WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Freshman middle hitter Anna Barry (Andover) has become the program's second individual in as many years named both Rookie-of-the-Year and first-team all-conference and is one of five Eastern Connecticut State University individuals recognized in the season-ending Little East Conference volleyball awards program, released today.
Senior middle hitter Carly Balskus (Hebron) and sophomore outside hitters Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) and Abby Stern (Manchester) were named to the second team and fifth-year head coach Megan Silver-Droesch was voted as Coach-of-the-Year for the second time.
Seven players were named to the first team and seven to the second. In the balloting, the nine conference coaches ranked their top 14 players, regardless of position. Eastern was the only team with more than three all-conference selections.
Eastern's four all-conference selections are its most since 2006, when five individuals were named from its unbeaten (7-0) regular-season championship team and playoff winner.
Ranked fourth among freshmen (17th overall) in Division III with a .369 attack percentage, Barry follows Stern as last year's Rookie-of-the-Year and only freshman to earn first-team all-conference recognition. The six-footer is ranked among the Top 10 in the conference in six categories, including attack percentage, points (1st/311.5), and kills (5th/286). In ten LEC weekly reports, she was named Rookie-of-the-Week five times and Offensive Player-of-the-Week once. She was named Most Outstanding Player at last weekend's LEC tournament (all-conference balloting is completed prior to the start of LEC tournament play).
A three-year member of the Eastern program and four-year collegiate player, the six-foot Balskus was named to the team for the first time. She ranks fifth in the LEC in attack percentage (.263), seventh in blocks (54), ninth in blocks per set (0.54), and 11th in points (278.5). She leads the Warriors in both of those block categories and is second on the team in attack percentage.
Long and Stern have proven themselves as two of the team's best all-around players this year. Long ranks among the LEC Top 10 in five categories, including tied for fifth in points per set (3.2). She is second at Eastern in digs (272) and digs per set (3.02) and is third in kills (227) and has the best reception percentage (.939) on 441 attempts (second-most on the team).
Stern topped 500 kills in her two-year career at the LEC tournament and needs two digs for 500. She ranks in a tie for fifth in the LEC in points per set (3.2), is eighth in kills (234) and kills per set (2.69) and is tenth in points (281).
Under Silver-Droesch (89-61) this year, Eastern (23-6, 7-1 LEC) equaled its most LEC regular-season wins, following up two straight 4-3 conference seasons and third-place finishes. Eastern had reached the LEC tournament final in Silver-Droesch's first season in 2014 following a 5-2 regular season.
The Warriors shared the LEC regular-season title with UMass Boston after winning their final seven LEC regular-season matches (their first title since 2006), then downed Rhode Island College in the semifinals and Keene State College in the final – avenging their only regular-season LEC loss -- to capture their first post-season championship since 2007.
This year is the team's first 20-win season since 2011 and the 23 victories are the most since the 2006 squad won 30 and lost ten and qualified for the NCAAs.
Eastern opens play in its 17th NCAA tournament Friday at Johnson & Wales University at 8 p.m.