Merry Gebel Named NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee
Western Carolina volleyball student-athlete alum Merry Gebel has been named WCU's nominee for the 2023 NCAA Woman of the Year award. Gebel was one of two nominees chosen to represent the Southern Conference as she is joined by ETSU women's tennis player Laylo Bakhodirova.
Since 1991, the NCAA Woman of the Year program has recognized graduating female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service, and leadership throughout their college careers.
Gebel became the first player in WCU program history to earn AVCA All-America status after becoming just the second Catamount in the program's history to earn SoCon Player of the Year honors in 2022. She added AVCA All-Southeast Region honors to her litany of awards. The Wildwood, Mo., product earned her fourth All-SoCon plaudit with a first-team honor in 2022, while also landing on the conference's all-tournament team at the end of the year. Gebel finished her five-year career second all-time in program history with 1,693 kills and ranks fifth in the record book with 1,461 digs on the defensive end. She closed her time in Cullowhee by setting the program record with 507 total sets played.
Gebel led Western Carolina during the 2022 regular season with 340 kills and 3.37 kills per set, the fifth-best seasonal average in the SoCon in garnering the conference's top player award.
In the league opener against Samford on Sept. 20, she recorded a team-best 20 kills and has finished in double figures offensively in 22 of 28 matches played this season. Gebel was twice tabbed as the league's Offensive Player of the Week, collecting honors on Aug. 29 and Sept. 26, and earned a spot on the season-opening Wake Forest Invitational All-Tournament Team. A strong performer in the classroom, Gebel was also honored following the 2022 season with College Sports Communicators (CSC) Academic All-District honors for the second time in her career. She was named to both the Fall Academic All-Southern Conference team and the SoCon's Academic Honor Roll four times, equalling that total in receiving the Commissioner's Medal for boasting a GPA over 3.8 each year. She appeared on the WCU Dean's List seven times over her five-year career and was on the Chancellor's List a total of six times.
Gebel additionally served two terms as the president of WCU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where she helped spearhead community involvement for Catamount student-athletes including the inaugural "Back the Cats" initiative won by the women's golf team in 2022-23. Among her community service efforts were team-led volunteering with the Jackson County Christmas Connection and through her family's fundraising charity, The Snow Foundation, which raises money to support research for Wolfram Syndrome.
NCAA member schools have nominated a record 619 female college athletes for the award this year. The nominees represent all three NCAA divisions, including 264 nominees from Division I, 128 from Division II, and 227 from Division III. Nominees competed in 24 sports, with the top sports represented including outdoor and indoor track & field along with basketball, volleyball and softball.
Conference offices select up to two nominees each from their pool of member school nominees. Then, the Woman of the Year selection committee made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each NCAA division. From the Top 30, the Woman of the Year selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division and announce the nine finalists in November. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then will choose the 2023 NCAA Woman of the Year at the Woman of the Year Award Ceremony in Phoenix in January.