Returner week continues! Returner week is a lot like “Shark Week” but without the water and the sharks.
As a reminder, I chose players based on awards won in 2017 and after sprinkling in some of the NCAA statistical leaders from last year. I’m sure this will cause some excellent players to fall through the crack but hopefully any anger generated will be focused on this upcoming season and not to me personally.
Today I highlight some of our top returning liberos. (Note – Do you say “lih-BEAR-oh” or “LEE-buh-ro”? I wrote this article thinking “lih-BEAR-oh” so it will probably help if you internalize that pronunciation. If you are Italian and can’t help yourself then I understand but the nuances will be lost on you.)
Brandi Campos (Southwestern – Libero/DS – Senior)
Campos got her shot as the full-time libero in 2017 and came away with SCAC Backrow Player of the Year and second-team All-Conference honors. She finished the year with a West Region leading 653 digs (17th nationally) and averaged 4.91 digs per set (116th nationally). She added 44 service aces and 2 kills for 46 points on the year. Campos will again lead the Pirates’ backline in 2018, which should be stronger as there were no graduation losses to the defense/service receive.
Jordan Livingston (Howard Payne – Libero/DS – Sophomore)
Livingston had an outstanding freshman year as she broke the Howard Payne record for digs in a season with 615 (28th nationally) and digs per set with 5.69 (26th nationally). Livingston was an honorable mention All-West Division in the ASC last year. Her top match was a 44 dig effort against Sul Ross State and she contributed 15 service aces with 4 kills for 19 points on the year. Expect a number of other records to fall at HPU over the next three years.
Kayla Magbaleta (Linfield – Libero/DS – Senior)
Magbaleta had her second outstanding year out of the libero position for Linfield in 2017. For the year, she had 497 digs (131st nationally) and averaged 5.40 digs per set (48th nationally), which pretty much matched her sophomore season. Magbaleta had 36 digs against Whitman towards the end of the year. She had 18 services aces with 7 kills for 25 points on the year while also contributing 80 assists. Linfield returns almost their entire team so expect Magbaleta’s senior year to be her best ever.
Sarah Mullens (Trinity – Libero/DS – Senior)
Mullens has 1514 digs for her career as she enters her senior year. In 2017, Mullens had 595 digs (35th nationally) and averaged 4.65 digs per set (148th nationally). Mullens was first-team All-Conference in the SCAC in 2017. Her best match for the year was against Cal Lutheran when she came away with a career high 34 digs. Mullens is statistically the best server in the West Region with 80 service aces (8th nationally) and averages 0.63 aces per set (52nd nationally). Adding in her 4 kills, Mullens accounted for 84 points on the year. Mullens is on pace to be the all time career leader in digs for Trinity, which would be an amazing accomplishment for their storied program.
Kristen Sanchez (La Verne – Libero/DS – Senior)
I’m so happy I finally got a SCIAC player into these write-ups. More to come this week but the SCIAC seemed to be senior heavy last year as a general rule. Sanchez is a good place to start in the SCIAC as she was a first-team All-Conference selection. Sanchez ended the year with 520 digs (100th nationally) and averaged 4.77 digs per set (127th nationally). Sanchez has averaged over 400 digs each season and is on pace to finish 2nd on the career list for the Panthers. Sanchez had a 33 dig performance against UW-Eau Claire and for the year she had 43 aces and 6 kills for 49 points. Sanchez also chipped in 97 assists.
Caylie Shiramizu (Pacific Lutheran – Libero/DS – Senior)
I get to watch a number of the Texas players in person but the most memorable players are the ones I don’t get to see who, when I then get the chance, jump out at me with their performance. In this vein, meet Caylie Shiramizu who had a tremendous Southwestern Regional last year (making the All-Tournament team) and was one of the primary reasons for the victory over Trinity. For the year, Shiramizu had 513 digs (108th nationally) and averaged 5.58 digs per set (35th nationally). She had a 34 dig performance against Whitman and for the year had 27 aces with 5 kills for 32 points.
One of the problems I have tracking all of these great players is when you come across the student-athletes that can graduate before their eligibility is over. Anna VanderWeyst (Pacific) was listed as a junior but I believe she has graduated and my assumption is she will not be back. So, a quick shout out to her as she had an amazing year as she led the West Region in digs per set averaging 6.47 (5th nationally). She was a first-team All-Conference selection and the Libero of the Year winner. She also was an honorable mention All-Region selection.