ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Senior Katelyn Steffan has carried Colorado State throughout the entire season, and on Thursday, she was honored for her performance, being named the 2011 Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Year. The announcement was made at the University of New Mexico’s Student Union Building on the eve of the 2011 Mountain West Volleyball Championship.
It marks the eighth time in the league’s 13-year history that a Ram has been named the conference’s top performer.
“It’s a huge honor to get this award,” Steffan said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it all. I owe it to my teammates and Tom (Hilbert) for giving me a chance to play on the outside this year. It feels really good.”
The player-of-the-year award was the highest honor of the night, but the awards were just getting started for CSU. Head Coach Tom Hilbert earned his eighth Coach of the Year award, while redshirt freshman Deedra Foss was selected as the conference’s Newcomer of the Year.
CSU also claimed four of the league’s all-conference spots, as Dana Cranston, Brieon Paige and Megan Plourde, in addition to Steffan, were all-Mountain West selections. It marks the third time four Rams have been selected (also 2004 and 2009), the most by any school in league history.
The award is Plourde’s third in her three years at CSU, while all other players were honored for the first time. The selections were made by the conference’s eight coaches.
Steffan, a native of Dickinson, N.D., and the only senior on the Rams’ roster, has led the Rams in kills 16 times this season and ranks second in the MW in both kills (3.71 per set) and points (4.47 per set). She also averages 0.94 blocks per set, good for 10th in the conference. Her .285 hitting percentage is first among outside hitters.
Plourde is the league’s top blocker, and ranks second in the country with 1.68 blocks per set. Her current average would finish as the highest single-season average ever by a CSU player. The junior from Somerset, Wis., also ranks ninth in the MW in hitting percentage (.302), 10th in points per set (3.45), and is CSU’s third-leading attacker with 2.39 kills per set.
Paige and Cranston, both juniors, are among the conference’s best in several categories. Paige’s .362 attack percentage leads the league, while her 0.98 blocks-per-set average is ninth. Cranston, an outside hitter from Fort St. John, B.C., who earned Capital One District 7 second-team all-academic honors last week, is the conference-leader in service aces (0.41 per set), and ranks 10th in digs (2.92 per set). Both players are among the team’s top attackers, averaging 2.47 (Cranston; second) and 2.33 (Paige; fourth) kills per set.
Foss earned the league’s second annual Newcomer of the Year award, given to the top new player, not including true freshmen. She ranks second in the MW with 10.84 assists per set and sixth with 0.27 service aces per set, in addition to being a solid blocker and recording several kills each match.
“It was a great representation of the Rams at this banquet tonight,” Hilbert said. “We have players that are doing great things statistically in this conference and are making a big impact. I’m glad to see them get recognized for that. I’m really pleased to see Deedra represented as the Newcomer of the Year and Kate as the Player of the Year, as well.”
Despite losing four starters from last year’s roster, Hilbert led the Rams to their third consecutive regular-season title. A win on Friday would give CSU 20-plus wins each season under Hilbert. Additionally, the Rams have qualified for the NCAA tournament each year during the Hilbert Era. In 15 seasons, he is 377-95, earning more wins than any coach in any sport in CSU history.
“It’s a great honor,” Hilbert said. “It just shows how good our team has been, and how consistent we’ve been throughout the course of the conference season. There are a lot of great coaches in this league, and I admire them all very much. It’s really an honor to me.”
The Rams open the MW championship Friday as the No. 1 seed after earning the regular-season title. CSU will play No. 8 Air Force at 6 p.m. MT. The match will be televised live on The Mtn. (DirecTV: channel 616; Comcast: 411, 948 HD)). With a win, the Rams will play the winner of No. 4 Wyoming-No. 5 New Mexico on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.