As disappointing as it was for Hawaii not to reach the final four as a team, it was more disappointing to coach Dave Shoji that his two all-region players did not receive higher recognition on the AVCA All-America team announced on Wednesday.
Although junior opposite Nikki Taylor was named to the second team and senior middle Olivia Magill to the third team, “it’s an absolute joke,” said Shoji, who also tweeted his displeasure. “Clearly the committee did not consider players outside the top five conferences very seriously. Disrespected by the NCAA and now by the AVCA.
“Both players had great seasons and deserved to be recognized, but Nikki should have been first team. There are not 14 better volleyball players in the country than her. You look at the numbers from other (NCAA) tournament teams like Florida and UCLA, and Nikki’s numbers were phenomenal, including the three wins we had in the tournament.
“And Magill … in my opinion she’s in the upper echelon of middle blockers. I think the committee doesn’t have respect for our team and our conference. The only way it’s going to change is to change the (selection) committee.”
Of the 14-member second team, Taylor was the only player from a non-Power Five conference. Magill was one of four on the 14-member third team. BYU senior hitter hitter Alexa Gray was the only one on the 14-member first team, becoming the first three-time All-American in Cougar program history.
With the selection of the two, Hawaii now has 56 AVCA All-America certificates honoring 29 individual players. Hawaii also has 13 AIAW All-American awards honoring nine athletes from 1974-80, the seasons prior to the NCAA sponsorship of the sport.
The pair are the first Wahine honored since Emily Hartong’s second first-team selection in 2013. It also is the first time since 2011 that at least two Hawaii players were name; Kanani Danielson was first team and Hartong second team.
“Being first team was something I was working for all season,” said Taylor, a two-time All-American in beach volleyball. “I’m a little confused but I understand the politics of it.
“Second team is still huge and I’m really honored and humbled by it. First team is what I want and it gives me something to work for next season.”
Taylor, the Big West player of the year, ranks in the top 45 nationally in five categories (fifth in points average, 16th in kill average, 20th in total points, 38th in total aces and 45 in total kills. The Kaiser High product finished the year with team highs of 468 kills — nine shy of 1,000 for her career — 44 aces and 575.5 points.
This season, the 6-foot-4 Taylor tied Danielson and Angelica Ljungqvist for most conference player of the week honors, being named five times, including three straight to open the season. She also received AVCA/Sports Imports and ESPNW National Player of the Week awards the week of September 14, a performance that including a career-best 27 kills in the five-set win over then-No. 2 Florida.
Magill, one of just two Rainbow Wahine to start all 31 matches, was ranked in the top 16 nationally in block average (15th, 1.44 bps) and hitting percentage (16th, .412). The transfer from Arizona led the Big West in total blocks (153) and hitting percentage, and was second to Taylor on the team in kills (281) and points (366.5).
“I gave it my all,” said the Shoreline, Wash., native. “Where I’m disappointed is I don’t feel I had the senior year I had hoped for. From Arizona to here I do feel that I improved and have proved something to those who doubted my abilities.
“It all went by so fast and it was bittersweet. Everyone’s goal was to end the season with a win.”
Hawaii (29-2, 16-0 Big West) reached the regional final for the first time since 2009, also the last time the Rainbow Wahine advanced to the final four. It was the first time since Long Beach State in 2001 that a Big West team made the elite eight; Hawaii had done so in 2002, ’03, ’06, ’08 and ’09 as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, with final four appearances in ’02, ’03 and ’09.
Also named to the second team was Texas A&M junior middle Jazzmin Babers, the daughter of former Wahine Sue Hemenway Babers and former Warrior Dino Babers.