Kansas University senior transfer Natalie Uhart was voted Big 12 Conference Preseason Newcomer of the Year and junior Emily Brown was named Preseason All-Big 12, the league office announced Wednesday.
KU was voted to finish seventh by the league's coaches, with Nebraska - last year's national runner-up - picked to win the Big 12.
Uhart, a 6-2 middle blocker, is the second Jayhawk in four years to earn the preseason honor (Paula Caten, 2003). A transfer from Long Beach State, Uhart played three seasons for the 49ers, and was named to the Big West Conference All-Freshman Team in 2003 after leading her squad with 1.04 blocks per game. During her sophomore season, Uhart was plagued with injuries and appeared in 30 games, in which she compiled a .336 attack percentage. The Lansing, Kan., native was named the 2001-02 and 2002-03 Kansas High School Gatorade Player of the Year.
"Natalie brings solid, high-level volleyball experience to Kansas," KU head coach Ray Bechard said. "She is expected to enter into the middle blocker position and be a contributing factor right away."
Brown, a 6-2 right-side hitter/setter, has started all 61 matches of her career at KU and averaged 2.99 kills, 2.20 digs and a team-leading 0.40 services aces in 2005. The Baldwin City, Kan., native totaled double-digit kills on 16 occasions and improved her average to 3.25 kpg in Big 12 matches as a sophomore. The 2004 Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year was also a former Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Kansas.
"Emily has tremendous poise and focus and is skilled at every position," Bechard said. "Her role will be extended even more this season."
Kansas is coming off its third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks, under Bechard, return eight letterwinners, including starters Brown, Jana Correa, Jamie Mathewson, and Savannah Noyes, and welcome eight newcomers to the squad.
2006 Big 12 Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Desiree Guilliard-Young, Baylor
Ashley Nu'u Colorado
Erin Boeve, Iowa State
Emily Brown, Kansas
Jessica Vander Kooi, Missouri
Jordan Larson, Nebraska
Sarah Pavan, Nebraska
Eliane Santos, Oklahoma
Dariam Acevedo, Texas
Leticia Armstrong, Texas
Brandy Magee, Texas
Michelle Moriarty, Texas
Christi Hahn, Texas A&M;
Player of the Year: Sarah Pavan, Nebraska
Newcomer of the Year: Natalie Uhart, Kansas
Freshman of the Year: Ashley Engle, Texas
2006 Big 12 Preseason Coaches' Poll
4. Kansas State
5. Texas A&M;
8. Iowa State
11. Texas Tech