UAlbany Volleyball Earns Three out of Five 2015 America East Yearly Awards

DURHAM, N.H. – After earning a share of the league regular season title, the UAlbany volleyball team was well represented in the America East awards, earning three yearly honors and five all-conference players.

Laini Leindecker was selected as the America East Co-Player of the Year, the eighth time a UAlbany player has received this honor and first since 2012.  Nicole Otero continues the UAlbany tradition in the back row as the America East Defensive Player of the Year, making 2015 the eighth year in a row a Great Dane has earned this yearly award.  In addition, the staff of head coach MJ Engstrom and assistant coaches Josh Pickard, Traci Vandegrift and Ashley Castellana was chosen as the America East Coaching Staff of the Year.

It is the first time since 2011 that UAlbany picked up three America East yearly awards.

UAlbany placed five players on the 2015 America East All-Conference teams, the most of any team.  UAlbany tied UNH for the most All-Conference First Team members with three with Leindecker, Tatum Jungsten and Mikala McCauley.  Otero and Amanda Dolan earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team.

In addition, Otero was placed on the America East All-Rookie Team while Leindecker and McCauley earned a spot on the America East All-Academic Team.

Leindecker is UAlbany’s first two-time All-Conference First Team member since Casey Wright picked up the honor in 2010 and 2011.  The junior outside hitter stands second in the America East with 3.53 kills per set and 3.22 digs per set. On the year as a six-rotation player, she has earned 321 kills, 293 digs, 35 blocks and 14 service aces, finishing the regular season with four America East Player of the Week awards and 12 double-doubles.  On the academic side, Leindecker has a 3.80 GPA, majoring in human biology.

Otero is first freshman to be the America East Defensive Specialist of the Year since UAlbany’s Laurie Gonzalez picked up the award in 2008.  The six-time America East Defensive Specialist of the Week, including five times in conference play, is second in the league with 4.84 digs per set.  So far, UAlbany’s libero has 440 digs, a 95% serve receive percentage, 20 service aces, 59 assists.  Otero notched double digit digs in 23 out of 24 matches this year, including 12 20+ dig contests.

The UAlbany coaches earns its first America East Coaching Staff of the Year award since 2011 and third under the tenure of MJ Engstrom.  After going 7-5 in league play and 10-17 overall in 2014, the Great Danes earned a share of the America East regular season title for the first time since 2012 and the program’s first winning season since 2011, standing at 16-8 overall and 11-1 in the conference this season.  UAlbany also earned a share of two in-season tournament titles in the Golden Flashes Classic and the Colgate Classic.

Jungsten earns her first-ever all-conference honors as a player.  The senior middle blocker is the America East leader in hitting percentage at .303 plus is 9th in aces per set (0.29) and 8th in blocks per game (0.74).  To date, she has totaled 151 kills, 68 total blocks and 26 service aces and currently stands eighth all-time in UAlbany history in total blocks.  She earned a spot on the Colgate Classic All-Tournament Team in September.

McCauley also picks up her first all-conference selection and is the first UAlbany setter to earn First Team honors since Gabby Whitworth in 2012.  The junior is third in the league with 9.13 assists per set and has been a versatile player for UAlbany, hitting .244 with 74 kills, 835 assists, 12 service aces, 213 digs and 46 blocks.  The three-time America East Setter of the Week and member of the Golden Flashes Classic All-Tournament Team has 12 double-doubles on the year.  On the academic side, the 2014 Elite 18 Award winner stands with a 3.97 GPA in psychology and is UAlbany’s fifth-ever two-time All-Academic Team member.

Dolan becomes a three-time all-conference player with her Second Team selection.  The junior middle blocker is one of just two America East players with triple digit kills and blocks, leading the conference in the latter category with 1.16 a set.  Dolan is currently hitting .252 with 149 kills and 109 blocks and is fifth in UAlbany history in total blocks.  She earned multiple kills and blocks in 22 out of 24 matches in 2015.

Completing the yearly awards, Keelin Severtson of New Hampshire won America East Setter of the Year, Demi Muses shared the Co-Player of the Year honors with Leindecker and UMBC’s Makenzie Morgan was selected as the league’s Rookie of the Year.

The awards were announced at the annual America East volleyball banquet in Durham, New Hampshire.

2-seed UAlbany will gear up for the America East Tournament starting tomorrow, taking on 3-seed Stony Brook at the Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

2015 America East Volleyball Yearly Awards

Coaching Staff of the Year: UAlbany

Co-Players of the Year: Laini Leindecker, UAlbany & Demi Muses, New Hampshire

Defensive Specialist of the Year: Nicole Otero, UAlbany

Setter of the Year: Keelin Severtson, New Hampshire

Rookie of the Year: Makenzie Morgen, UMBC

America East All-Conference Teams

First Team

OH: Laini Leindecker - UAlbany, Kathy Fletcher – Stony Brook, Tori Forrest – New Hampshire

MB: Tatum Jungsten – UAlbany, Demi Muses – New Hampshire

S: Mikala McCauley – UAlbany, Keelin Severtson – New Hampshire

Second Team

OH: Gabriela Alicea – Binghamton, Makenzie Morgen – UMBC

MB: Amanda Dolan – UAlbany

DS/L: Nicole Otero – UAlbany, Madison Lightfoot – New Hampshire

S: Sarah Ngo – Binghamton, Nicole Vogel – Stony Brook

All-Rookie Team

Gabriela Alicea – Binghamton

McKyla Brooks – Stony Brook

Paulina Modestow – Hartford

Makenzie Morgen – UMBC

Nicole Otero – UAlbany

Maddie Schneider – UMBC

Lindsey Visvardis – UMass Lowell

All-Academic Team

Lauren Bennett – UMass Lowell: 3.59 GPA, Exercise Physiology

Abby Brinkman – New Hampshire: 3.91 GPA, Speech Pathology

Cassidy Croci – New Hampshire: 3.90 GPA, Business Affairs

Tori Forrest – New Hampshire: 3.62 GPA, Business Management & Accounting

Erinn Lavelle – Hartford: 3.89 GPA, Civil Engineering

Laini Leindecker – UAlbany: 3.80 GPA, Human Biology

Mikala McCauley – UAlbany: 3.97 GPA, Psychology

Nicole Vogel – Stony Brook: 3.38 GPA, Engineering Science




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