Eleven NESCAC Players Receive AVCA Recognition

Eleven NESCAC Players Receive AVCA Recognition

Courtesy of Bates/Bowdoin/Middlebury/Tufts/Wesleyan Sports Information Offices

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bowdoin junior Lisa Sheldon and Wesleyan sophomore Nicole Hilton headline a group of 11 NESCAC players who were recognized by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). The duo represented the NESCAC on the All-America Second Team, while nine other NESCAC players were selected to the AVCA Honorable Mention All-America squad.


Sheldon, a libero, becomes Bowdoin's fourth AVCA All-American, joining Kristin Hanczor (2011), Christy Jewett (2015) and Katie Doherty (2016). As the Polar Bears' primary libero this fall, she played virtually every set this season, totaling 6.26 digs per set and 582 total digs, to lead the NESCAC in each category. She surpassed the 1,000-dig mark for her career in the NESCAC Semifinal against Wesleyan and her 582 digs this fall were third in program history. Sheldon was also named AVCA Northeast Region Player of the Year, the first in program history.

Hilton, an outside hitter/middle blocker, is just the second Cardinal ever to be named to an All-America Team, joining 2008 Second Team selection Lisa Drennan '09. She finished the year with 265 kills and 75 blocks to rank eighth and ninth in the NESCAC, respectively. Her .330 hitting percentage was the second-best in the conference while her 0.79 blocks per set ranked ninth and her 2.79 kills per set ranked 12th. Hilton concluded the 2017 campaign by recording double-digit kills in each of the final eight matches. She also registered a hitting percentage above .300 in 17 of the team's 28 matches this year. Hilton has also garnered NESCAC Player of the Year, AVCA Northeast All-Region Team, and All-NESCAC First Team honors this season.

Bates sophomore Gabi Eustache is the first Bobcat since Olviai Zurek (2004) to garner the honor. An All-Region selection, Eustache, a libero, averaged 5.77 digs per set in 2017. Against NESCAC competition, she raised her average to 6.89 digs per set to rank lead the league in conference-only matches. Eustache, the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, led the Bobcats to their most wins since 2009 (12) and a berth to the NESCAC Championship.

Other Polar Bears receiving AVCA recognition included sophomore Caroline Flaharty, first-year Kate Kiser, and junior Sydney Salle. Flaharty, a two-time All-NESCAC honoree, earned her second consecutive All-Region after ranking second in the NESCAC with 3.44 kills per set, while recording 3.79 kills and 2.95 digs per set against conference opponents. Her 639 kills are tied for the most-ever by a Bowdoin player in their first two seasons.

Kiser, the region’s Rookie of the Year and an All-Region selection, led the NESCAC in assists per set (10.55), totaling 960 on the season. She was also the NESCAC Rookie of the Year and garnered a spot on the All-NESCAC Second Team.

Salle captured her first postseason award after leading Bowdoin in blocks (0.84 per set, 73 total) and ranking second on the team with 2.68 kills per set. She owns 626 career kills while also totaling 191 career blocks. Bowdoin advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals and finished the year with a 15-10 record.

Middlebury senior Becca Raffel, a three-time All-NESCAC First Team selection, represented the Panthers. The outside hitter ranked second in the league in kills (317) and fourth in kills per set (3.34), while hitting .238. She recorded a double-digit kill total in 20 matches this year. Raffel played in all 25 matches and posted career-best totals of 290 digs and 3.05 digs per set, tallying 14 double-doubles to go along with 26 service aces and 18 total blocks. She became just the fifth player in the program's history to eclipse the 1,000-kill plateau, finishing her four years with 1,163 kills. She concluded her career second all-time in the Panther record books with 3.29 kills per set and fifth in kills. Raffel led Middlebury to a 16-9 record.

Three members of the Tufts team were honored, junior Mackenzie Bright, sophomore Heather Holz and sophomore Christina Nwankpa all earned AVCA All-Northeast Region honors and a spot on the Honorable Mention All-America Team.

Bright, an All-NESCAC First Team selection, saw action in all 30 matches and played in all 112 sets this season. She topped 300 kills this year (306) and averaged 2.73 kills per set average. Bright reached double figures in kills 15 times. 

Holz and Nwankpa ranked second and third, respectively, in the NESCAC in blocks per set. Holz finished the season with 102 blocks (20 solo) for a 0.97 blocks per set average. She also led the league in hitting percentage at .332. Nwankpa played in all 30 matches and finished the season with 106 total blocks for a 0.96 per set average. She also ranked fourth in NESCAC with a .326 percentage after recording 205 kills. The Jumbos finished as the NESCAC Runner-Up, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years, and finished the season with a 23-7 mark.

Sophomore Stasie Litinsky, an All-NESCAC First Team honoree, is the third Wesleyan athlete to be named an Honorable Mention, joining Drennan (2007) and Ruby Hernandez (2009 & 2010). A Northeast All-Region Team selection, she finished the year average 2.82 kills per set mark to rank 11th in the conference while her .246 hitting percentage was 17th-best. Hilton and Litinsky guided Wesleyan to a historic season in which the Cardinals won their first-ever NESCAC Championship, advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals, claimed their second Little Three title in program history, and finished the year with a 22-6 overall record.