“It’s hard for me because the reason why I coach is the kids. For me to suggest one of our kids should have gotten something means that I’m suggesting someone else’s shouldn’t have. That’s not what I want to indicate. But it is very, very — the word for today is going to be ‘puzzling.’ It is puzzling. I’m puzzled, I really am.
“That’s what makes the coach of the year award so special. And that’s exactly what I’m going to explain to our kids. That is OUR award. That is the only award where everybody gets recognized, and I’m going to choose to say the voters believed we’re such a great team that it’s our team effort that caused us to do all the great things we did, not because of individual players.”
Welch is fifth in the league in steals (2.1) and ninth in assists. She’s the fourth Raider to be picked to the first team in the last seven seasons, joining four-time selection Kim Demmings, Ivory James and Tay’ler Mingo.
“She’s a very versatile kid. She can score in a plethora of ways,” Merriweather said. “She does not get enough attention for her defensive effort. This kid guards the post, stops the ball in transition, gets deflections and anticipates well. She’s a very, very complete player on both ends of the floor.”
Merriweather was an assistant under the successful Mike Bradbury and helped the Raiders overcome a slew of early injuries to finish 23-7 overall and tied with Green Bay at 15-3 in the league.
After a 4-4 start, they won 18 of their next 19 games. Their 15 league wins are three more than the previous high for the program.
“I really love (being coach of the year) because it’s the one award that recognizes everyone around you — players, staff, support staff, administration. That makes me really happy,” she said.
Green Bay’s Mehryn Kraker was named player of the year. The other first-team selections were Detroit’s Rosanna Reynolds, Cleveland State’s Ashanti Abshaw and Oakland’s Hannah Little, who also was named defensive player of the year.
Youngstown State’s Mary Dunn was named freshman of the year and Oakland’s Taylor Jones the sixth player of the year.