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Taylor is sixth Wahine to earn national honor

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    Hawaii’s Nikki Taylor laid down a kill against Eastern Washington on Saturday.

The third time was the charm when it came to national honors for Nikki Taylor on Tuesday.

After being the Big West’s nominee for the Sports Impact/AVCA national volleyball player of the week for three consecutive weeks, the junior hitter for No. 12 Hawaii broke through. The Kaiser High graduate is the sixth Rainbow Wahine player to earn the honor, the first since All-American Emily Hartong on Oct. 29, 2012.

Taylor, the first Hawaii-born player to be selected, joins Wahine All-Americans Heather Bown (1998), Kim Willoughby (twice in 2001, once in 2002), Lily Kahumoku (2002), Jamie Houston (2008) and Hartong.

“Looking at the list … and I played with Emily Hartong … it is a really, really big honor,” said Taylor, who ranks No. 5 nationally in kills per set (4.91) “The award is very humbling. God has presented our team and I with great opportunities and he gave me strength to take advantage of them.

“Volleyball is a sport where one player can’t win a game by themselves, and that showed in our games this weekend. Everyone contributed, and because of that I’m very excited to see how the rest of the season plays out.”

On Monday, Taylor became the first Rainbow Wahine ever to be voted conference Player of the Week for three consecutive weeks. She is only the third player in Big West history to accomplish the feat, joining Pacific’s Dominique Benton-Bozman in 1995 and Long Beach State’s Antoinnette White in 1991.

Taylor also was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Outrigger Resorts Volleyball Challenge with a tournament-high 57 kills, including a career-best 27 in the five-set upset of then-No. 2 Florida. She added 27 digs, 16 blocks and nine aces as Hawaii improved to 8-1.

She averaged 4.75 kills, 2.25 digs, 1.33 blocks and 0.75 service aces per set to help the Rainbow Wahine take down San Diego State, No. 2 Florida and Eastern Washington for the tournament title. She hit .252 over the three matches.

“I thought she should have have gotten it the first week when she got a lot of kills,” Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said of Taylor’s 52-kill performance in the season-opening Chevron Invitational. “It’s neat for her and it highlights that we beat Florida, that we’re 8-1 and it brings a lot of attention to the program.

“She has a chance to be one of the top players ever to come out of the program, but I think I’ll reserve that for when she’s done, because her legacy will be built over the next two years. This year has been a special year for her so far. We hope she can keep it up and stay healthy. The main thing is for the team to keep it up.”

Hawaii concludes the nonconference portion of its season when it hosts CSU Bakersfield on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 5 p.m. Also scheduled for Sunday is the annual alumnae match at 3 p.m.

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