FRISCO, Texas — Central Arkansas graduate student Jessica Hays has been named the Southland Conference Volleyball Student-Athlete of the Year, the conference announced Thursday in conjunction with the release of the all-academic volleyball teams. 

Hays, a Friendswood, Texas, native, is a three-time Southland all-academic selection and led Central Arkansas to its first NCAA Tournament berth in school history. Hays earned all-academic team honors in 2009 and 2010 and was tabbed freshman of the year in the 2008 season.

The Sugar Bear outside hitter is majoring in nutrition with a 3.43 grade-point average and claimed MVP honors at the Southland Conference tournament in November. Hays helped UCA to a school-record 30-win season while leading the conference in kills per set (4.34) and aces per set (0.43).

Sugar Bear sophomore Alicia Dittrich, from Houston, Texas, who sports a 3.88 GPA, also made the first team. She does not list a major.

Stephen F. Austin led all teams with three first-team all-academic selections. Sam Houston State had three all-academic selections with two first-team members, including Deveney Wells-Gibson, the 2012 conference player of the year, and teammate Kendall Cleveland. Tayler Gray represented the second-team for the Bearkats. Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts both collected two first-team spots. Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi had two all-academic selections while Lamar and Nicholls State earned one apiece.

Automatic selections include CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and those who received first-team all-conference honors. This year the first-team all-academic squad was filled by automatic selections, leaving the second-team to be determined by vote.

The remaining nine positions automatic bids belonged to first-team all-conference members. Hays and Alicia Dittrich represented Central Arkansas. Northwestern State sophomore Keelie Arneson, Oral Roberts junior Bruna Silva, Sam Houston State senior Kendall Cleveland and sophomore Wells-Gibson, Southeastern Louisiana senior Courtney Donald, SFA sophomore Jill Ivy and A&M-Corpus Christi graduate student Shannon Hullum also represented the first team.

Four members are returning all-academic selections and five sophomores made the teams.

UCA’s Hays and SFA’s Burns and Hanlan led all players with their third appearance on the all-academic teams. A&M-Corpus Christi’s Logen Borque made her second appearance on the squad. 

Among the 18 players selected for academic recognition, 15 have GPAs of 3.5 or higher.