Friday’s much-anticipated matchup between two Pan American Cup volleyball teammates evaporated Tuesday when it was announced that Hawaii senior All-American Nikki Taylor would be out for the season-opening tournament due to injury.
Taylor, who missed the first seven matches of 2014 with an injured right elbow, hurt her left elbow late in Saturday’s Green-White scrimmage. The Kaiser High graduate was evaluated by a physician Tuesday morning.
Her status is week-to-week, meaning she won’t be available for this week’s Chevron Invitational, including Friday’s match against No. 4 Wisconsin and her Pan American Cup teammate, Badgers senior setter Lauren Carlini.
“I’m OK,” Taylor said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s an injury I don’t want to go through again and don’t wish on anyone.
“But I know what the pain is, I know how to manage it, I know what I can and can’t do. I know how to deal with it.”
Taylor’s injury means junior setter Kendra Koelsch will move to opposite. Koelsch played some opposite in high school and club, and has been taking reps the past two days.
“I’m super excited about the opportunity and it’s pretty cool that they trust me,” Koelsch said. “I just want to be the best all-around player I can be.
“We’ll definitely miss Nikki. I’ll be getting some coaching from her, she’ll be helping me out.”
The reigning Big West Player of the Year, Taylor is the second Rainbow Wahine who will miss Friday’s opener; senior middle Annie Mitchem broke her left pinkie during the first day of practice on Aug. 9 and is out for at least another month.
“Next man up has been the theme of camp so far,” UH associate head coach Jeff Hall said. “Kendra has shown she’s a capable attacker and it’s a pretty cool opportunity for her to get to play. I know she’s excited about that.
“Nikki and I know each other so well from both indoor and beach. Yes, no coach expects to lose their top point-scorer for opening weekend. But it’s not about me, not about the program. It’s about her and I’m just bummed for her.”
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji was scheduled to return from the Rio Olympics last night and was not available for comment.
Taylor and Carlini were among espnW.com’s “12 to Watch” in women’s volleyball named Tuesday. Also on the list is Arizona senior hitter Kalei Mau (Kaiser), whose Wildcats are also part of this week’s Chevron Invitational.