UTRGV’s Knudsen named WAC Player of the Year

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The Western Athletic Conference announced on Wednesday that UTRGV senior outside hitter Ragni Steen Knudsen is the WAC Volleyball Player of the Year and a member of the All-WAC First Team, while senior middle blocker Alexandra Ecker and junior right side Barbara Silva are part of the All-WAC Second Team, as voted on by the WAC’s head coaches.

A four-time WAC Offensive Player of the Week, Knudsen led the WAC in kills (4.27) and points (4.79) per set and ranked ninth in hitting percentage (.259) during WAC play. She also averaged 2.74 digs, 0.47 blocks and 0.27 aces per set and posted eight double-doubles during WAC play.

Overall, Knudsen is averaging 3.94 kills, 2.67 digs, 0.37 blocks and 0.21 aces per set.

She is the first player in program history to record three seasons of at least 400 kills with 402 this season, 421 last season and 471 in 2016. Knudsen ranks fourth in NCAA Division I program history and 49th in the NCAA among active players in kills with 1,294. She holds the record for kills per set at 3.70 and is tied for seventh in hitting percentage at .236.

“She’s been tremendous all season long and in WAC play,” UTRGV head coach Todd Lowery said. “She’s been so steady for us. Every time we need a big point, she’s able to go out and get it for us. If we start to lose a little momentum, she’s able to string a couple of kills together or start a big serving run. She’s really developed defensively and become a complete player this year. In my humble opinion, she is the best player in the WAC and has been all year long.”

Ecker ranked sixth in the WAC during WAC play with a .306 hitting percentage and an average of 1.13 blocks per set. She also averaged 1.27 kills and 1.08 digs per set and earned a WAC Defensive Player of the Week award.

Overall, Ecker is averaging 1.55 kills on .337 hitting, 0.93 digs and 1.00 blocks per set.

She is the NCAA Division I program record-holder in total blocks with 418 and block assists with 379.

“Alex is just Alex. Every single day she comes to work. I can’t say enough about her,” Lowery said. “She was recruited by the last staff to play outside. We asked her to play in the middle and she just said, ‘okay.’

Silva averaged 2.72 kills on .227 hitting, 1.33 digs and 0.60 blocks per set during WAC play. Overall, she is averaging 3.11 kills on .239 hitting, 1.74 digs and 0.61 blocks per set.

“Barbara started off great, had a little lull in the middle of the season, and has really found her rhythm again,” Lowery said. “She fits into the system we’re playing now. We expect great things out of her at the WAC tournament.”

UTRGV, on an eight-match winning streak and ranked a program-record 69th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), enters the WAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning the WAC Championship with a 13-3 conference record. UTRGV will face either No. 4 seed Utah Valley or No. 5 seed and host CSU Bakersfield at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The winner will play for the WAC championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament at 9 p.m. Saturday.