Tech's Meffert, Kenline and Blair win top OVC post-season honors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sophomore outside hitter Leah Meffert is the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, junior Katie Kenline is the Defensive Player of the Year and John Blair is the league's Coach of the Year. The conference announced its 2008 post-season awards Wednesday.

Four Golden Eagles were included on the all-OVC teams, which were announced in addition to the league's superlative awards. Meffert and senior setter Kappy Lang were named first-team all-OVC, while second-team all-OVC honors went to Kenline and senior middle blocker Caitlin Bullock.

Meffert added an OVC Player of the Year award to go with her Freshman of the Year award from a season ago, becoming the first player in conference history since the freshman honor was started in 1999 to win both awards in her career.

The Louisville native joins Kim Tunnell (1985) and Becky Murray (1986) as the only Tech recipients of the Player of the Year award.

"It's a pretty elite little club she's joined," said Tech coach John Blair about Meffert's selection. "Certainly, she's done what she needs to do to earn the respect of the conference coaches and she's very deserving of the award and recognition."

Meffert ended the regular season campaign with 309 kills (9th in league play) and 353.5 points (9th).

The Defensive Player of the Year, another relatively new honor started in the 2004 season, was awarded to Kenline, a junior from Ossian, Ind. Kenline led the conference in digs with 511, averaging 5.11 per set.

"There's a lot of really good defensive players in our conference," Blair said. "All of the coaches recognize the importance of that position, particularly for success on our level. They've all gone out to find a great defensive player and for Katie to reach that level just says a lot about how hard she worked. That's been a goal of hers and she's worked really hard to accomplish that."

Blair also took home the league's Coach of the Year award, becoming the third Golden Eagle recipient of the award, joining Sharron Bilbrey (1985) and Jennie Gilbert (1997).

"I've been a head coach for 26 years and it's a first for me," Blair said. "It's a credit to the team, because you don't win the award if the team doesn't do what they're supposed to do. It sounds kind of trite, but it's really a humbling experience. I respect all of the coaches in our conference.

"I feel really fortunate to be where I'm at in this point of my career in a league where the coaches care about their teams and their players. It's not all about wins and losses. It's about seeing them through and seeing them develop and learn life lessons along the way. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be at Tennessee Tech right now."

Lang, the team's setter from Muncie, Ind., led the conference in assists with 1,094 over 102 sets, an average of 10.73. Lang was also ninth in the conference in service aces, collecting 25 in the season.

Joining Kenline on the second-team, Bullock hails from Aubrey, Texas. She ranked seventh in the conference in hitting percentage with a .270 mark, and was eighth in blocks. Bullock had 28 solo and 48 assisted stops, an average of 0.75 per set.

Kenline and Meffert were both second-team selections a year ago.

"This team, from day one, had their minds made up that they were going to do what they could," Blair said. "I don't think they've overachieved at all. What they've done is set out to be the players and the team they can be. It's one of those years where a lot of things aligned. We made it through without a lot of injuries. We did everything we were supposed to do. Everything fell in line."

The OVC Tournament begins Thursday night at Tech's Eblen Center. The Golden Eagles, as well as Morehead State, have a first round bye and will play on Friday.

Thomas Corhern of the Cookeville Herald-Citizen gathered the quotations and contributed information for this story.