WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Rosa Brey and Lydia Hayes, two middle blockers on the Whitman College volleyball team, have earned All-Northwest Conference honors.
Brey, a 5-foot-10 junior from Bozeman, Mont., is one of seven players from the nine-school conference named to the All-NWC First Team. She was voted to the All-NWC Second Team as a sophomore and received Honorable Mention in her first season.
"Rosa's strong play throughout this past season is especially impressive when you realize she learned and successfully implemented a new blocking system in a single season," first-year Whitman coach Carolyn Papineau said. "As a co-captain, Rosa was also a leader by example without fail. She showed up to play as hard as she could every match. There was never any doubt about the effort and focus she brought to her game, whether it was during training or competition."
Hayes, a 5-foot-10 senior from Boise, Idaho, received Honorable Mention this fall despite switching positions to help cover the needs of her team. She played outside hitter during her first three seasons, including her sophomore year when she also earned All-NWC Honorable Mention recognition.
"This was a well-deserved honor for a senior who accepted the challenge of changing positions from outside to middle," Papineau said. "You can't say enough about what a big move for the team this was. Without Lydia's willingness to make this change, we would have had a decidedly different season."
"It's always a huge challenge to change positions, but more so when you move into the middle where the game comes at you more quickly, from different angles, and where you have a lot more responsibility on every play," Papineau added. "Lydia did a great job of staying focused on what we needed from her. She found a comfort level and then had a little more freedom to develop her game as a middle. It would be fun if we could have her back for another year in that position."
Brey, who played her prep ball at Bozeman High School, was among the NWC leaders this season in three statistical categories. She was third in blocks (1.10 bpg), fourth in hitting percentage (.284) and fifth in kills (4.17 kpg). In conference matches only, she averaged 4.61 kills per game, which ranked her third in the NWC.
Brey was one of only three players in the NWC who collected 30 or more kills in a single match this season. She had 30 kills against just five errors, hitting .403, in a five-game victory over Willamette in October. She also had 16 digs in that match.
With Brey making the all-tourney team, Whitman got its 2007 season off to a rousing start by winning the Las Vegas Blast tournament title. Brey hit .857 in one of her matches, slamming 12 kills in just 14 attempts with no errors. That was the highest single-match hitting percentage in the NWC this season.
Brey, who earned NWC Player of the Week honors in early September, finished her junior season within reach of Whitman career records in both kills and blocks. Her career totals after three seasons include 911 kills and 283 blocks.
"Other teams have to key on Rosa in the front row, which is something that helps open the game for our outside hitters," Papineau said. "But she is an exceptional athlete who has many other abilities. She had chances to play in the back row during the second half of the season, and without missing a beat, she started contributing defensively and in our serve-receive game. We also used her hitting out of the back row, which added to her offensive game and gave us the chance to attack teams from multiple points on the court."
"Rosa focused hard on improving her transition game this season," Papineau said. "By the second half of the season we started to really see how mobile and quick she can be along the net."
Hayes, who led the NWC in service aces in her first season, nearly did so again this fall. She averaged .60 aces per game, trailing only Whitworth's Cassie Moore (.61 apg) by the slimmest of margins. In conference matches only, however, Hayes averaged .61 aces per game and finished in the top spot. Teammate Kaelyn Merkel, also a senior, averaged .57 aces in conference play to place second.
"Lydia's serving game has been tremendous," Papineau said. "She put pressure on our opponents all season."
Capping her college career with eight aces in her final two matches, Hayes led Whitman in aces this season for a fourth consecutive year. Her career numbers, in addition to 569 digs and 130 blocks, include a total of 168 aces, 13 of which came during a single match during her first season. No Whitman player over the last decade has more career aces than Hayes.
Hayes, a graduate of Boise's Bishop Kelly High School, spearheaded two NWC victories in mid-October with 34 kills and five aces. Kills in those matches made her only the fourth woman in Whitman history to reach the 1,000 plateau for career kills. She finished with 1,058 kills, good enough for fourth place all-time at Whitman.
Hayes had her best hitting season as a sophomore, when she led the NWC in kills for much of the season before finishing third with an average of 3.94 kills per game. She had as many as 24 kills in a match that season.
"Lydia is an athlete who has the ability to impact a match with a fiery competitiveness," Papineau said. "She worked hard on her mental game this season, which was crucial in her new role and helped her develop as a player. She had a couple of very significant performances during the season that swung matches in our favor."