POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 1, 2010
Conventional wisdom should dictate that when a volleyball team's kill leader and best player is in the front row, that team would score the most points.
Because to measure the value of All-American Kanani Danielson to No. 5 Hawaii is to recognize that the Rainbow Wahine consistently have their best scoring rotations when the junior All-American is in the back row — everywhere in the back row. Danielson is a threat as a server, a back-row attacker, a setter and a defensive specialist.
Take last night's 25-18, 25-10, 25-23, 94-minute sweep of New Mexico State at the Stan Sheriff Center. Danielson led the team in kills (11) and aces (three); was second in digs (seven) and blocks (three); and was second only to libero Elizabeth Ka'aihue when being targeted by the Aggies servers with 15 serve-receives.
"I certainly don't want to leave out any of the great Hawaii players who we've seen over the six years we've been in the WAC," Aggies coach Mike Jordan said. "But Kanani is the most dynamic of all their great players, such a complete player.
"We keep trying to serve her, she knows we're coming right at her and she rises to that challenge. And tonight, we know she's going to get set at match point, we have two big blockers up, and — I don't know if you'd call it courage, but I guess you should — she has the courage to take that sharp angle on us. She goes for it. That's priceless.
"I can't wait for cloning."
Danielson, the former state high school high jump champion, simply has no fear. And few flaws in her game, according to Hawaii coach Dave Shoji.
"She is probably the best defensive player in the country," Shoji said of Danielson, who came into the week 11th nationally in kill average (4.54 kps). "With her and Liz (Ka'aihue) back there, it's hard for the other teams to put a ball down.
"It's uncanny how Kanani sees the shot before even the hitter knows where she's going to hit it. She reads the armswing, makes an adjustment. It's really instinct. It's nothing we've taught her. There is no weak part of her game."
Shoji said if there was a weakness, it would be Danielson's serving. Last night, it was a strength, particularly in Set 2.
With Danielson on the service line, the Wahine scored six straight, running out to a 12-4 lead. Two points were on aces, four others on kills by the big front line that Hawaii is able to put up in that rotation: 6-foot-4 Brittany Hewitt, 6-3 Michelle Waber and plays-bigger-than-her-5-10 Chanteal Satele.
"That's a pretty good combination we have up there when she's serving," Shoji said. "Plus (Danielson) can hit out of the back row."
Setter Dani Mafua is in the back row with Danielson for two rotations.
"I call her my little spatula. She's always getting those digs, giving us those boosts in transition," Mafua said. "We don't focus on stats, we focus on our playing, but it's good to hear that we're good when she's in the front and the back."
And it's Danielson's ability to hit from behind the 3-meter line that "keeps you off balance," Jordan said. "Hawaii has the ability to attack from anywhere. You put Kanani in the back row and you still have to worry about her.
"I think they're a national-championship contender. I thought that four weeks ago when we saw them."
|Aggies (15-10, 9-2 WAC)|
|Rainbow Wahine (21-1, 11-0 WAC)|
Key — s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces)
Aces — NMSU. (2): Woods, Phillips. Hawaii (6): Danielson 3, Hewitt, Maeda, Griffiths. Service Errors -- NMSU (9): Giddens 3, Hardy 2, Brennan, DeVries, Woods, Phillips. Hawaii (8): Hewitt 3, Mafua 2, Danielson, Satele, Kaaihue. Assists -- NMSU (27): DeVries 14, Hardy 10, Phillips 2, Miks. Hawaii (39): Mafua 35, Kaaihue 2, Maeda, Forsythe. T -- 1:34. Officials — Eric Asami, Wayne Lee. A — 3,672.
|New Mexico St.||9||2||.818||2||15-10|
|San Jose State||3||8||.273||8||8-17|
|Louisiana Tech||0||9||.000||9 1/2||11-14|
Hawaii def. New Mexico State 25-18, 25-10, 25-23
Louisiana Tech at Hawaii, 7 p.m.