PRINCETON, N.J. – The Ivy League announced its postseason volleyball honors and awards on Thursday, naming Columbia senior Cassie Wes Defensive Player of the Year and first-year Chichi Ikwuazom Co-Rookie of the Year. Wes and Ikwuazom were both also named First Team All-Ivy League, while junior Anja Malesevic was named Second Team All-Ivy League.
Columbia's three All-Ivy League selections tie for the most in program history with the 2012 team, which was also the only other season two Lions earned first-team honors. Ikwuazom became the first Columbia volleyball player to ever earn the league's Rookie of the Year honors – the award has been given out since 1987.
“I'm absolutely thrilled for Cassie, Chichi, and Anja to receive these Ivy League honors,” said head coach Brie Katz. “They all had moments of truly inspired play and there's no denying the impact each of them had on every match we played and our success this season.
“There aren't enough words to describe what Cassie has done for this program over the past four years, and perhaps fewer for what Chichi is motivated to do next season and beyond. I'm truly humbled to have had the opportunity to coach them. Above all, I'm so proud of the competitive spirit and team-first mentality that every player brought to the table this season – I think that is what really enabled individual performances worthy of such recognition.”
Wes led the Ivy League with 468 digs and 5.51 digs per set to earn her second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year selection. Currently, the Columbia libero ranks fourth in the NCAA in digs per set. Her digs total from this season and her 1,315 career digs are each second in program history. The Atherton, California, native was also tops among Ivy League competitors in league matches this season with 304 digs and a 5.74 digs-per-set average. Her 33 digs in a 3-0 victory at Brown on October 28 tied for the second-most in a three-set match in the NCAA this season, and were the most in a three-set match in Columbia history.
Ikwuazom led the Ivy League in hitting percentage and total blocks to not only become Columbia's first Ivy League Rookie of the Year, but the program's only first-year to land First Team All-Ivy League honors. The local product of Horace Mann hit .427 with 193 kills and a 2.97 kills-per-set average, ranking seventh in the NCAA in hitting percentage. The rookie sensation also posted a 1.37 blocks-per-set average, ranking 28th nationally, which included a league-best 25 block solos. She went for a season-high 11 blocks on September 17 in a 3-0 victory against Fordham, tying for third in program history for blocks in a match and becoming the first Lion to ever post 11 in only three sets. Ikwuazom ranked among the top five in the Ivy League in points per set (3.85), total blocks (89) and kills per set. She also led all players in the conference with a .433 hitting percentage, 1.27 blocks-per-set average and 18 block solos in Ivy League play.
Malesevic posted a team-best 208 kills and 251.5 total points to earn her first All-Ivy league selection. The second-teamer ranked seventh in the Ivy League in points per set (3.27), ninth in kills per set (2.70), 11th in kills, 12th in aces (23), as well as 12th in aces per set (0.30). All three of her double-doubles came in Ivy League matches, as did her career-high 16 kills in a 3-0 sweep over Dartmouth on November 4. Malesevic also set a career-high with five aces in the home finale (Nov. 5) to help the Lions defeat Harvard.
Columbia's accomplishments in 2016 ranged well beyond the individual accolades. The Lions posted a 14-10 overall record and 9-5 Ivy League mark to finish third in the league standings, tying for their most Ivy League victories with teams from 2011 and 2012. The season included a six-match winning streak from September 16 – Oct. 1, marking the team's longest since setting the program record with nine consecutive victories in September of 2010. The Lions also won their first three Ivy League matches to begin the league season 3-0 for the first time.