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UH gets sisters of stars from football, volleyball

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Little sister is also watching. Just ask Josh Taylor and Jeremy Higgins.

Their little sisters, high school sophomores Nikki Taylor and Tayler Higgins, have orally committed to the University of Hawaii volleyball team.

They will join the Rainbow Wahine in the fall of 2013.

Nikki is a 6-foot-3 hitter at Kaiser High School, whose brother was the 2010 boys volleyball state player of the year at Punahou.

Tayler is a 5-10 setter at Punahou whose brother was a second-team all-state quarterback at Saint Louis.

The Higgins ohana will be reuniting in Manoa. Jeremy announced he was transferring to UH from Utah State earlier this month.

"I decided to go there before he did," Tayler insisted. "He just happened to tell everyone before I did. It worked out weird."

Carly Kan, Tayler Higgins’ sophomore teammate and best friend, has committed to the University of Missouri. The 5-9 hitter/libero/setter will play libero this summer for USA Volleyball’s High Performance Youth A2 team. Her father Darryl was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.

Both Taylor and Higgins have had the Wahine on their minds since they started in volleyball. That made the sport’s trend of recruiting players early easier to navigate. They cannot sign a letter of intent until November 2012.

"I grew up here," said Taylor, who also was talking to UCLA and Nebraska. "I have a brother who played volleyball practically his whole life. I was always asked at his practices if I was going to UH and I always said, ‘Yes, yes, of course.’ Ever since I was 10, I wanted to play for (UH coach) Dave Shoji."

Higgins was just as adamant.

"I always kind of knew I wanted to go there," she said. "No other place is better. The history and the coaching staff … it’s amazing there. You can’t really get that anywhere else."

Taylor is a terminator, still growing comfortable with the long limbs attached to a frame projected to grow at least another inch. Her brother, a member of the Junior National team headed to Pepperdine, is 6-8. She is in her third year with the club team ‘Ime ‘Iki, coached by Wahine associates Kari Ambrozich and Scott Wong, and lifted the Cougars to a third-place finish in last fall’s state tournament.

"At the high school level she hits the ball at a different contact point than anybody else," said Punahou coach Peter Balding, whose team struggled against Taylor in the state semifinals. "She has long arms. Her jump is not great, but she jumps well enough that it takes her contact point even higher.

"Nikki has the ability to hit some different angles with power. She is a pretty young player, it’s a little scary. In her freshman year she was like a young giraffe that hadn’t grown into her legs and body yet. This past year she started to find it."

Taylor, focused now on "becoming a six-rotation player," and Kan were members of the Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15.

Higgins played behind senior setter Ali Santi — headed to Georgia Tech —and also hit. Her club career as a setter, with Jammers and now Ku‘ikahi, is stellar and she has been captain of nearly every team. Balding said he was stunned when he met her as a freshman and she was already analyzing her collegiate options.

Shoji’s former volunteer assistant calls Higgins "a really natural and gifted leader" and a "hitter in a setter’s body" who is willing to take risks to give her hitters good options.

"Given how good she is now and the potential for growth the next two years …that’s what is so marketable for a kid like her," Balding said. "Those are the exciting qualities Dave was able to recognize early on."

Higgins’ choice helped Taylor with her decision.

"A hitter is only as good as her setter," she said, "and Tayler is a prime setter."

Punahou junior Tai Manu-Olevao also has orally committed to Hawaii, for 2012. The Wahine have at least five freshmen coming in this fall.

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