BRADFORD, Pa. – Freshman Emily Cleveland of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's volleyball team has been named the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Newcomer of the Year while senior Erin Fagan, junior Payton Orzech and freshmen Riley Anderson and Laura Hildebrand also earned All-Conference honors, officials announced Wednesday.
"We're honored to have five All-Conference players named, including a Newcomer of the Year," Head Coach Tom Roof said. "I think that says a lot about the successful season we had, how our program is viewed and how our players are respected around the conference. It's particularly gratifying that four of the five are first-year players in the program and this recognition caps what was a very good season for such a young team."
Also a member of the All-AMCC First Team, Cleveland was the top hitter for the Panthers this season and one of the most powerful in the conference. With 247 total kills, her 2.84 per set ranks fifth in the AMCC.
The Winchester, Va., native hit at a .207 percentage and earned double-digit kill totals 10 times with a season-high 19 vs. SUNY Poly on Sept. 9.
"We knew Emily would be an impact player this year and I couldn't be happier to see her get recognized as the AMCC Newcomer of the Year," Roof said. "She's a player that never backed down in big situations. In fact, I think she was at her best when we needed her the most. What's nice is Emily continued to work on her game daily. That's common for the players on our team, but she worked on all the little things it takes to be a great all-around player. She was the first one here every day and has a huge desire for this team be successful."
Earning a spot on the All-Conference Second Team is Erin Fagan. The lone senior on the team, Fagan finished as the conference's top blocker with 0.82 blocks per set. The Waverly, N.Y., native's 41 total blocks in AMCC play were the most in the conference. On the offensive side, her .261 hitting percentage was the second-best mark in the conference.
"Erin was a true leader on and off the court," Roof said of his senior. "She really stepped up giving us solid play in the middle after starting the season on the right side. Her experience and leadership on such a young team were invaluable, and it's nice to see her get the conference recognition she deserves."
Joining Fagan on the All-AMCC Second Team is Riley Anderson. In her freshman campaign, Anderson did it all for the Panthers, finishing second on the team in kills (186), digs (256) and service aces (31). Against AMCC opponents, the Cresson, Pa., native's 88 kills are the ninth most in the conference and her .245 hitting percentage ranks 13th in the AMCC.
"Riley may be the most complete, all-around player on the team," Roof added. "Her numbers for kills, digs and aces speak for themselves. She's a smart player and leader, and that's why she never came off the court. Getting second team all-conference as a freshman is a huge honor. She has an incredible future here and I can't wait to see what she accomplishes."
As the Panthers' setter, Payton Orzech has earned a spot on the All-AMCC Third Team. The Somonauk, Ill., native assisted 649 of the Panthers' 994 total kills this season. Her total assists rank second in the conference, and her 317 assists and 9.91 assists per set against conference opponents are both the best in the AMCC. Orzech also led the Panthers with 32 service aces.
"Payton pulled this team together," Roof said. "As a junior college transfer, it didn't take her long to become the leader we needed. Then once we changed from a 6-2 to a 5-1, keeping her on the court all the time is when we really started to gel as a team and went on our October win streak. No one played any harder than Payton. She put the ball where our hitters could get great swings every time, and what more can you ask of a setter? To me, she's the best setter in the conference and her numbers say so."
Laura Hildebrand joins Orzech on the All-AMCC Third Team. The Pitt-Bradford libero finished the season with the fifth-most total digs in the conference at 443 and the fourth-best digs per set mark at 4.92. In conference play, the State College, Pa., native's 190 digs and 5.94 digs per set rank second in the AMCC.
"Laura really matured as the season progressed and gave us the steady play we needed from her libero position," Roof said. "Her dig numbers were incredible as a freshman and that allowed us to get our offense in play. She's another talented freshman who worked extremely hard to get better and that work resulted in us earning a share of the regular season conference title and her being named a conference All-Star."
The Panthers finished the 2017 season at 14-13 overall and 7-2 in conference play, good for a share of the AMCC regular season title and a bye into the conference semifinals.
Last season, the Panthers had four players named to All-Conference teams, and Tom Roof was named AMCC Coach of the Year.
2017 marks the first time the Panthers have had five players named to All-Conference teams since six members of the 2010 team were honored.