By Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON - The Rice Owls volleyball team held their annual awards banquet Friday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse, capping off a 21-10 season that included several outstanding victories and individual performances.
For a second straight year junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky was named the Hally Beth Poindexter Team MVP. Mikesky led the Owls in points (508.5, 5th in C-USA), kills (466, 5th in C-USA), kills per set (3.76, 7th in C-USA) and total attacks (1,344, 4th in C-USA) en route to being named a C-USA First-Team selection.
Mikesky was also awarded the Scholar-Athlete of the Year for a second straight season, excelling in the classroom with a 4.11 GPA (Kinesiology). The Schulenburg, Texas native earned CoSIDA Academic All-American Third Team honors, and was a District 15 CoSIDA Academic All-District First-Team selection.
Senior outside hitter Noelle Whitlock also took home two awards, earning the Most Improved and Hard Hat awards. Whitlock played all 124 sets, rankings second on the Owls in total digs (350) and total attacks (815). The Riverside, Calif. native was third on the team in kills (279), kills per set (2.25), aces (18), digs per set (2.82) and total points (325.5).
Sophomore setter Madison McDaniel had a breakout season in her first season with the Owls and on Friday was named the team's Newcomer of the Year. A First-Team C-USA selection, McDaniel led the Owls in assists (1,020) and assists per set (10.97) and was a five-time C-USA Setter of the Week. McDaniel was also named the AVCA National Player of the Week on Nov. 3, becoming just the second Owl to ever earn the award.
Senior libero Kimberly Vaio received the Commitment Award for a second straight season, the only award voted on by the team. Vaio joined Whitlock this past season to become two of just 17 players in school history to surpass 1,000 career digs. Vaio led the Owls in total digs (375) and digs per set (3.91) in 2015 and finished her Owls' career ranked seventh in total digs (1,243).