Senior middle blocker Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) was named a Second-Team All-American according to an announcement by the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) on Wednesday, Dec. 13. Malama Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) also received Honorable-Mention All-America honors, which goes to each player that was named First-Team All-Region last week.
Nelson becomes just the third middle blocker in school history to receive All-American honors, and the 10th different Golden Gopher overall. She is the first middle blocker since Stephanie Hagen to receive All-American honors. Hagen received Second-Team All-America honors in 2000. Jill Halsted is the only other middle blocker in school history to receive the honors, as she claimed Honorable-Mention AVCA honors in 1982 and First-Team AIAW honors in 1981.
This year, Nelson was one of only five middle blockers to be named to the first or second All-American teams. She joined Foluke Akinradewo (First-Team) of Stanford, Nana Meriwether (First-Team) from UCLA, Christa Harmotto (Second-Team) of Penn State and Tracy Stalls (Second-Team) from Nebraska.
Last week, Nelson claimed All-Region honors for the first time in her career. Nelson was one of four players in the Big Ten to receive First-Team honors unanimously. She finished the season averaging 3.29 kpg, hitting .325, 0.93 blpg and tallying 0.26 sapg. Nelson ended the season eighth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage. In Big Ten play, she averaged 3.47 kpg, hit .335, had 0.97 blpg and 0.34 sapg. Nelson was sixth in the conference in hitting percentage and eighth in service aces in Big Ten play.
Nelson finished her career tied atop Minnesota’s career block list with 536 in four years with the Golden Gophers. She also ended her career as the school’s all-time leader in block assists at 456. In Minnesota’s NCAA Regional Final match against No. 1 Nebraska, Nelson tied Paula Gentil for the most matches played by a Golden Gopher in a career with 142. She finished eighth on the career solo blocks list with 80, and was fifth on the Golden Gopher career list in hitting percentage at .303.
This year, Nelson led the team in kills (398) and hitting percentage (.325). She was also second in blocks (112) and finished third on the team in service aces (0.26 sapg). In four NCAA Tournament matches, Nelson led all regulars in kills (58, 3.41 kpg), hitting percentage (.371), and was second in blocks (0.82 blpg) and service aces (0.29 sapg). She was one of two Golden Gopher to receive NCAA Regional All-Tournament team honors. Nelson had 31 kills (3.44 kpg), eight blocks (0.89 blpg) and hit .362 in a pair of NCAA Regional Tournament matches against No. 7 Florida and No. 1 Nebraska.
Peniata was one of only five liberos around the nation to receive First-Team All-Region honors last week, joining Stephanie Figgers (Stephen F. Austin), Allison Anderson (Boston College), Heather Norris (Murray State) and Debora Seilhamer (USC). Minnesota has now had a libero named First-Team All-Region in all five years that the position has been in existence in the NCAA.
She also received First-Team All-Big Ten honors and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. It marked the fourth time in six years of the award that a Golden Gopher claimed the honors. Peniata finished the season averaging 5.22 sapg, which lead the Big Ten. She also led the Big Ten in service ace-to-service error ratio at 1.80-to-1.00. Peniata finished with 27 service aces and 15 service errors. She also averaged 0.26 sapg and 0.56 assists per game. In Big Ten play. She led the way in digs per game at 5.14, had 0.51 apg and 0.29 sapg. Peniata had a .969 serve-receive percentage in conference play, and finished with 21 service aces to 12 service errors.
In NCAA Tournament play, Peniata averaged 4.24 dpg, 0.52 apg and 0.29 kpg. She had 46 digs in nine games (5.11 dpg) in two NCAA Regional Tournament matches against No. 7 Florida and No. 1 Nebraska.
Peniata finished second on the school’s all-time digs list at 1,401. She was also seventh on the single-season digs list with 532 on the year. This past week, Peniata became only the second Golden Gopher to reach 500 in a season. Peniata is also one of two Minnesota players (along with Gentil) to record 1400 or more digs in a career. She missed the first six matches of the season when Minnesota went 2-4. The Golden Gophers were 24-4 with Peniata in the lineup this season.