Haddad, Argabright, Hardin rewarded for regular season feats

Haddad, Argabright, Hardin rewarded for regular season feats

CHAMPAIGN – When Don Hardin recruited Shadia Haddad, it was her powerful swing that attracted the Illinois volleyball coach.

Four years later, it is her digging and blocking that''s getting the most notice.

The Illini senior outside hitter, who once cringed at the thought of diving to the floor to dig a ball, on Monday was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Shadia was recruited largely because of her offense, Hardin said. But her liability was her defense, and to have her become defensive player of the year in a conference that''s known for its tough defense is just a dream come true.

That''s what you hope to see players achieve.

Haddad was far from alone on her team in reaping recognition from the conference. Hardin was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and sophomore middle blocker Lisa Argabright joined Haddad on the 12-player All-Big Ten team.

Hardin, the first Illini coach to receive the league award since Mike Hebert in 1988, guided Illinois to a 20-8 record and a share of fourth place at 13-7. A year ago, an injury-besieged Illinois team limped to a 13-18 finish, including 4-16 in the Big Ten.

I''m sure it''s a recognition for how things have turned around from last year, the sixth-year UI coach said, and that really is a tribute to the attitude of the people who were involved in those injuries and how they came back from them and their dedication in the offseason.

That''s why I got the award, because of their tremendous perseverance.

Haddad led the Big Ten in digs per game (3.47). No other league player averaged as many as three. She also led Illinois in solo blocks with 29.

It''s a big source of pride for me just because of where I started off my freshman year, Haddad said of her Big Ten award. No one would have ever thought, I would never have even thought (it was possible). Defensive player wasn''t even in the back of my mind.

Argabright emerged as a force this year in her first season as a starter. The 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore ranked fourth in the Big Ten in blocking average (1.36) and seventh in attack percentage (.353). She led the Illini in kills (343) and kills average (3.54) a year after totaling 16 kills.