot 1