Broncos Grab Two of the MAC's Volleyball Specialty Awards

Updated 11/29/2000
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 coaches.

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.