Penn State Volleyball cleans up B1G Postseason honors

Both the Big Ten Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors have gone to Penn State University. (Photo courtesy of Penn State Volleyball)

UNIVERSITY PARK – For just the third time in Big Ten women’s volleyball history, both the Big Ten Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year honors have gone to the same program. In 2017, the Penn State women’s volleyball team saw senior Simone Lee take home the Big Ten Player of the Year honor, while fellow senior Haleigh Washington was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

This is just the third time in Big Ten history that the same program has had both the Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year. Minnesota accomplished that feat in 2003, and Penn State accomplished the feat in 2005 with Sam Tortorello (Player) and Kaleena Walters (Defensive).

Additionally, Head Coach Russ Rose was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media vote. In his 39th season, Rose has led the Nittany Lions to a 29-1 overall record, and a 19-1 record in the Big Ten, which led to the program’s 17th Big Ten title. This marks the 15th time that Rose has earned the media vote honor, with the last coming in 2013.

Simone Lee (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) is the 11th player, 13th honor, in Penn State history to earn the Big Ten Player of the Year award. The last Nittany Lion to earn the accolade was Ariel Scott in 2012.

Lee averaged a team-best 3.93 kills per set this season while tallying a career-best average of 2.27 digs per set. She also increased her hitting percentage this season to an impressive .324, her first plus-.300 season of her career. She tallied nine double-doubles in her senior campaign, and put down double-digit kills in 26 of the Nittany Lions’ 30 matches so far this season, including a 30-kill match in a five-set win over Texas A&M.

Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Co.) was just the third Nittany Lion to earn the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honor, and the first since 2011 when Katie Slay garnered the award.

Washington finished the regular season with 3.02 kills per set on a national-leading .515 hitting percentage. Defensively, Washington has averaged 1.5 blocks per set on the year, and in Big Ten play alone, she increased that number to 1.51 per set, which led all players. Washington’s averages on the season are all career bests, including surpassing 3.00-kills per set for the first time in her career. Washington has tallied 20 double-digit kill performances, including a career-best 21 in a four-set win over Minnesota. She has added 20 matches with at least 5.0 blocks, including 10.0 in the Nittany Lion’s five-set set win over Stanford, where she also put down 11 kills for a double-double.

Washington and Lee were also named Unanimous All-Big Ten. Washington will finish her career as a four-time All-Big Ten honoree, while Lee earned her second-straight honor.

Joining Washington and Lee on the 2017 All-Big Ten Team was sophomore Kendall White (Indianapolis, Ind.).

White, a 2016 Big Ten All-Freshman Team honoree, was the only libero named to the All-Big Ten Team. In conference play, White averaged 3.75 digs per set, which was improved over her 3.73 digs per set on the season. White also dished out 21 aces on the year, while adding 69 assists. The libero finished the season with a 97.4-percent success rating in her 468 serve receive attempts. White also proved to be essential in aiding the Nittany Lions to their national-best hitting percentage of .347 as throughout the season, she has provided endless cover plays for her hitters. She also has helped keep Penn State’s opponents to just .167 hitting and 11.51 kills per set average.

Senior opposite Heidi Thelen (Edgewood, Ky.) found herself on the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention Team for her first career post-season honor. Thelen has improved her hitting percentage to a career-best .370 on the season while putting down 1.70 kills per set on the right side. She also has added 0.95 blocks per set this year.

Senior Lainy Pierce (Eden, N.Y.) was named the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.

The NCAA tournament will start in University Park on Dec. 1 on with a 5 p.m. match at Pittsburgh (25-6) and VCU (30-2) and the second match of the night at 7:30 p.m. will feature the host Nittany Lions and Howard (16-15).