KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – University of Tennessee rookie Nikki Fowler has been named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, the league office announced Tuesday. The Dallas, Texas, native, who also earned a spot on the conference’s all-freshman team, becomes just the second player in UT history to garner a postseason player of the year award.
“I am very proud of Nikki and feel that she is very deserving of this honor,” Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. “She did it all for us this season. We could not have asked her to do any more than she did. It is rare in our system to have a freshman take on so much responsibility on the court both offensively and defensively, but she has handled it all with tremendous poise and experience beyond her years.”
Fowler finished the conference season in a tie for ninth among all SEC players with 3.64 kills per game during league action. She was the only underclassman on the list that included seven seniors and two juniors. Fowler also paced all freshmen in the conference with three SEC Freshman of the Week awards, as she picked up the honors on Oct. 15, Nov. 12 and Nov. 19.
The 6-2 right-side hitter has closed out the season strong, averaging 4.63 kills per game and 2.89 digs per game over the team’s last five contests. She has led the team in kills in eight consecutive matches and 12 of 20 league matchups. Fowler concluded the SEC season with an average of 3.64 kills per game, 2.59 digs per game, 0.86 blocks per game, 0.77 assists per game and 0.21 aces per game.
Fowler has also posted two of the most impressive offensive performances in school history this season. On Nov. 2, she became the first Lady Vol to record a triple-double with 19 kills, 19 assists and 18 digs at Ole Miss. Just nine days later, Fowler pounded out a career-high 28 kills in UT’s victory over South Carolina on Nov. 11. The freshman also had just two errors in a personal-best 69 swings in that contest for a career-high .377 hitting percentage.
“I knew that Nikki would be a major contributor in the Tennessee program, but I could never have foreseen her having such a huge impact in her first season,” Patrick said. “I am very excited to see her development over the next three seasons. Many of her talents are still untapped and, once she goes through an offseason in our strength and conditioning program, she will be a force on a national level.”
The first SEC Freshman of the Year in Tennessee history, Fowler has played a critical role in a number of areas for the Lady Vols during her rookie campaign, as she leads the Big Orange with 354 kills, 1044 total attacks, 3.25 kills per game, 432.5 points and 3.97 points per game. She also stands second on the squad with 26 aces and 97 blocks, third on the team with 87 assists and 0.89 blocks per game and fourth with 274 digs and 2.51 digs per game
The only other Lady Vol to claim a postseason player of the year award is Amy Morris, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year following the 2005 season.
The Big Orange will next be in action when it closes out the 2007 campaign at home against Notre Dame on Friday, Nov. 23. First serve for the contest against the Fighting Irish is set for 7 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center.