FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Coming off a regular season that saw the Bulldogs post their best finish at the Division I level, the Bryant University volleyball team claimed three all-conference selections Friday night, highlighted by a repeat performance by senior Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) as NEC Setter of the Year.
Katzen's second-consecutive Setter of the Year recognition also came with an All-NEC First Team nod, while sophomore standouts Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) and Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) were named to the All-NEC Second Team after stellar 2016 performances.
Katzen once again ran the offense for the Bulldogs in 2016, driving the Black and Gold to tie the program's Division I record for wins in a season (19). Averaging 7.28 assists per set (837 total), the senior captain was also a force on the attack, ranking fourth in the league in aces (33) and sixth in attack percentage (.257) while contributing 146 kills and 329 digs. Katzen also added 27 blocks on the year. Just as impressive were her string of double-doubles, as the senior registered 20 on the regular season to bring her career total to 55 in just three years. As a team, the Katzen-led Bulldogs paced the NEC in total assists (1494) – good for sixth in the nation – and ranked second in assists per game (73rd nationally).
All season long, opponents struggled to find an answer to the hard-hitting offensive prowess of Flynn, as the outside hitter racked up 287 kills despite appearing in only 92 of the team's 118 sets. She averaged 3.12 kills per set to rank fourth in the conference and added a .201 attack percentage with 13 aces. Flynn was also solid on defense, picking up 225 digs and adding 22 blocks. Along the way, the Pembroke, Mass., native also set a new Bryant single-match record, hammering home 34 kills in a win over Robert Morris Oct. 23, a number that ranks sixth among all Division I players in a five-set match this season. Flynn recorded the seven highest kill totals for the Bulldogs in 2016 and won NEC Player of the Week Oct. 24.
Arguably the team's top all-around performer, Sperry impressed all season long playing all the way around for the Black and Gold. Ranking in the team's top three in kills (205), digs (280), blocks (57), assists (524), assists per set (4.60), points (275), aces (41) and serve percentage (.950), the Arizona native recorded 16 double-doubles and two triple-doubles in 2016. Her pair of triple-doubles were the most in the league and ranked 13th nationally, while her 41 aces ranked second in the NEC and 35th in the country. She also earned a player of the week nod back on Sept. 19.
Backed by the trio of all-conference honorees, the No. 3 Bulldogs will face off against No. 2 LIU Brooklyn Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the second of two NEC Semifinals hosted by Sacred Heart University. Fans can watch the match live and free-of-charge on NECFrontRow.com.