UW senior is First Team All-American for both AVCA and Volleyball Magazine
- Tonight | 4: (Pacific) | #3 Texas vs. #4 Nebraska | National Championship
OMAHA—When it was Lianna Sybeldon's turn to take the stage, she didn't look nervous. But when emcee Beth Mowins of ESPN asked the Washington middle blocker about her favorite part of her day, Sybeldon joked, "not this."
Sybeldon was here in Omaha to pick up a postseason award as an AVCA First Team All-American, joining the nation's elite volleyball players at the annual banquet honoring their achievements. During the Q&A, Mowins asked about Washington's abrupt coaching change at the end of her junior season.
"Keegan just told me to be kind," Sybeldon joked, drawing a big laugh in the packed convention center ballroom.
"He's made the transition really easy," she continued. "He's a lot of fun to play for. I'd say we laugh at him as much as we laugh at ourselves."
|Washington All-American Lianna Sybeldon is interviewed by ESPN's Beth Mowins at the AVCA All-American banquet in Omaha|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Mowins pointed out that Sybeldon and her fellow seniors won more matches over four seasons than any other class in Washington history.
"We had a really great senior class when we came in as freshmen (Amanda Gil, Kelcey Dunaway, Kylin Munoz and Kelly Holford)," Sybeldon said. "They taught us a lot. They instilled a lot of good core values in us that we carried through all four years."
Sybeldon is also one of only seven players selected to the 2015 Volleyball Magazine All-American team. We're here on assignment for Volleyball Magazine, and will soon post a link to a video interview with Sybeldon in conjunction with her VBM All-American honor.
Speaking of our VBM assignments, please take a moment to click through our two latest online entries:
- Losing is not just for losers, a profile of the classy way a player on one team and the coach on another handled the immediate aftermath of a difficult loss.
- Nebraska vs. Texas in the National Championship, a recap of the semifinals, with particular attention to the outsized role played by two freshmen.
We've recently written about the glaring absence of Washington libero Cassie Strickland from the AVCA All-American First, Second or Third Teams (she was one of dozens of Honorable Mentions.) Keegan Cook is none to happy about it--and about not seeing middle blocker Melanie Wade get postseason recognition. He has a point: Washington was Pac-12 co-champion, and ended the season as AVCA's #1 ranked team.
Cook acknowledges that coaches who vote for postseason honors have precious little opportunity to see teams not on their schedule. He says that, in an effort to eliminate bias, awards are too often based on supposedly neutral data and metrics. Once you've seen a player like Strickland, however, you know that most of what she brings to the game is never measured in the stat book.
In a conversation with Volleyblog Seattle yesterday, Cook floated an intriguing idea. Why not tap the considerable talents of eminent retired coaches? Many still follow the game closely, and could be encouraged to watch a wide variety of televised matches if part of their role was to make a case for glaring absences like Strickland and Wade.
- In his Friday press conference Nebraska coach John Cook talked about programs he considers rivals and opponents he respects. "Every program has rivalries. We like to think that we have a rivalry with Penn State, with Texas, with Stanford and Washington. We've played those teams a lot in the tournament and during the regular season. Those are the teams competing for national championships. I think it's more there is a lot of respect for the programs—at least we have a lot of respect for Texas, and they are fun to play—but people in Nebraska do still get worked up about Texas."
- In today's Omaha World-Herald, correspondent Jeff Sheldon writes about how Nebraska players have tried this season to get their coach to lighten up. An excerpt: "The regional final win over Washington offered an example of how the lighthearted exuberance had rubbed off on Cook. The Huskers' match point sent players spilling onto the court for a series of happy embraces. As stoic as any coach on the sideline, Cook hugged his assistants and several players before pulling the team into a huddle for a few emotional words."