Hawai’i, the 2015 Big West Conference Champion, continued its dominance in the conference’s annual awards as it nabbed two of the three top awards. Junior Nikki Taylor was named Big West Player of the Year and Big West Coach of the Year was awarded to Dave Shoji. Grabbing the final award was Cal Poly’s Adlee Van Winden, who was named Big West Freshman of the Year.
Taylor paced the Big West in three categories - points, kills and service aces - while also ranking among the best in the nation. She averaged 5.46 points per set during the season to grab the fifth spot in the country. The Honolulu, Hawai’i, native also sits 19th in kills per set (4.36) and 21st in service ace average (.43). The 6-foot 4 opposite collected five Big West Player of the Week honors over the course of the season, the highest single-season total since Cal Poly’s Kylie Atherstone garnered six in 2007. She also received AVCA/Sports Imports and ESPNW National Player of the Week awards the week of September 14 following an impressive performance at the Outrigger Resort Volleyball Challenge that included a career-best 27-kill performance against nationally-ranked Florida. With this year’s distinction, Taylor becomes the eighth Rainbow Wahine to capture Big West Player of the Year and the third in four years as UH’s Emily Hartong earned the accolade in both 2012 and 2013. Taylor will lead Hawai’i in its 34th NCAA Tournament this week as the Rainbow Wahine travel to College Station, Texas, to battle a trio of Lone Star State schools in first & second round action.
In her first year season representing the Mustangs, Van Winden has been nothing but explosive at the net. The outside hitter from Napa, Calif., owns a team-best 3.91 kills per set average and 4.3 points per set mark to place fourth in the Big West in both categories. She closed out the year the same way she opened it, with a double-double. In all, she tallied eight double-doubles on the season and on September 12 she was one dig away from recording a 20-kill, 20-dig performance. Along with her player of the year honor, Van Winden captured seven Big West Freshman of the Week accolades. Van Winden is Cal Poly’s first freshman of the year honoree since Kristina Graven received the award in 2010 and fourth overall.
Coach Shoji, capturing his fifth Big West Coach of the Year accolade, guided the Rainbow Wahine to their eighth Big West title with a perfect 16-0 conference mark. Hawai’i became the 10th team to finish the conference season undefeated and the fourth Hawai’i team to master the feat. Along with an unblemished conference mark, Hawai’i tallied an impressive 26-1 overall record, falling to UCLA, who finished the regular season ranked 13th in the nation. The Rainbow Wahine, who earned the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, enter the postseason riding a 21-match win streak, the longest since Hawai’i won 26-straight in 2011. While leading the conference in six statistical categories, Shoji has also guided the Rainbow Wahine to the nation’s best block average of 3.29 and the fifth-best opponent hitting percentage of .142.
Seven teams were represented on the first team with Hawai’i and Cal Poly leading the way with four selections apiece. Long Beach State earned three nods, UC Davis nabbed two and CSUN, UC Irvine and UC Riverside each picked up one selection.
Taylor received her third All-Big West First Team honor, while teammates Olivia Magill and Tai Manu-Olevao, along with UC Davis’ Kaylin Squyres, CSUN’s Cieana Stinson and Long Beach State’s Jenelle Hudson, picked up their second.