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Arneson wins inaugural Southland Student Athlete of the Year award
Dec 21, 2013 | 171 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Northwestern State junior Keelie Arneson was named Southland Conference Student Athlete of the Year after recording a 3.66 GPA and leading the Demons on the volleyball court. Photo by Gary Hardamon/Northwestern State.
Northwestern State junior Keelie Arneson was named Southland Conference Student Athlete of the Year after recording a 3.66 GPA and leading the Demons on the volleyball court. Photo by Gary Hardamon/Northwestern State.
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After earning countless honors for the 2013 volleyball season, Northwestern State junior Keelie Arneson garners the program's first Southland Conference Student Athlete of the Year award alongside fellow classmates Stacey DiFrancesco and Mackenzie Neely with SLC All-Academic team honors, announced the league office Thursday afternoon.

Arneson boasts a 3.66 GPA while majoring in Hospitality, Management and Tourism and has excelled on the court throughout the past two seasons, making her a well-qualified candidate for the prestigious award.

"This just caps an all-around great season for Keelie and our program," said fourth year co-head coach Hugh Hernesman. "Being recognized as one of the best players in the conference is one thing, but when you add the next layer of being a student-athlete, it just says so much for how far Keelie has come since her arrival.

"She has grown so much and we couldn't be more proud of her. This is a huge honor, and she received this award over some very quality opponents in our conference."

DiFrancesco and Neely hold averages of 3.015 and 3.96, respectively, and major in Family and Consumer Science and Health and Exercise Science.

"We're very excited for and proud of these three," said Hernesman. "As a voter, I was so impressed with all of the nominees, and there were a lot of difficult choices, so for us to get three of our student-athletes recognized is quite an accomplishment."

"They certainly represent our team well and are indicative of how the rest of our program also achieves in the classroom. We've received the AVCA Team Academic Award the past two years, so this just further enhances our academic profile. Our players are not only getting it done on the floor, but also in the classroom."

On the floor, Arneson earned Southland Libero of the Year and a repeat first team All-Conference selection after picking up six Defensive Player of the Week accolades throughout the season, noting fourth in the conference for most weekly honors in a single season. The 5'7 junior snapped her own single-season digs record (618) with 712 this season, and now holds the top three spots in the ledger. Her 1,869 career digs surpass Cathy Herring '04 who held the program record for the past nine seasons with 1,325.

Arneson recorded a 5.70 digs per set average to rank fifth in the nation, as of Nov. 25, and lead the Southland. The Tomball, Texas, native picked up a career-high 42 digs in the regular season finale at Stephen F. Austin, just one dig shy of making it into the NCAA record book. Arneson also earned All-Tournament team honors alongside Southland Freshman of the Year Ashley Elrod.

DiFrancesco also earned a repeat first-team All-Conference selection, noting seven double-doubles on the season.

The 5'10 outside hitter registered season-highs of 16 kills, twice, and dug up 20 attacks. Her 3,602 career attempts stand at third in the program and she ranks fourth in career kills with 1,070.

Neely also made lasting impressions from the right side as she led the team and ranked sixth in the league with .31 service aces per set.

Despite playing injured for most of the season, Neely came up big when it was needed most as she dropped 14 kills twice this season and five service aces over Abilene Christian.

NSU volleyball returns to action in the spring with a series of exhibition matches.
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