SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team held its annual end-of-season banquet on Friday night in the Hall of Champions, recapping the 2017 campaign and handing out team awards headlined by sophomore outside hitter Lindsey's Ruddins's Most Valuable Player honors.
Also receiving awards were junior setter Annie Hasselmann (Cho Guts Award, Academic Award), sophomore middle blocker/right side Charlie Robinson (Unsung Hero Award), and freshman middle blocker/right side Kjia Rivers (Most Improved Player Award). Seniors and co-team captains Sydney Bast and Chanel Hoffman were saluted as well.
"With the amount of adversity we faced this year, I was really pleased with how well we ended up gelling as a team and competing in the second half of the season," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "The team awards are indicative of how we got contributions from up and down the roster and how we improved individually and collectively as the season went along."
Ruddins' MVP Award serves as a final feather in the cap that was a historic 2017 season. The Laguna Niguel, Calif. native became the first Gaucho, and is believed to be the first Big West player ever, to lead the country in offense with 5.84 kills per set and 6.5 points per set, both school records for a single season. The 6-2 hitter posted 20 or more kills in 17 of her 24 outings on the year, was a four-time Big West Player of the Week, and picked up AVCA National Player of the Week honors on Oct. 24, 2017 after recording three straight 20+ kill performances against Big West opponents.
After the season, Ruddins was rewarded with AVCA All-America Honorable Mention, All-Pacific South Region First Team, and All-Big West First Team honors. She was the only Big West player selected to the All-Pacific South Region team.
A strong performer on the court, at practice, and in the classroom, Hasselmann was rewarded for her hard work during the 2017 season with both the Cho Guts Award and the team's Academic Award. The Cho Guts Award recognizes the UCSB player who always gives 100% effort and inspires her teammates. Her dedication to her craft helped her quickly build a rapport with her hitters in her first year as the starting setter, leading to a 10.36 assists per set average in Big West action. A psychology major from San Diego, Hasselmann carried the highest GPA on the team for the 2017 calendar year and was one of a Big West-best eight Gauchos to earn Academic All-Big West status.
Shuttling between the middle and right side and even spending time at outside hitter over the course of the season depending on the team's needs, Robinson performed well in whatever role she was asked to and had a sneakily productive 2017 campaign, finishing the year with the second-most kills (169) and third-most blocks (62) on the squad.
Another middle-right side hybrid, Rivers saw her play steadily improve over the course of her true freshman year. She went on to lift both her hitting percentage and blocking in every month of the season, going from a .093 clip and 0.60 blocks per set in August to a .205 hitting percentage and 0.83 blocks per set in November. Starting just one of the first six matches of the year, she went on to cement a starting role by year's end, drawing starts in 11 of the final 12 matches of 2017.
Bast, the winner of last year's Cho Guts Award, recorded a career-high 157 digs in 2017 over 20 matches. Hoffman was sidelined for the year due to injury, but was a steady contributor over her entire career headlined by a 2016 season that saw her post 3.15 kills per set en route to Team Co-MVP honors.
UCSB is scheduled to play four matches this spring, starting at USC on Apr. 7. Additional contests include against alumni at the Thunderdome on Apr. 14, at UC Irvine on May 5, and May 12 at home against UCLA. Match times and further details will be announced at a later date.