Volleyball earns three AVCA All-Central Region honors
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Three Longhorns - senior outside hitter Mira Topic (Kastela Kambelovac, Croatia), senior middle blocker Bethany Howden (Austin, Texas) and freshman setter Michelle Moriarty (Houston, Texas) - were voted All-Central Region performers by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), the association announced Tuesday. Topic and Howden were two of 12 players to earn First-Team All-Central Region honors, while Moriarty was one of six players to cop honorable mention accolades.
Topic and Howden will now be on the ballot for national All-America honors, which will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 15 in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Volleyball Final Four in Long Beach, Calif.
The AVCA Central Region includes the Big 12, Mid-Continent, Missouri Valley and Southland Conferences, as well as independents UT-Pan American and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. A total of 14 of the 18 players honored were Big 12 performers, and Texas was one of three teams to place at least two players on the First Team, joining Nebraska (Melissa Elmer, Sarah Pavan and Jennifer Saleaumua) and Texas A&M (Melissa Munsch and Laura Jones).
Topic, a 2002 (third team) and 2003 (honorable mention) All-American, earned her third AVCA all-region honor, also earning first-team accolades as a sophomore and junior. In 2001, Topic was the Central Region Freshman of the Year. This season, Topic leads the Big 12 Conference - and is currently ranked seventh nationally - in kills/game (5.65) and was voted Big 12 Player of the Year. The 6-3 National Player of the Year candidate is hitting .312 on the season and this season broke both the Texas career (2,014) and single-season (565) kills records.
Howden, a 2003 (honorable mention) All-American and three-time first-team All-Big 12 honoree, earned her second AVCA regional honor this year. The 6-2 Austinite is the team's top hitter - and ranked second in the Big 12 and 21st nationally - with a .375 mark while averaging 4.02 kills per game. Howden also leads the Longhorns with a 1.02 blocks per game mark. Howden will graduate Texas third on the UT career kills list, and currently has 1,784 headed into NCAA Region play this weekend.
Moriarty, just the fourth true freshman starting setter in Texas history, picked up her first regional honor after already copping honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades earlier this month. The 5-10 Houston native is ranked second in the Big 12 in assists per game (13.14). She is ranked 23rd nationally in the category, while leading the team to a .309 attack percentage on the season, the fourth-best mark nationally (as of Nov. 30). The Longhorns led the Big 12 in hitting percentage, and all four of the Horns' primary attackers who have collegiate experience exceeded their previous bests in hitting percentage this season, including Topic and Howden.
The 10th-ranked Longhorns (26-4) return to action on Friday, Dec. 10, when they take on No. 6 Stanford (26-6) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The two teams will face off in Green Bay, Wisc., with the winner of No. 2 Hawaii/No. 22 Wisconsin on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. in a match that will be aired live by CSTV.
2004 All-Central Region
Region Freshman of the Year: Sarah Pavan, Nebraska, RS/Opp
All-Central Region Honorable Mention: Karen Augspurger (Wichita State, DS/Lib, Sr.), Dani Busboom (Nebraska, S, So.), Gabby Guerre (Kansas State, S, Sr.), Michelle Moriarty (Texas, S, Fr.), Kelly Rikli (Illinois State, S, Sr.), Jessica Vander Kooi (Missouri, OH, So.)
* - number of AVCA all-region honors in a player's career