First-year Sun Devils volleyball coach JJ Van Niel has been named Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year and Pacific South Region Coach of the Year after leading the Sun Devils to a historic 26-6 record, 14-6 Pac-12, during the regular season before marching into the Sweet 16 with consecutive sweeps in the NCAA Tournament.
Van Niel is only the fourth coach in program history to be named Conference Coach of the Year, but the first to do so in the first year.
He has guided the team back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 behind the highest winning percentage in team history.
Van Niel is the first coach in Sun Devil volleyball program history to be named AVCA Pacific South Coach of the Year, and that’s not all. Four Sun Devils were also named to the AVCA All-Region team.
Claire Jeter, Marta Levinska, Shannon Shields and Mary Shroll join their coach with honors. This is the first year in program history in which more than one player has been dubbed All-Region, further adding to the already lengthy list of accolades.
Levinska has paced Arizona State on offense this season, sitting top-10 in the country in kills, kills per set, points and points per set. In her most impressive season yet, she compiled four Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week awards and was named to the All-Pac-12 team.
Shannon Shields, the primary setter for the Sun Devils, registered 40-plus assists nine times and 50-plus times twice. She nine double-doubles and surpassed 2,000 career assists this season.
Claire Jeter leads the team in blocks with 124. It is also a new single-season high for the middle blocker. Jeter is just shy of 200 total kills on the year (191) and has 42 aces.
Mary Shroll is the anchor on the Sun Devils tough defense, bolstering 428 digs. Shroll surpassed 1,000 career digs and 100 career aces during her senior year campaign as well as tying Jeter with 42 aces.
However, in order to make it this far, the Sun Devils pulled off an incredible season, seemingly out of the blue. In his first season as coach, Van Niel has guided the Sun Devils to 28 wins, the most for the program this century and second-highest ever in program history. In doing so, Arizona State secured a 14-6 Pac-12 record, also the most conference wins in program history.
At 28-6, 14-6 Pac-12, Arizona State finished third in the conference, its highest ranking since 1993.
The regular season started with a 14-game win streak, which was best by any coach in the NCAA era. It wasn’t only the astounding number of wins, but the fashion. The Sun Devils had two top-five sweeps over Oregon and Stanford. Both were part of the Sun Devils record-setting 20 sweeps on the season — also most in program history.
Arizona State will face No. 1 Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 8:30 p.m.