RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician University sophomore Sierra Gallagher (Honolulu, Hawaii/Kamehameha) has been named the 2019 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Women's Volleyball Defensive Player of the Year, according to balloting by the league's 14 head coaches released on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Felician sixth-year head coach John Chang of Cranford was announced as the 2019 CACC Coach of the Year, as voted upon by the conference's sports information directors.
Gallagher, a 5-foot-5 libero, is the first Felician student-athlete to win a major CACC postseason award in the sport of women's volleyball in the 16 years the Golden Falcons have sponsored the sport.
"Sierra is a silent killer," Chang said. "We're at the point where we just expect her to pick up balls that we know very few others can. She saves an amazing amount of points and gives our team an opportunity to create points. It's always exciting to work with her because she's humble and a great teammate."
Gallagher was named the CACC Defensive Player of the Week six times this season, including five consecutively. Her 625 digs in 2019 are a Felician record, as were her 38 during a 3-1 victory at Nyack College on Oct. 10. She leads the CACC and is among the top 20 nationally in NCAA Division II with 5.73 digs per set.
In just two years, Gallagher already ranks among Felician's all-time top 10 in digs (3rd, 1021), aces (6th, 76), and assists (8th, 459). She earned her 1,000th career dig during Tuesday night's CACC quarterfinal victory over Wilmington (Del.) University.
"This means a lot to me," said Gallagher, who was recruited by Chang out of the Maunalani Volleyball Club. "I never made my high school's varsity team and was told that no one who got cut from that team would play in college. So there was a time when I wondered if my hard work would ever pay off, but I believe that everything happens for a reason."
While the Coach of the Year award is a first for the Felician program, it is not for Chang personally. He was named the Skyline Conference Coach of the Year in 2007 after a 22-8 season at Division III Polytechnic University. This season, Chang and the Golden Falcons enjoyed an historic campaign, setting school records for overall (16) and conference (13) victories.
Felician's North Division regular-season championship this season came after having never finished higher than fourth in the division. From late September to late October, the Golden Falcons fashioned a 10-match winning streak, more than doubling the previous program record.
"It's a great feeling to know that enough SIDs thought I deserved this award," Chang said. "It's an honor. But no one does this alone. (Felician director of athletics) J.R. DiNallo had the confidence to hire me and stick with me, and our program gets great support from the athletics department. Our assistant coaches have contributed a great deal in forming the skill level of this team and bringing cohesiveness. P.J. Ernst has been here with me all six years, and none of this happens without him."
Chang owns 91 victories in nine seasons as an NCAA women's coach, including a school-record 45 with Felician. He will lead the Golden Falcons into their first CACC semifinal appearance on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pa.
The complete 2019 All-CACC Women's Volleyball Teams and special award winners can be viewed at https://caccathletics.org/sports/wvball/2019-20/releases/1119POY.
Felician University engages more than 2,400 undergraduate, graduate, and adult students through programs in Arts & Sciences, Business, Nursing, and Education. Universal Franciscan values of respect, social justice, and compassion form an inclusive foundation for transforming the lives of tomorrow's leaders. Felician University was ranked 3rd-best return on investment for private colleges in New Jersey in 2018 by the PayScale.com College ROI Report and is ranked the No. 1 safest college campus in the state by niche.com. Felician University also sponsors 14 varsity intercollegiate sports that compete at the NCAA Division II level. To learn more about Felician University please visit www.felician.edu.