Despite a season in which the UCSB women’s volleyball team finished 16-17 and 9-9 in the Big West conference, three players received great praise for their play this season. Freshman libero Taylor Formico and junior outside hitter Leah Sully were each named to the Big West All-Conference team, with junior opposite Katey Thompson receiving honorable mention.

The headline Gaucho award winner Taylor Formico not only was named first team All-Conference as well as the All-Freshmen team, but was honored as the 2012 Freshman of the Year.

“I am definitely shocked. I feel blessed and grateful to just have the opportunity to be here. To win these awards, I’m still just shocked, it hasn’t hit me yet,” Formico said. “I’m really grateful for it and I’m grateful for Kathy [Gregory] for all the help.”

In her first season, Formico made her mark on the Gauchos and the Big West. She finished her freshman campaign by shattering the UCSB and Big West digs record of 652 by recording 792 digs. Formico led the conference with 5.87 digs per set, which also ranked her eighth in the nation. She was not just a force on the court defensively, as she was also the Gauchos’ second leading server with 29 service aces on the year.

“It’s quite an honor because the Big West coaches are really smart coaches. They know what kind of impact a player makes,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “For her to get Freshman of the Year shows the magnitude of what she did for us.”

At the outside hitter position, Leah Sully was named as a first team All- Conference player. As the Gauchos’ top scorer, Sully led UCSB with 1,798 total swings and 558 kills, which gave her the highest total in the Big West, and her 4.13 kills per set ranked her third in the conference.

“Leah was well deserving because if you look at her she was third in hitting, but I think the biggest thing is she’s an all-around player,” Gregory said. “She plays every play; she doesn’t get to take a play off and she elevated her game at the end of the season, which is what I’m most impressed with, that she played even better at the end.”

Sully led the Gauchos with 33 service aces this season and showed her ability on both offense and defense as she accumulated 495 digs, second on the team behind Formico and ninth in the conference with 3.67 per set.

“Obviously it’s a huge honor; it is really cool to get this because I was honorable mention last year,” Sully said. “It is always great to improve and be recognized for it. I’ve always wanted to be an All-American so I’ll keep pushing myself and hopefully get that next year.”

Thompson was named as an honorable mention to the All-Conference team this season as she was the Gauchos’ second leading scorer. Thompson was second on the team with 311 kills and a .224 hitting percentage. She ranked third on the team with 28 service aces, behind only Sully and Formico. Defensively, Thompson was one of the top blockers for Santa Barbara, recording 123 total blocks on the year and 1.06 blocks per set, both good for second on the team.

“I feel very honored to receive the award, thanks to the help of my other teammates who helped me get this, like Leah and Taylor, who essentially set the bar,” Thompson said. “Hopefully I can build on this and achieve greater next season.”