Rochester, N.Y. (April 10) - For the second straight season, men's volleyball junior Thomas Nelson (San Ramon, Calif.) has been named as the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Libero/Defensive Specialist of the Year as the league office announced its 2019 major awards and All-Conference teams this morning. In addition to his major award, Nelson was placed on the Honorable Mention All-Conference Team, while senior Skyler Kaufman (Needham, Mass.) earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team.
Nelson and Kaufman have led the Engineers, who are receiving votes in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III National Poll, to an overall record of 23-8 and a mark of 5-4 in UVC play. The 23 wins for the team are the most since the 2014 campaign and this duo helped the men's volleyball team to its fourth appearance in the UVC playoffs.
Nelson, who has served as both libero and outside hitter this season, has posted 199 digs thus far this season for an average of 2.55 per set, which ranked second in the UVC and 35th in Division III men's volleyball. Additionally, the junior, in 25 matches, tallied a career-high 138 kills (1.77 per set), hit .245, registered 24 service aces and notched a career-high 16 total blocks (two solo, 14 assists). Nelson had one of his best matches of the season at Rivier University on January 30 as he produced 16 kills (.448) and ten digs to go along with six service aces, which tied the single match program record for most in a four set match as the last student-athlete to accomplish this feat was Bob Aspellagainst Elms College on March 1, 2006.
Kaufman, who was previously a two-time UVC Honorable Mention All-Conference selection, earned his first career nod to the All-UVC Second Team this spring. This season alone, the senior smashed his own single-season program record with a .442 hitting percentage, which also is currently the second-highest in all of Division III and leads the UVC. Kaufman has posted 227 total kills, which is two shy of his career-best, 18 service aces, 43 digs and a career-high 87 total blocks that include a career-high 28 solo blocks and 59 assisted blocks. With more games to play in this weekend's UVC postseason championship tournament, Kaufman will look to move his name up on the all-time lists for career blocks as he sits 3rd in all-time solo blocks (74) and fifth in both assisted blocks (253) and total blocks (327). His 903 career kills also rank tenth all-time in program history.
Nelson and Kaufman will look to help the Engineers to its first-ever UVC tournament win tomorrow. Fifth-seeded MIT is scheduled to play fourth-seeded NYU at Caldwell University in Caldwell, N.J. in the quarterfinal round at 5:00 pm.