If you have been following volleyball, be it the Ducks or nationally, it’s impossible to not have been aware of Oregon’s Mimi Colyer. She won a record eight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors. She is one of only four players – ever – in the Pac-12 conference to win Freshman of the Week and Player of the Week honors in the same week. Colyer was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year as well as Pacific NW Region FOTY.
Gosh, she has to be the best nationally, right?
Well…let’s back up a little on that. What I mean is that volleyball is something of a unique sport. Consider this: with football you have clearly defined offenses and defenses, and players specialize in primarily offensive and defensive roles. That wasn’t the case 100 years ago, but it is now. Baseball and softball is much the same; one is not playing offense at the same time you’re playing defense. No, you’re taking turns. With basketball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, you’re playing both offense and defense, but you’re vying for the entirety of that field. In general, one plays both offense and defense everywhere on the field.
That’s not the way volleyball works.
With volleyball, yes, you play offense and defense, but only on your side of the court. You’re completely restricted to your side. As such, volleyball positions have developed into a unique set of specializations. You have:
Hitters – Outside or middle hitters, these players are often the tallest of the team. Yes, they use height to punch in kills, but also use a height advantage to block.
Setters – Their primary function is to operate the offense. However, the setter needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, because they will be called upon to both block and defend. The person setting may be any position, but your setter is the quarterback of the team. They call the defensive plays and choose the direction of the offense.
Defensive specialists – Traditionally the libero (your lead DS), but defensive specialists comprise that position and more. Some defensive specialists will be the libero, but others may be service specialists as well as being outstanding on digs and sets. Height is not an issue with these players; in playing the backcourt, their height is not a factor.
That may have been long-winded, but there’s a point here: Excellence exists in all of these positions, and in many cases they are mutually exclusive. That is to say, it is unfair to hold a FOTY setter to the same standard (positionally and statistically) as a FOTY outside hitter. You’re comparing kumquats with rhubarb, and so when looking at FOTY you will generally find these – sometimes mutually exclusive – positions represented. You can’t say that this FOTY hitter is better than that FOTY setter – generally speaking.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the P5 Freshmen of the Year.
Alexis Stucky – Stucky is a setter. I’ve often said that Hannah Pukis is one of the best setters in the nation, and she is not alone. Alexsis Stucky is also a great setter, and being a freshman makes it all the more impressive. She plays for the Florida Gators, and scored five double-doubles (assists and digs) in the 2022 season.
Emma Farrell – Farrell is a defensive specialist from Wake Forest. She was the digs per set leader in the ACC, with a 4.41 average. She has very few peers in her ability to dig and defend.
Avari Carlson – Baylor’s setter is another outstanding player. She was a unanimous FOTY selection. She recorded eight double-doubles in the 2022 season.
Eva Hudson – Purdue’s OH was just about as impressive as Colyer this season. She might be “only” 6-1, but gets a lot of elevation. She ended with 7 double-doubles (kills and digs), and 514 total kills with a H% of .238. Hudson assisted on 54 blocks and brought 34 aces on the season.
Of the P5 FOTY, only Hudson can be used as a comparison to Mimi Colyer. On the season, Colyer recorded 533 kills with a .265 H%. She ended with 12 double-doubles. Colyer served up 40 aces on the year. She had 67 block assists to Hudson’s 54.
Mimi Colyer was integral to Oregon’s deep run in the NCAA tournament. By and large, on the rare occasions that she faltered, the Ducks faltered as a team. The Ducks advanced further in the NCAA tournament than any of Colyer’s FOTY protégés. While it may be somewhat subjective, and comparing beef to milk, I think a case can be decidedly made for asserting Mimi Colyer as the best FOTY in the nation.