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Danielson repeats as AVCA All-American; Hewitt, Mafua honored

Hawaii junior hitter Kanani Danielson, an "anchor" who buoyed the Rainbow Wahine, was named a first-team All-American for the second year in a row by the American Volleyball Coaches Association yesterday.

UH sophomore middle Brittany Hewitt earned second-team honors and senior setter Dani Mafua received honorable mention for the second consecutive year.

"I think that she’s one of the premier players in the country," UH coach Dave Shoji said of Danielson, a Kamehameha alum. "She might be the best all-around outside hitter. She combines good offensive skills, as well as blocking skills, with a great backcourt combination. Not too many players possess all these skills that she has."

A two-time Western Athletic Conference player of the year, Danielson led the Rainbow Wahine and ranked in the top 10 nationally in kills (4.59 per game) and became the 17th player in Rainbow Wahine history to pass the 1,000-kill milestone.

"She anchors everything," Shoji said. "She has to pass more than her share of the court. She covers more than her share of the court on defense, and she’s asked to carry a heavy, heavy load on the front court. So, she doesn’t get a break; she doesn’t rest; she doesn’t come out of the game … and she usually delivers when we need it."

The 6-foot-3 Hewitt led the country in blocks this season and averaged 2.3 kills per set while hitting .365.

"Brittany continues to improve as a player. She’s still got a lot of upside," Shoji said. "What separates her from other middles is her blocking ability. Our games were short, so she piled up a lot of blocks in a short amount of time on the court.

"I think she’s got some improvement to make. I think she hasn’t hit her potential. I think she’ll have better numbers next year."

Shoji called Mafua, the team’s "quarterback. (She) ran the offense, got better at every skill throughout her career, pretty good blocker, pretty good defender, and a great team leader."

The Rainbow Wahine, whose season included a record sweep of every WAC opponent during the regular season and a stunning loss to Utah State in the WAC championship, were eliminated in the NCAA tournament by Washington. The Huskies advanced to the final eight, upsetting Nebraska along the way.

"Obviously, we didn’t do as well as wanted, but we had a great season," Shoji said. "We’ll be as good or better (next season). We’re very optimistic about our future."

This year’s first-team selections are led by Stanford outside hitter Alix Klineman, the only four-time AVCA All-America honoree. Besides Danielson, other repeat All-Americans are right-side hitter Blare Brown and middle Aerial Wilson of Penn State; and Stanford’s setter/hitter Cassidy Lichtman.

The awards — and the announcement of the Player of the Year — will be presented tomorrow at the AVCA/Players of the Year Banquet in Kansas City, Mo.

Also honored by the AVCA was ‘Iolani grad Kelly Pang, who made the Division III first team.


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