FRISCO, Texas - Central Arkansas graduate student Jessica Hays was named the Southland Conference Volleyball Student-Athlete of the Year, the conference announced Thursday in conjunction with the release of the all-academic volleyball teams.
Hays, a Friendswood, Texas, native, is a three-time Southland all-academic selection and led Central Arkansas to its first NCAA Tournament berth in school history. Hays earned all-academic team honors in 2009 and '10 and was tabbed freshman of the year in the 2008 season. The Sugar Bear outside hitter is majoring in nutrition with a 3.43 grade-point average and claimed MVP honors at the Southland Conference tournament in November. Hays helped UCA to a school-record 30-win season while leading the conference in kills per set (4.34) and aces per set (0.43).
Stephen F. Austin led all teams with three first-team all-academic selections. Sam Houston State had three all-academic selections with two first-team members, including Deveney Wells-Gibson, the 2012 conference player of the year, and teammate Kendall Cleveland. Tayler Gray represented the second-team for the Bearkats. Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts both collected two first-team spots. Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi had two all-academic selections while Lamar and Nicholls State earned one apiece.
Automatic selections include CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and those who received first-team all-conference honors. This year the first-team all-academic squad was filled by automatic selections, leaving the second-team to be determined by vote.
Stephen F. Austin's Madison Hanlan and Sabrina Burns repeated as CoSIDA Academic All-District representatives as Oral Robert's Sheina Fernandes joined them as the only Southland honorees.
The remaining nine positions automatic bids belonged to first-team all-conference members. Hays and Alicia Dittrich represented Central Arkansas. Northwestern State sophomore Keelie Arneson, Oral Roberts junior Bruna Silva, Sam Houston State senior Kendall Cleveland and sophomore Wells-Gibson, Southeastern Louisiana senior Courtney Donald, SFA sophomore Jill Ivy and A&M-Corpus Christi graduate student Shannon Hullum also represented the first team.
Four members are returning all-academic selections and five sophomores made the teams.
UCA's Hays and SFA's Burns and Hanlan led all players with their third appearance on the all-academic teams. A&M-Corpus Christi's Logen Borque made her second appearance on the squad.
Among the 18 student-athletes selected for academic recognition, 15 have GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Burns, Fernandes, Lamar's Megan Schwartz and Southeastern Louisiana's Megan McMillin posted a perfect 4.00 GPA.
The Southland Conference awards committee, which consists of one administrator from each of the 10 member universities, voted for the student-athlete of the year. The Southland student-athlete of the year is presented to the one student-athlete who achieves excellence in both academics and athletics. All nominees shall have earned at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and demonstrated athletics achievement for a least two years at the nominating institution.
The all-academic teams are voted on by the head coaches, sports information directors and academic/compliance administrators from each Southland Conference university. Student-athletes must possess a 3.0 cumulative GPA, have completed one full academic year the nominating institution and participated in at least 50 percent of the team's competition to qualify for the all-academic squad.
(Source: Southland Conference)