The Valdosta Daily Times
The Gulf South Conference released on Tuesday morning the All-GSC picks for the 2013 season, and the Blazer Volleyball program was well represented, as both Jessica Codato and Jenna Kirkwood were honored as selections to the All-GSC First Team. In addition, Head Coach Mike Swan has been named the Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year.
In less than one full season, Swan has led the program to a second place position in the league heading into the GSC Tournament, trailing only the nationally ranked West Florida Argonauts.
With Swan at the helm in 2013, the Blazers opened up the 2013 campaign with a scorching hot 12-2 record, the program's best start since 1999.
Although the team has cooled off a bit since then, the Blazers still finished the regular season 19-13, accounting for the team's largest win total since 2010 and only the second time in the past seven years that the program has finished with 19 wins or more.
The announcement marks the first time in history that a Valdosta State Coach has been named the GSC Coach of the Year, and Swan is humbled by the honor.
"I'm very honored to receive this award. I think it signifies what our program has done this fall and where we are headed," said Swan. "I have a top-notch assistant in Jordana Price, and our players adapted to my coaching style and expectations quickly. This honor is truly a team accomplishment, and I'm very blessed to serve here at Valdosta State."
The Blazers strong season and second place position in the conference can also be attributed to the steady contributions of Codato and Kirkwood, whose efforts this season were recognized by coaches throughout the conference and earned them both a spot on the All-GSC First Team.
Codato, a junior transfer from Winthrop, has been a versatile weapon for Valdosta State in 2013, as she currently leads the team in multiple statistical categories including assists (889), service aces (29), and hitting percentage (.272).
Codato has also proven to be a force on defense with 37 blocks on the year to go along with 294 digs.
As for Kirkwood, it's no secret that Valdosta State's offensive firepower centers around the Seminole, Fla. native.
Kirkwood leads the league in total attacks with 1160 on the year and has made the most of those opportunities, securing a spot among the top hitters in the GSC in the kill category at second place with 387.
"Jess and Jenna were very deserving of being named First Team All-GSC. Jess has been so solid all season as both a setter and right side hitter, while Jenna had huge matches for us this year on the outside and as a primary passer," said Swan. "We have additional student-athletes who have played huge roles for us this year as well, but it is nice to see the GSC coaches recognize these two for their contributions to our success."
Valdosta State will begin play in the Gulf South Conference Tournament in Pensacola, Fla. on Friday with a first round matchup against No. 7 North Alabama.
The match is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. EST start, and the winner will advance to a match at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday against the winner of another Friday night matchup between No. 3 West Georgia and No. 6 West Alabama.
Follow the Blazers' postseason run right here at www.vstateblazers.com.