LAS VEGAS » When third-ranked Hawaii embarks on what could be its next-to-last Western Athletic Conference volleyball tournament tomorrow at the Orleans Arena, it will roll out the league’s best player, coach and freshman. Four more of the WAC’s premier players will be with them.
That’s if you listen to the other WAC coaches, who honored all seven Rainbow Wahine starters at last night’s annual banquet. It was not all that surprising. UH (27-1) did not lose a set during the conference season.
"That doesn’t happen very often," said Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan, who was speaking of Hawaii’s 59-set winning streak, but could just as easily have been talking about the Wahine’s all-conference dominance.
"They don’t make many errors. They execute at a high level. … They’re going to make it far, I think. They are steadier this year. They’re not up and down."
And they have two-time All-American Kanani Danielson, who repeated as WAC player of the year. A Wahine has won the award all 15 years Hawaii has been a WAC member. Danielson is 10th in the country in kills, averaging nearly 4.5 a set, but coaches notice her every time she touches the ball.
"Kanani does a lot for them," Buchanan said. "She passes nails, she swings, she’s that kid who will take half the court. I don’t think they’ve had players as solid as she is. Maybe I’m wrong, but she passes and does everything."
She won’t get an argument from Hawaii’s Dave Shoji, the 2009 national coach of the year who earned his eighth WAC coaching honor yesterday.
"I don’t think there is as complete a player maybe even in the country than Kanani," Shoji said. "It was pretty obvious she was the best player in this conference. She makes everything look easy. Even her serve is much improved."
Emily Hartong became the Wahine’s eighth WAC freshman of the year, and third in a row after Danielson and Brittany Hewitt. Hartong might have earned the honor with her sheer athleticism.
Hewitt, seniors Dani Mafua and Elizabeth Ka’aihue, and junior transfer Chanteal Satele were named All-WAC first team, and Hartong second team. She and Michelle Waber are on the All-Freshman team.
The freshmen have become a force. Waber has hit .410 the last four matches, while Hartong is hitting .365 against conference opponents, second-best in the WAC and just ahead of Hewitt (.364) and Satele (.326).
Those two have taken pressure off Danielson. Hewitt is averaging nearly a kill more than last season and leads the country in blocking by a relatively large margin.
"The games are not long, and she still has amazing blocking numbers," Shoji said. "In the postseason, you’ll see those numbers go up."
Satele, a Word of Life graduate, came home for her last two years. She is right behind Danielson in kills and Hewitt in blocks.
"I wasn’t really sure what to expect," Shoji said. "We knew she was strong and had a good arm, but as the season progressed she has gotten better and better."
The seniors play the low-profile, high-priority positions. Mafua, a two-time honorable mention All-American, is a three-year starter at setter who is fifth in career assists at UH. She has also become the blocker, defender and leader the Wahine so desperately needed. As libero, Ka’aihue passes and digs more balls than anyone else. She could leave as the school’s career dig leader.
"She just seems to be in the right place a lot now," Shoji says. "She is able to read the hitters and is so comfortable in her ability to cover the court. We’ve given her a lot more freedom, not restricted her to take just a certain area."
The WAC tournament opens today, with third seed Utah State taking on sixth-seeded Nevada at 3 p.m. Hawaii time, and fourth-seeded Boise State playing fifth-seeded Idaho at 5:30 p.m. Top-seeded Hawaii gets a bye tonight and plays the Boise-Idaho winner tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. Second-seeded New Mexico State plays the winner of the first match.
» Alexis Forsythe, a backup middle who transferred to UH last year, was wearing a walking cast to protect her left ankle after spraining it last week in practice. UH coach Dave Shoji said she could play this week.
» UH junior Corinne Cascioppo officially announced her retirement from volleyball last week. She transferred here last year with Forsythe and played sparingly. She hasn’t played at all this year, and has barely practiced because of medical issues. Two weeks ago, Shoji said she would not play this season.
2010 WAC VOLLEYBALL POSTSEASON AWARD WINNERS
|Team||Pos.||Yr.||Hometown (Previous School)|
|Lindsay Baldwin*o||Nevada||MB||Sr.||Hillsborough, Calif.||(Notre Dame Belmont)|
|Kelsey Brennan||NMSU||MH||Jr.||Snohomish, Wash. (Monroe)|
|Kanani Danielson*o||Hawaii||OH||Jr.||Ewa Beach (Kamehameha Schools)|
|Jennah DeVrieso||NMSU||S||Jr.||Denver (Douglas County)|
|Kayleigh Giddenso||NMSU||OH||Sr.||Lubbock, Texas (Frank Phillips JC)|
|Brittany Hewittoo||Hawaii||MB||So.||Eagle, Idaho (Eagle)|
|Elizabeth Ka’aihueoo||Hawaii||L||Sr.||Kailua (Punahou School)|
|Dani Mafua**o||Hawaii||S||Sr.||Kapolei (Mid-Pacific Institute)|
|Liz McArthuroo||Utah State||OH||Jr.||St. George, Utah (Snow Canyon)|
|Chanteal Satele||Hawaii||OH||Jr.||Mililani (Saint Mary’s College)|
|Allison Walker||Idaho||OH||Fr.||Othello, Wash. (Othello)|
|Alisha Youngoo||Boise State||MB||Sr.||American Fork, Utah (American Fork)|
|Team||Pos.||Yr.||Hometown (Previous School)|
|Katie Astle||Utah State||MB||Sr.||Sandy, Utah (Skyline)|
|Marissa Brand||Fresno State||OH||So.||Cypress, Calif. (Cypress)|
|Brianna Clarkeoo||Fresno State||MB||Jr.||Clovis, Calif. (Buchanan)|
|Shantell Durrant||Utah State||MB||Sr.||American Fork, Utah (Washington)|
|Erin Garvey||Nevada||OH||Jr.||Argyle, Texas (John H. Guyer)|
|Kylie Harrington**o||Nevada||OH||Sr.||Honolulu (Saint Francis)|
|Emily Hartong||Hawaii||MB||Fr.||Los Alamitos, Calif. (Los Alamitos)|
|Sadie Maughan**oo||Boise State||MB||Sr.||Murray, Utah (Murray)|
|Christine Morrill**||Utah State||L||Sr.||Neola, Utah (Union)|
|Breann Nesselhufoo||Boise State||S||Jr.||Swink, Colo. (Washington State)|
|Kelsey Taylor||Idaho||MB||Sr.||Moscow, Idaho (Moscow)|
|Whitney Woodso||NMSU||OH||Sr.||Midland, Texas (Midland)|
|Team||Pos.||Hometown (Previous School)|
|Grace Anxo||Nevada||OH||Reno, Nev. (Bishop Manogue)|
|Hanah Blume||San Jose State||OH||Sonora, Calif. (Sonora)|
|Rocio Gutierrez||NMSU||OH||El Paso, Texas (Franklin)|
|Emily Hartong||Hawaii||MB||Los Alamitos, Calif. (Los Alamitos)|
|Michelle Waber||Hawaii||OH||Lake Elsinore, Calif. (Elsinore)|
|Allison Walker||Idaho||OH||Othello, Wash. (Othello)|
WAC Player of the Year: Kanani Danielson, Hawaii
WAC Freshman of the Year: Emily Hartong, Hawaii
WAC Coach of the Year: Dave Shoji, Hawaii
*2008 first team selection; **2008 second team selection
o2009 first team selection; oo2009 second team selection