After sweeping the first regular season in American Athletic Conference history, No. 1 UConn received a slew of league awards Thursday.
Four Huskies, seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley and sophomores Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart, were named the AAC’s first team Thursday by the league coaches.
Dolson, who became just the fifth player in program history with 1,000 rebounds, was also chosen as the AAC’s defensive player of the year and shared its 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 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 Kiahh 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 he won 10 times in the Big East.
It’s just the second time in program history that the Huskies have placed four players on an all-league team. Sue Bird, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi were All-Big East in 2001-02.
Stewart, expected to be named the AAC’s player of the year, was also its 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, hjas scored at least 20 points in 16 games this season and is averaging 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks n the last seven.
“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 also has 130 assists and has played solid defense. This season, she joined Maya Moore as the only two 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), even more impressive considering she has taken 63 three-point shots. She has committed only 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 also on the preseason team, but Mosqueda-Lewis’ season was greatly 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 greatest indication of how much improvement she made during her career. Not only was she the focal point of UConn’s offense because of her tremendous 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.”