CLEVELAND -- Western Michigan University junior middle blocker Zakiya
Pope has been named the 2000 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year,
which was announced today by the league office. In addition, Northern
Illinois' Jenny Bowman has been selected as the league's Freshman of the
Year and Western Michigan head coach Cathy George has been tabbed as the
Coach of the Year. All three awards were voted on by the league's head
Pope, a native of East Lansing, Mich., led the Broncos to the MAC
regular season title, the school's first since 1988, and also helped
secure the team's first MAC Tournament championship in 11 seasons -- and
also first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1989 -- with a four-game
victory over Ball State. The middle blocker, who hit .349 during the
regular season and averaged 3.46 kills per game, hit a composite .452
during the Broncos' run in the tournament and averaged 3.75 kills and
1.50 blocks per contest en route to capturing MVP honors.
Pope becomes the first Bronco to be named the league's Player of the
Year since Kim Lee won the award in 1992. In addition, she becomes only
the third player in league history to garner Player of the Year and
tournament MVP accolades in the same year.
Bowman completed the regular season as the MAC's leader in assists per
game for the Huskies, who won 24 matches this year after notching only
10 in 1999. The Maple Grove, Minn., native passed out 1,771 assists in
her rookie campaign, which is an NIU record and ranks as the
second-highest output in MAC history and the most by a freshman setter
in league annals. Bowman also led the team in aces (43) and was third
in digs (327) and total blocks (67).
For the first time in her tenure as Bronco head coach and the sixth
time in her collegiate coaching career, George is named the league's
Coach of the Year. Both of her years at North Dakota George earned
conference coaching honors, and she copped the same honor three times at
Texas-Arlington. Her first MAC postseason title last Saturday was a
special one for the Illinois State alum, as the victory over the
Cardinals was the 300th in her 14-year coaching career.
George, who is in her seventh year at WMU, compiled a 17-1 ledger in
MAC play this year and claimed the West Division crown, and this past
Saturday added the conference's tournament championship, the school's
fifth postseason MAC title. George and the Broncos will carry a 25-5
overall record into the 2000 NCAA Volleyball Tournament this weekend
when they face 28-4 Northern Iowa Friday in Madison, Wis.