Co-Players of the Year
Alaina Bergsma, Oregon
Undoubtedly the most awarded player in the country this season, Alaina Bergsma was the x-factor that allowed Oregon to progress all the way to the national final. The 6'3" senior outside hitter spent her redshirt and freshman seasons at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles before transferring to Oregon to play for Jim Moore.
This season, Bergsma led her team in kills per set (4.90) and points per set (5.40), numbers that placed her fifth nationally in both categories. It is for this dominant offensive strength from both the back and front rows, as well as her team-leading blocking presence, that has earned Bergsma the VBM Co-Player of the Year recognition.
Last year Bergsma earned AVCA Third Team All-American honors, but this season she blew past all other players in the Pac-12 and the Omaha Regional. She was named AVCA First Team All-American and Player of the Year, Pac-12 Player of the Year, NCAA Omaha Regional Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and three-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. In the semifinal match against Penn State she collected 16 kills and 15 digs.
The day after Oregon lost the championship match to Texas, Bergsma announced on her Twitter that she will be going pro in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Haley Eckerman, Texas
Last year’s VBM Freshman of the Year, Haley Eckerman wasted no time in moving up to the highest honor we present to college players. The 6'3" outside hitter from Waterloo, Iowa, proved to be absolutely unstoppable at the net this season, ranking 21st nationally in kills per set and 18th nationally in points per set. That’s an impressive ranking considering the number of strong hitters that Texas setter Hannah Allison had to choose from this year.
Eckerman received Big 12 Player of the Year honors and helped Texas pull off a sweep of Oregon in this year’s championship match, earning the Longhorns their first national title since 1988. In that match, Eckerman had 12 kills, 25 attempts, 2 errors, and hit .400.
The sophomore has also played in a number of international tournaments for the U.S., including the 2011 FIVB Junior Women’s World Championships, with Texas teammates Allison and Madelyn Hutson, and the 2009 FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championships, with Allison, Hutson, and Khat Bell.
There’s almost no doubt that this young lady is going pro. But until then, we’re excited to watch the next two years of her college eligibility play out and see if she, along with the entire championship team—with the exception of the lone senior Sha’Dare McNeal—can produce a repeat title win.
Freshman of the Year
Samantha Bricio, USC
Players from Mexico don’t appear very often on the American college volleyball scene, and there certainly has never been one to make as many waves as Samantha Bricio, still only a freshman at USC. The Guadalajara native had already played for Mexico’s Senior National Team when she joined the Trojans this fall. In fact, she’s the youngest player ever to be a member of the Mexican National Team, joining at the young age of 15 before the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games, where she lead the team in points and was awarded Best Scorer and Best Server.
But it was her elite level of play this season as an outside hitter for USC that earned her the title of VBM Freshman of the Year. She led the Trojan squad in kills per set with 4.06 and service aces per set with 0.36. In early October Bricio became the first true freshman to be named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after a thrilling two matches against Arizona (22 kills, 11 digs, and hitting .475) and Arizona State (24 kills, 16 digs, and hitting .317). She also received Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors five times this season.
The Trojans’, and Bricio’s, season ended when Texas swept them in the Austin Regional title match. With her 31 attack attempts that night, she upended last year’s VBM Player of the Year Alex Jupiter’s second-place USC record for total attacks in a season. Bricio had 1,325 to Jupiter’s 2011 total of 1,297. The 6'4" Polish phenom, Asia Kaczor, holds USC’s first-place record with 1,542 attacks in her 2007 season, but Bricio still has three more years to crack that one.
Bricio accomplished a lot in her freshman season, for the majority of which she was only 17 years old. There is no doubt that in the next four years we’ll see USC pushing their way back into the championship, likely with Bricio leading the way. And beyond that, how can Karch convince her to adopt U.S. citizenship and play for the national team?
Coach of the Year
Jim Moore, Oregon
Jim Moore has a way of taking a struggling or stagnant program and turning it around. At Northern Michigan, losing seasons were the norm, but with Moore at the helm, they went to three consecutive Division II National Championships, winning the title in 1993. When he started at Kansas State in 1994, they were ranked at the bottom of the Big 8, but Moore led them through three-straight winning seasons and their first NCAA tournament appearance. Moore spent a few years as the head coach at Texas but then returned to Division II at California State University, Chico, where under his leadership the program experienced their first winning season in five years.
And this year, in his eighth season coaching the University of Oregon Ducks, Moore made it all the way to the national championship match. To put that in perspective, Oregon went 10-19 and finished last in the Pac-10 in 2004, the season before Moore arrived. By 2006, Moore had the Ducks back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years, and by 2011, the Ducks were beating top-ranked teams like Penn State and UCLA and achieving AVCA recognition. And then there was this season, where Oregon never went a week without being ranked in the top 20 and made it all the way to the national final.
A native of Long Beach, Calif., Moore played for San Bernardino Valley College before transferring to Long Beach State to finish out his degree in health science and his volleyball eligibility. His coaching career began in local high schools, but he soon rose to college-level positions. While the head coach at Texas, Mick Haley, now the head coach for USC women’s team, asked Moore to join him as the top assistant for the U.S. Women’s National Team, but Moore declined. He did, however, agree to act as a consultant for the squad.
This season, we saw what Coach Moore is capable of doing with young players. Liz Brenner, Alaina Bergsma, Katherine Fischer, Lauren Plum: All amazing athletes and volleyball players in their own right, but even more impressive in their ability to work together as a team and be victorious against opponents who might be physically stronger or more experienced. That talent is cultivated by a good coach.
See the full list of VBM All-Americans
Originally published in February 2013