Webster University sophomore outside hitter Jenny Howard moved up from the 2011 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Volleyball Newcomer of the Year to this season’s SLIAC Player of the Year.
Along with her second career All-Conference first-team award, Howard is the third sophomore since 2006 to win the Player of the Year award.
Her statistics alone put her in the running for Player of the Year, but the intangible part of her game is what put her over the top.
“The thing with Jenny is she is an all-six player,” coach Merry Graf said. “She is what I would call a complete player. She really has all facets of the game, and when she is clicking, she is incredible to watch.”
Being an all-six player in volleyball can be compared to the utility man on a baseball team. Howard plays all six positions on the volleyball court in every match and excels at each position.
Howard was third in the SLIAC in hitting percentage and kills per set. She also was ninth in the conference in total kills (253). On the defensive side, she was in the top 20 in blocks (0.43 per set) and digs (3.1 per set) in the SLIAC.
“I like being able to play all around because I enjoy offense just as much as I enjoy defense,” Howard said. “It does get tiring at times, but if I’m helping contribute to my team winning, then I’m all for doing what I can.”
Her biggest competition for the award may have been her teammate — sophomore middle hitter Sam Kersting. Kersting led Webster in kills, hitting percentage and blocks.
“Coach told me that Sam (Kersting) and I were the best players in the conference,” Howard said. “(The award) was in the back of my mind; it wasn’t my main focus. My main focus was to win the conference tournament and make it to the NCAA tournament.”
Because of her position as middle hitter, Kersting doesn’t play in the back row, which is what Graf said gave Howard the edge.
“Coaches value a six-position player because there aren’t a whole lot of them out there,” Graf said. “For someone to be a six-rotation player and be that good at all the different areas is awesome.”