NEW ORLEANS (SunBeltSports.org) – South Alabama freshman Mechell Daniel made history by becoming the first student-athlete in Sun Belt Conference volleyball history to earn the Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors, the conference announced on Monday. UL-Monroe's Marcela Araya earned the Defensive Player of the Week award and Arkansas State's Mallory Warrington earned the Setter of the Week honor to round out the weekly awards.
Daniel has now won the Freshman of the Week award for the fourth time this season. It is the sixth-consecutive week a South Alabama freshman has won the award, stretching back to when Daniel earned the honor on Oct. 8. During that span, USA freshman Jessica Lewis (twice) and Mallory Moore have taken home the honor as well.
The Chelmsford, England, native led the Jaguars to three wins as they secured the program's first berth in the Sun Belt Conference Championship since 2010. Daniel posted a pair of double-doubles this past week, just narrowly missing her third versus Troy. Of her 12 double-doubles this season, 11 have come against Sun Belt competition. She had 54 kills and averaged 4.91 kills per set in South Alabama's three matches and hit .274. Daniel also averaged 5.27 points per set and 2.73 digs. She was also served 66 times and committed just three reception errors for a .955 percentage.
Daniel began her week with a career-high 28 kills and hit .400 (28-3-60) in the Jags' four-set win on the road at Troy. The 28 kills were the most by a Jaguar in a match since Selena Chidester's 29 kills versus Troy back on Sept. 4, 2001. Daniel posted nine kills in both the first and fourth sets versus Troy and finished the match with 29.0 points. On Friday, Daniel registered 16 kills and 10 digs versus UT Arlington. Daniel posted her second double-double of the week and 12th of the season with 10 kills and 12 digs versus Louisiana-Monroe. Of her 12 double-doubles, 11 have come against Sun Belt competition.
Araya became just the second player in UL-Monroe history to record 500-plus digs in a season after collecting 57 total digs last week in nine sets for a blistering 6.33 digs/set average. She had a week-high of 27 digs against Arkansas State. Araya needs just 40 more to match the single-season record with two matches to play. She's the first Warhawk to win three Sun Belt Player of the Week honors in a season. She won Defensive Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks in 2011 (Oct. 3, Oct. 11 (co-winner)). This is the sixth time she's earned Defensive Player of the Week honors in her career.
Arkansas State's Warrington led the Red Wolves with 92 assists for an 11.50 assists per set average against Troy and Georgia State this past weekend. The freshman also added 20 digs and recorded double-doubles in both matches. She also had eight kills and three blocks. She recorded 46 assists and 10 digs in each of the Red Wolves' matches last week.
With the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship quickly approaching, several teams clinched berths in the tournament last week. WKU clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a 3-0 sweep of UALR, while the Trojans clinched at least a top three seed in the tournament with a win last Friday at Georgia State. Texas State has already clinched a tournament berth, as have UL-Lafayette, UT Arlington, South Alabama and Arkansas State. Troy is the only team left to clinch with the possibility of Georgia State winning out and claiming the final spot still in play. The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship begins on Nov. 21 with the championship match taking place on Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. CT and televised on ESPNU.