Senior Mel Mandelbaum became the first player in Tulane history to win the C-USA Setter of the Year award
Nov. 20, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - The accolades for the Tulane volleyball team are continuing to roll in, as senior Mel Mandelbaum earned the Setter of the Year, freshman Tea Juric was named the Freshman of the Year and head coach Sinisa Momic was voted as the Coach of the Year in Conference USA, announced the league on Wednesday.
The Conference USA awards were voted on by the league's 15 head coaches. Each head coach had to refrain from voting for their own players. Nominations were based solely on statistics accumulated during league play.
On Tuesday, the league announced that senior Cori Martone, Mandelbaum and Juric were all named to the All-Conference USA First Team. Juric was also named to the All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. All have all played an integral role in the success of the Green Wave's resurgence this season.
Mandelbaum is the first Green Wave volleyballer to ever win the Setter of the Year award from the league. The Clovis, Calif., native is tenth in the NCAA in assists per set, while also leading the league in the statistic with an average of 11.68. During league play, Mandelbaum has led C-USA in assists per set, bettering her overall season average by record 12.30 assists per set. Her 615 overall assists in league play are ranked third, but Mandelbaum has only played in 50 sets during league play, thanks in part to the fact that the Green Wave did not play to five sets in any league match this season.
Mel's inclusion on the All-C-USA First Team on Tuesday marked the first time in Green Wave history a setter from Tulane earned those honors.
"I'm very glad that Mel got this award," stated Momic. "She has great talent and her skill level in passing to so many good hitters showed what she is actually capable of doing. She made our hitters better. I think she makes good choices, she is quick and she is technically sound. She was the mastermind of our offense."
Juric joins an outstanding list of Green Wave players who have won the C-USA Freshman of the Year. She joins current teammate Cori Martone, who won the award in 2010, as well as Visnja Djurdjevic (2008), Kesenija Vlaskovic (2006) and Sara Radosevic (2005) as previous Green Wave volleyballers to earn the honor.
In league play, Juric has posted 202 kills during league play, good for an average of 4.04 kills per set. Juric also notched six service aces, 114 digs and 16 blocks (two solo), as well as totaling 222.0 points for an average of 4.44 points per set. She has led the Green Wave in kills (394), kills per set (3.94), points (431.5) and points per set (4.315) this season, while placing second in digs (247), service aces (23) and service aces per set (0.23).
Juric was joined by UTSA's freshman Dajana Boskovic on the All-C-USA First Team on Tuesday, marking just the fifth and sixth rookies in league history to appear on the All-C-USA First Team.
Juric becomes the first Green Wave freshman to earn First Team All-Conference honors since Alicia Robertson was named to the First Team All-Metro Conference Team in 1991.
"Tea is well-deserving of this award," added Momic. "She was one of the players who had the most impact on our success this year. Obviously, being named to the First-Team All-Conference made her a candidate for Freshman of the Year. I think she started the season well and just got better and better. She has a bright future ahead of her."
Momic is the first Green Wave coach to earn the Coach of the Year honors outright since Sonya Hanson was named the Metro Coach of the Year during the 1994 season. Momic's predecessor, Liz Kritza, was the C-USA Co-Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
One of the main criteria for voting for coach of the year had to do with the team's turnaround from the previous season. Not only did Momic's squad post the largest turnaround in the league, but his team had the nation's best turnaround from 2012 to 2013.
In 2012, the Green Wave finished 6-21, before ultimately going 26-3 this season. Howard University posted a 19-game turnaround from their 2012 regular season to their 2013 regular season, but Tulane's 20-game inversion was one better.
Picked to finish 10th during the preseason C-USA poll, Momic's squad clinched the second seed in the C-USA Championship with their victory over Middle Tennessee on Sunday.
On top of the team's record, the Green Wave led the conference in kills per set (15.24) and assists per set (14.28) during league play under Momic's watch. Throughout the entire season, the Green Wave have posted the league's top hitting percentage (.266) assists per set (13.81) and kills per set (14.83).
The Green Wave's kills per set number of 14.83 ranks sixth nationally, while their assists per set are good for seventh in the NCAA.
"This is a great honor for me, but I also have to mention my whole staff who contributed to our success," said Momic. "Not only Nikki (Osuna), Wayne (Holly) and Jaye (Loyd), but everyone who contributed their experience and expertise. As a whole, our entire staff did really well this year."
With the three individual awards earned during the 2013 season, it marks the first time since 2008 that the Green Wave have had three individual award winners in one season. During that season, Radosevic earned Player of the Year honors, Djurdjevic was named the league's top rookie and Kritza was the Co-Coach of the Year.
Tulane will have a first-round bye on Thursday at the Conference USA Championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and will play the winner of the match between UAB and Rice on Friday at 7pm CST. All matches of the tournament other than the championship match will be broadcast through the C-USA Digital Network at conferenceusa.com. The final game of the championship will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Current subscribers to the C-USA Digital Network can just click the "watch links" on the Volleyball Championship Central site to view the current match in progress. New and school-only subscribers will need to purchase a monthly pass to view all 10 tournament matches. A monthly subscription is $14.95, and an annual subscription is $119.95.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.