2015 NAC Volleyball All-Conference: Clark, Menges, O'Neal & Strong Claim Top Honors

Maine Maritime junior Gillian O'Neal (Burbank, Calif.) has been named the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Volleyball Player of the Year, while Colby-Sawyer sophomore Lexi Strong (Somersworth, N.H.) was selected Defensive Player of the Year. Maine Maritime freshman Tess Clark (Spring, Texas) earned Rookie of the Year, while Mariner senior Jessica Menges (Old Forge, N.Y.) was voted the Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year, head coaches Tricia Carver-Watson (Maine Maritime) and Nicole Kondziela (Castleton) were tabbed Co-Coach of the Year and seven volleyball student-athletes were selected to the Sportsmanship Team to headline the 2015 All-Conference announcement.

NAC All-Conference selections are determined by a vote of the conference coaches.

 

O'Neal, a Burbank, Calif. native, has had an impressive junior year so far, as Maine Maritime will enter the NAC Championship Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The outside hitter finished the conference regular season as one of the top hitters in the league as she ranked first in kills (75), kills per set (3.57), and hitting percentage (.378). O'Neal also led the NAC with 22 service aces and tallied 48 digs and 10 assists in conference play. In all matches played, she ranks in the top-six in five different categories, kills (1st, 356), kills per set (1st, 3.68), hitting percentage (2nd, .223), service aces (5th, 55), and digs (6th, 253). Impressively, O'Neal has hit .367 or better in 15 of the Mariners 29 matches. The 2013 Rookie of the Year and three-time first team all-conference honoree was selected as the NAC Player of the Week five times this season. In her three seasons at Maine Maritime, she ranks third all-time in total career kills (980) and is second all-time in career digs (885).

 

Strong, a Somersworth, N.H. native, has continued her dominant play during her sophomore year after an outstanding freshman campaign a season ago. The defensive specialist led the league in digs (80) and digs per set (4.21), while also earning nine assists and seven service aces against conference opponents. Overall, the 2014 NAC Rookie of the Year and now two-time Defensive Player of the Year has recorded 525 digs, averaging 4.49 per set, to go along with 67 assists and 28 service aces. She posted 14 or more digs in 22 of the 32 matches she played in and notched the 20-dig plateau 11 times. Strong claimed six NAC Defensive Player of the Week honors this season, which gives her 11 overall Defensive Player of the Week honors in her two seasons of play. 

 

Clark, a Spring Texas native, has paid immediate dividends in Castine, as she has played in 28 of the Mariners 29 matches this season. In conference play, the newcomer ranked in the top-seven in five different categories as she tied for third in service aces (16), placed fourth in both kills per set (2.50) and digs per set (3.28), ranked fifth in kills (45), and tied for seventh in digs (59). Against all competition, the middle hitter ranks in the top-five in seven statistical categories and most impressively ranks first in service aces (71) and second in both kills per set (2.77) and digs (275), while also recording seven double-doubles (kills/digs) this season. The five-time NAC Rookie of the Week honoree has earned national recognition for her total service aces and aces per set (0.84), as she currently ranks 12th and 14th in all of Division III.

Menges, an Old Forge, N.Y. native, has been selected as the NAC's first volleyball Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year. She is being recognized for excelling academically and athletically throughout her undergraduate experience. The senior has proven herself as a leader on the court as well as in the classroom. She is dual majoring in Marine Biology and Small Vessel Operations, which is one of the most challenging programs at Maine Maritime and has been named to the Dean's List and as a Presidential/Distinguished Scholar. Menges has amassed countless certifications in her field of study and is a dedicated leader on campus, as she is involved in many extracurricular activities and clubs. The senior has opted in to the Regiment of Midshipman, is the treasurer of the Society of Subsea Engineers Club, is a member of the Honor Board and the Dive Club, and has been instrumental in organizing VolleyKids, which is a program run by MMA volleyball for local youth grades K-5. On the court, Menges is a four year member and two-year captain for the Mariners and is extremely dedicated to improving herself and her team on and off the court. She is a consistent all-around contributor for MMA, playing all six rotations and has been honored as a NAC Defensive Player of the Week. This season, she played in all 29 of the Mariners' matches and tallied 189 digs, 87 kills, 37 service aces, 19 assists, and eight blocks.

 

Carver-Watson, in her third season with Maine Maritime, is being recognized as the Co-Coach of the Year for the first time. Under her guidance, the Mariners enter the upcoming NAC Championship Tournament as the No. 2 seed, vying for the 2015 title. In her three seasons with MMA, the Mariners have posted a 51-27 overall record and an impressive 15-3 record in conference play. Carver-Watson's squad concluded the regular season ranking among the NAC's top statistical teams. In the six conference matches, MMA ranked in the top three in kills (190), kills per set (9.05), hitting percentage (.193), service aces (72), service aces per set (3.43), assists per set (7.76), digs (297), and digs per set (14.14). According to the most recent NCAA Division III rankings, the Mariners are fourth in opposing hitting percentage (.079), ninth in service aces per set (2.97), and 26th in team service aces (282).

 

Kondziela, in her second season at the helm of the Spartans, has earned her first Co-Coach of the Year honor. She led Castleton to a 4-2 NAC record and a 13-9 overall mark, which is the second-most wins in program history. Castleton finished conference play as one of the top three statistical teams. The Spartans led the conference in digs (349) and digs per set (16.62), placed second in both assists (169) and assists per set (8.05), and ranked third in kills (185), kills per set (8.81), and hitting percentage (.123). Nationally, Kondziela's squad ranks 14th in opposing hitting percentage (.104) and 36th in service aces per set (2.55). The Spartans enter the 2015 NAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed.

Joining Clark, O'Neal, and Strong on the first team were Castleton junior Brittany Brayman (Hartford, N.Y.), Johnson State junior Breanna Laughlin (San Jacinto, Calif.), and Maine Maritime freshman Melissa Spaulding (Fairbanks, Alaska).

Second team selections included Castleton senior Amanda Chambers (Lake George, N.Y.), Colby-Sawyer senior Kelsey McCulley (Southampton, N.Y.), freshman Gabrielle Ratte (Kula, Hawaii), and senior Kelsey Sullivan (Laconia, N.H.), Husson junior Lindsay Chapman (Gorham, Maine), and Lyndon junior Gwyneth Stahl (Whitinsville, Mass.). 

New to the conference this season is the selection of a Sportsmanship Team which is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves through demonstrated acts of sportsmanship and ethical behavior. The honorees are individuals who have positively affected the volleyball culture and match environment and whose behavior clearly demonstrates sportsmanship and integrity that go beyond the playing rules and etiquette. The following seven individuals have been selected to the NAC Volleyball Sportsmanship Team, Castleton senior Shelby Smyth (Chelmsford, Mass.), Colby-Sawyer sophomore Alli Lahiff (Haverhill, Mass.), Green Mountain freshman Melvina Respress (Albany, N.Y.), Husson sophomore Bailey Cote (Biddeford, Maine), Johnson State junior Laurel Hubbert-Severance (Hinesburg, Vt.), Lyndon's Stahl, and Maine Maritime senior Molly Marcotte (Woonsocket, R.I.).

2015 Volleyball All-Conference Teams

To view a PDF list of the All-Conference team click HERE  

First Team
Brittany Brayman, Junior, Castleton
Tess Clark, Freshman, Maine Maritime
Breanna Laughlin, Junior, Johnson State
Gillian O'Neal, Junior, Maine Maritime
Melissa Spaulding, Freshman, Maine Maritime
Lexi Strong, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer

Second Team
Amanda Chambers, Senior, Castleton
Lindsay Chapman, Junior, Husson
Kelsey McCulley, Senior, Colby-Sawyer
Gabrielle Ratte, Freshman, Colby-Sawyer
Gwyneth Stahl, Junior, Lyndon
Kelsey Sullivan, Senior, Colby-Sawyer 

Player of the Year - Gillian O'Neal, Junior, Maine Maritime
Defensive Player of the Year - Lexi Strong, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer
Rookie of the Year - Tess Clark, Freshman, Maine Maritime
Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year - Jessica Menges, Senior, Maine Maritime
Co-Coach of the Year - Tricia Carver-Watson, Third Season, Maine Maritime
Co-Coach of the Year - Nicole Kondziela, Second Season, Castleton 

Sportsmanship Team
Bailey Cote, Sophomore, Husson
Laurel Hubbert-Severance, Junior, Johnson State
Alli Lahiff, Sophomore, Colby-Sawyer
Molly Marcotte, Senior, Maine Maritime
Melvina Respress, Freshman, Green Mountain
Shelby Smyth, Senior, Castleton
Gwyneth Stahl, Junior, Lyndon