BYU head coach Jason Watson and junior middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock received MWC Coach and Player of the Year honors. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
Hartsock and Watson Win Player and Coach of the Year
LAS -- After sweeping 12 matches during the season, the No. 21 Cougars added another virtual sweep to their list at the Mountain West Conference banquet held Wednesday night prior to the start of the MWC Championship Tournament. BYU walked away with the league's Player of the Year and Coach of the Year trophies and placed more athletes than any other school on the All-conference team in addition to receiving the MWC regular-season championship trophy.
"I feel that our team has worked incredibly hard this season to win the conference championship," said BYU head coach Jason Watson. "While four of our athletes were recognized tonight, these honors are really the result of hard work from everyone in our program."
Junior middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock received Player of the Year honors in addition to being named All-MWC after leading the conference and the nation in hitting percentage for most of the season, currently hitting .442. A Preseason Co-Player of the Year selection, Hartsock hit over .500 in 14 matches this season, leading the Cougars in kills 14 times and hitting percentage 11 times. The 6-foot-4 Idaho native was also ranked in the top ten in the league in blocks per game, leading BYU in blocks 11 times. Her win marks BYU's first Player of the Year selection since Nina Puikkonen in 1999.
"Winning this award is really exciting and very unexpected," said Hartsock. "I definitely think it is a tribute to my team. I couldn't be successful without them."
BYU head coach Jason Watson took home Coach of the Year honors in just his first year as a head coach at any level. Watson led the Cougars to 20 straight wins to start of the year en route to their best finish regular-season finish since 1998 at 23-2. BYU was also ranked as high as No. 12 this year, its highest ranking since 2000. Watson is the first Cougar head coach to be named Coach of the Year since Elaine Michaelis in 1997.
"This recognition from the conference is extremely humbling," said Watson. "It is more a recognition of the job that our staff and everyone else at BYU that supports us has done to enable us to succeed in the MWC."
In addition to Hartsock, BYU placed three other athletes on the All-MWC team, bringing their total to a conference-high four selections. Senior Lauren Richards Evans received Setter of the Year accolades after quarterbacking the Cougar offense this season, her third All-MWC selection. Richards Evans currently ranks 15th in the nation in assists per game (13.29) and led the conference in that category for the entire season. She is also just 174 assists away from moving into fifth place all-time at BYU in career assists. With Richards Evans directing the attack, the Cougars have hit .284 this season, which currently ranks 14th in the nation.
"I was absolutely shocked to receive this award," said Richards Evans. "Thanks has to go to my teammates and our coaching staff. They are the ones who make it possible."
The Cougar's sophomore outside hitting duo of Chelsea Goodman and Erica Lott rounded out BYU's All-MWC selections, as they are ranked first and second, respectively, in the league in kills per game. Goodman's 4.34 kills per game and Lott's 4.13 kills per game have contributed significantly to BYU's No. 28 national ranking in kills per game (16.23). Goodman has hit 20 or more kills in five matches on the year and also has a team-leading 12 double-doubles this season, averaging 2.45 kills per game. Lott has reached 20 or more kills in three matches this season and has recorded six double-doubles.
Colorado State placed three athletes on the All-MWC team followed by Utah, UNLV and San Diego State each with two selections and Wyoming with one selection. Utah's Airial Salvo received Freshman of the Year honors.
Pictured (l-r) BYU coach Jason Watson, junior middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock, senior setter Lauren Richards Evans, sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Goodman and sophomore outside hitter Erica Lott.