GREENVILLE, North Carolina – A record-breaking season for the East Carolina University volleyball team accrued more accolades Tuesday as setter Shelby Martin was tabbed the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.
The 2017 Waxahachie graduate was named to the All-AAC second team, while senior middle hitter Natalie Montini earned a spot on the All-AAC first team.
Martin's designation as freshman of the year marked the first such honor for a Pirate in program history while Montini is ECU's first all-conference first-team selection since Kelley Wernert in 2007 (Conference USA).
Martin ended her first season as a Pirate averaging 9.34 assists per set, ranking her sixth among AAC setters. She was also sixth in the league in assists per set (9.83) in conference matches only.
Martin ran an ECU offense that averaged 12.94 kills per set and turned in a .231 hitting percentage. She was vital in helping the Pirates finish alone in fourth place in the American Conference standings after ECU was picked 11th in the league's preseason poll. ECU recorded 22 victories this season – the most since 1982. It was also the first 20-victory campaign for the program since 2005.
Martin produced eight double-doubles during the season – all of which occurred during conference play. She fell just three kills shy of the first recorded triple-double in program history Sept. 29 against SMU, notching seven kills, 49 assists and 11 digs in the narrow five-set loss to the eventual second-place Mustangs.
Martin also tallied double-doubles against Tulsa, Tulane, then No. 21 Wichita State, UCF and Houston. She distributed a career-high 50 assists in the Pirates' 3-1 home victory over the Knights (Nov. 5). Martin enters her sophomore season with 1,084 assists, needing just 695 to break into the program career top 10 list.
Montini developed into one of the top middles in the AAC this season, ranking third among league players in hitting percentage (.341). In conference matches, she was third in hitting percentage (.347) and 11th in kills per set (2.99).
Montini racked up double-digit kills in 17 matches, including a career-high 19 in a 3-2 victory at Cincinnati – the Pirates' first-ever win in Cincinnati. She also posted a personal-best .542 hitting percentage at No. 21 Wichita State back on Oct. 22 as she recorded 15 kills on 24 attempts with only two errors.
Montini ended her career with 330 total blocks, putting her seventh in program history. Her 118 blocks in 2017 are the 10th most in a single season by an ECU player. Additionally, Montini's .341 hitting percentage is the fifth best in a lone season.