Senior Lola Arslanbekova became the first volleyball player to be named the BIG EAST Volleyball Player of the Year in consecutive years since 1997 on Thursday night at the BIG EAST awards banquet in Milwaukee.
Arslanbekova, who is the only active player in NCAA Division I volleyball with 2,000 or more kills and 1,000 or more digs, also became the first four-time All-BIG EAST First Team member since USF’s Marcela Gurgel did it from 2006-09. Arslanbekova was one of three unanimous selections joining Marquette’s Holly Mertens and Cincinnati’s Jordanne Scott.
“There is no question we are excited about Lola getting Player of the Year for the second straight year,” said U of L head coach Anne Kordes. “She got it last year and it fired her up to work at earning it again. It was evident in her work over the summer and there has never been a lull in her intensity or work ethic. She is the reason we are in the position that we are in. She has done great things for volleyball and she has helped us to be in the national spotlight.”
Kordes earned co-BIG EAST Volleyball Coach of the Year honors with Connecticut’s Holly Strauss-O’Brien. It was Kordes’ fourth conference coach of the year award after receiving the award three times at St. Louis.
Joining Arslanbekova on the All-BIG EAST First Team was senior middle blocker Gwen Rucker. Rucker, who was named to the second team in 2010, leads the team with 1.24 blocks per set.
Juniors Brooke Mattingly and Caitlin Welch earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors. Mattingly is second on the team with a .341 hitting percentage amongst all Cardinals with at least 100 swings.
“Brooke Mattingly is such a hard worker and not many people take a lot of notice of her as they are spending their time keying on Lola or Gwen Rucker,” said Kordes. “I am so glad she got some much needed recognition.”
Welch became the program’s all-time leader in digs during Sunday’s sweep against Cincinnati. She finished the regular season ranked fifth in the conference in digs per set at 5.06.
“Caitlin Welch is the unsung hero of our team,” said Kordes. “There is no stat on how well a libero passes. I think she is one of the best passers in the country and that helps us distribute the ball to a variety of hitters and that makes us so hard to defend. She is why our offense has been so successful.”
The Cardinals open up play at the BIG EAST Championship on Friday against St. John’s at 1:30 p.m. EST.