GENESEO, N.Y. – SUNY Geneseo junior outside hitter Grace Cergol was named the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season as the league announced its major awards and all-conference teams, Tuesday.
Cergol, senior setter Emily Ast and junior libero Sam Mendelsohn garnered First-Team All-SUNYAC while sophomore middle blocker Bridget Lougen landed on the third team. First-year outside hitter Maddie McLaughlin was also voted the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year.
Cergol led the SUNYAC for the second year in a row with 4.18 kills per set while finishing fifth with 301 total kills and 14th with 3.14 digs per set in. One of only two players to rank in the top-15 in both kills and digs per set, she compiled double-digit kills in all but four of the 23 appearances she made while notching double-doubles in kills and digs on nine occasions. Cergol totaled season-highs of 20 kills and 26 digs in a four-set loss to Susquehanna (Sept. 7) before registering a 20-kill/11 dig showing in a four-set victory over conference-rival Oneonta (Sept. 22).
Cergol is only the fifth player in SUNYAC history to win multiple Player of the Year honors while no player has ever won three. Now a three-time all-conference pick (2nd team in 2016, 1st in 2017), she also became the first player in program history to surpass 1,000 career kills and digs, standing fifth all-time with 1,208 kills and ninth with 1,086 digs.
Ast moved up to first-team recognition after landing on the second team a season ago. Ranked second in the SUNYAC with 9.32 assists per set and sixth with 708 assists, she also tied for 15th with 0.37 service aces per set and was 23rd with 2.63 digs per set while guiding the Knights to the second-highest team attack percentage in the league. Ast compiled 47 assists and 15 digs in a four-set victory at Clark (Oct. 12) before notching 43 assists to go along with a career-high 24 digs in a five-set setback versus Clarkson (Oct. 26). She also coupled a season-high 50 assists with 11 digs versus Oneonta. Ast closed her Geneseo career second in program history with 3,453 assists and is only the second Knight to eclipse the 3,000 plateau.
Mendelsohn finished the season ranked sixth in the league with 3.92 digs per set and 12th with 314 digs in 25 matches played. Compiling double-digit digs in 21 matches, she totaled a season-high 27 in the Oneonta win, as well as 21 in a 3-0 sweep of Brockport (Oct. 5). The three-time conference all-star (2nd team in 2016, 1st in 2017) became the 11th Knight to compile 1,000 career digs, climbing to fourth on the program's all-time list with 1,312 entering her senior season.
Lougen earned her first all-conference recognition after finishing third in the SUNYAC with 81 total blocks, including 68 assisted blocks that tied for the second-highest total. She was also seventh in the league with a .268 hitting percentage, 17th with 230 kills and 19th with 2.15 kills per set. Lougen tied a season-high with 16 kills on 25 swings for a .600 attack percentage in the Knights' win over Frostburg while adding 13 kills and a season-high six blocks versus Salisbury (Oct. 27).
McLaughlin led all first-year players in hitting, finishing 13th in the SUNYAC with 242 kills while here 2.26 kills per set were the 16th-highest total. She compiled a season-high 18 kills opposite Salisbury after notching 13 kills and a .423 hitting percentage against Oneonta. McLaughlin is the fourth Knight to garner Rookie of the Year honors and the first since Noelle Morrison '14 in 2010.
Geneseo (22-10) earned the top seed and hosted the SUNYAC Tournament after going undefeated in conference play (9-0) for the first time in program history. The Knights swept third-seeded Fredonia, 3-0, in the semifinals to advance to the conference championship match for the first time since 2006, before falling, 3-0, to New Paltz. Second-year head coach Hunter Drews led the squad to back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time in 12 seasons as well as its third-consecutive postseason berth.