The nation’s best women’s volleyball team was given a nice collection of hardware by the Big Ten on Tuesday.
No. 1 Penn State saw Simone Lee honored as the Player of the Year and Haleigh Washington was the Defensive Player of the Year in a vote of the conference coaches — fitting since the senior pair paced the Nittany Lions all season, though they had a lot of help.
“It’s a collective effort,” said Russ Rose, who was named the Coach of the Year in a vote of the media, during a media session Tuesday. “People can look at the stat sheet and say it’s Haleigh and Simone, but those are just two of the players that carry a heavy load.”
Lee and Washington also were unanimous choices for the All-Big Ten team, joined by libero Kendall White on the first team.
Lee is the 13th Nittany Lion to pick up the conference’s top honor in 27 seasons as a Big Ten member and is the first Lion to win the award since Ariel Scott in 2012. Lee led the conference in points (468.5) and points per set (4.5). The 2016 All-American paces Penn State with her 409 kills, is second on the team with 236 digs and also has 61 blocks and 22 aces.
Washington leads the nation with her .515 hitting percentage and her 156 blocks leads the team, while her 314 kills are second for Penn State. The two-time All-American is the third Lion to capture the defensive award and the first since Katie Slay n 2011.
Rose, who has more Division I wins and a better win percentage than any other coach, picked up Big Ten honors for the 15th time in his 39 seasons. Like their teams, the coaching honors were split. John Cook was the winner of the coaches’ vote as Coach of the Year for conference co-champion Nebraska.
Also for Penn State, Heidi Thelen was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection and Lainy Pierce picked up the Sportsmanship Award.
Penn State (29-1) faces Howard in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rec Hall.
“It’s just so cool to know that we have such a big opportunity ahead of us and something that we can do (that is) so special,” Lee said. “(We are) looking to be as prepared as we can be for Howard.”