After sweeping through the first regular season in American Athletic Conference history, No. 1 UConn took home several awards Thursday.
Seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley and sophomores Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart were named to the AAC's first team by the league coaches. It marks the second time that UConn has had four players make its conference's first team: Swin Cash, Sue Bird, Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi were first team all-Big East in 2001-02. The Huskies had three (Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery) in 2008-09.
Dolson, the fifth player in program history with 1,000 rebounds, was also chosen as AAC defensive player of the year, and shared the sportsmanship award with Louisville's Tia Gibbs.
UConn's Kelly Faris was the Big East's defensive player of the year last season. She was the first UConn player to win that award since Ashley Battle in 2002-03.
Guard Saniya Chong was named to the all-freshman team. And juniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes were named to the second team.
The league will announce its player of the year and coach of the year Friday afternoon before the start of tournament play at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Geno Auriemma, who led the Huskies (31-0) to an undefeated conference season, is expected to be the coach of the year, an award that he won 10 times in the Big East.
Completing the first team were Shoni Schimmel, Asia Taylor and Sara Hammond of Louisville, Keena Mays of SMU (the AAC's leading scorer), Ariel Hearn of Memphis and Courtney Williams of South Florida.
Taylor was voted the AAC's most improved player and Temple's Rateska Brown its sixth player of the year.
Stewart, expected to be the AAC's player of the year, was also the preseason pick to win the honor. She would be the 12th UConn player to win conference player of the year and is a candidate for national player of the year.
She led UConn in scoring (19.5), blocked shots (86) and made 39 three-pointers. She also was a four-time ACC player of the week, has scored in double-figures in 29 of UConn's 31 games, has scored at least 20 points in 16 games and is averaging 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in the past seven games.
"Breanna Stewart is probably one of the most gifted players I've ever seen," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "This kid is capable. She is just a spectacular athlete."
Hartley's season was of redemption after an injury-plagued junior season. She is averaging 16.3 points with a team-leading 63 three-pointers. She has 130 assists and has played solid defense. She and Moore are the only players in UConn's elite 1,500-point, 500-rebound, 500-assist and 200-steal club.
Jefferson has been the season's great revelation. The point guard not only leads the team in assists (160), but also field goal percentage (56.9 percent), even more impressive considering that she has taken 63 three-point shots. She has committed only 54 turnovers and her assist/turnover ratio (2.96) leads the conference and is one of the best in program history.
Stewart, Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis were on the preseason team, but Mosqueda-Lewis' season was hampered by an elbow injury and mononucleosis, which combined to cost her 12 games.
Hartley was honorable mention after struggling through her junior season with an ankle injury.
Dolson's selection as defensive player of the year is likely the great compliment to how much improvement she has made. Not only was she the focal point of UConn's offense because of her high-post passing, but she became one of the nation's top shot blockers (71) and rebounders (9.1).
"You can't measure what Stefanie does on points," Auriemma said. "She just continues to get better and better with time, and that is the way it is supposed to be."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun