(Winthrop, Mass.) The Great Northeast Athletic Conference announced earlier today their 2017 Men's Volleyball All-Conference teams and major award winners, as voted on by the league's eight head coaches. Five Rivier University student-athletes have garnered All-Conference accolades including junior libero Garrett Bucklin (Jamestown, R.I.) who was named the GNAC's Defensive Player of the Year.
Bucklin enjoyed a phenomenal season for the Raiders as he made his transition to libero. The third year student-athlete scooped up 295 digs in 102 sets played for a 2.89 digs per set average. He was also named the conference's defensive player of the week six times this season and placed to the All-Conference First Team. He becomes the fourth Rivier Men's Volleyball student-athlete to be named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year joining Kyle O'Neill '10 (2009, 2010), Chris Convertito '12 (2012) and Matt Bynon '14 (2013, 2014).
Joining Bucklin on the All-Conference First Team is senior Tyler Blank (Rochester, N.Y.). The veteran setter was limited this year due to illness but still managed to average 10.18 assists per set and totaled 519 assists in just 51 sets played. Blank also recorded 18 total blocks and picked up 60 digs in his final campaign. This is the fourth consecutive season in which Blank was placed on an All-Conference team and it is his third time being tabbed a first team selection.
Three other Raiders were tabbed to the All-Conference Second Team.
Senior Ian Wolski (Westfield, Mass.) was one of the offensive leaders for Rivier in the 2017 season and he was rewarded with a second team selection after being on the GNAC All-Conference Third Team a year ago. Wolski led the team with 309 kills and a 3.09 kills per set average after playing in 100 sets. The fourth year outside hitter finished second on the team with 48 total blocks but led the squad with 22 block solos. He also contributed along the back line with 144 digs.
Junior Grant Andler (Chicago, Ill.) returns to the All-Conference team after being a first-team selection in 2016 and a second team selection in 2015. The 6-6 opposite hammered down 281 kills (3.05 kills per set) and totaled 43 blocks over the 92 sets he appeared in this season. Andler was also second on the team with 29 service aces and picked up 158 digs.
Junior Matt Heckler (Simi Valley, Calif.) was a third-team selection in 2016 moves up the All-Conference Second Team after leading the Raiders with a .345 hitting percentage. Heckler amassed 192 kills in 91 sets played while accumulating 45 total blocks. His best performance was back on February 18 vs then #7 Kean University in which he totaled 15 kills, a .357 hitting percentage and three total blocks to led the Raiders to a five set win.
The 2017 Men's Volleyball season ended with a tough-fought four set loss at Lasell College in the GNAC Semi-finals. The Raiders finished with an overall record of 20-13 and was ranked as high as #10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 15 poll.