The University of Hawai’i, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara received top honors with the announcement of the 2012 Big West Conference women’s volleyball annual awards. The Rainbow Wahine are represented by Big West Volleyball Player of the Year Emily Hartong and Big West Co-Coach of the Year Dave Shoji, while 49ers skipper Brian Gimmillaro was named Big West Co-Coach of the Year and Gaucho Taylor Formico collected Big West Freshman of the Year accolades.
Hartong, a 6-foot 2-inch outside hitter, helped the Rainbow Wahine capture the 2012 Big West Conference Championship with a perfect 18-0 mark by pacing the league with a 4.57 kill average and 5.22 points per set average, while ranking seventh in hitting percentage with a .283 clip. Her impressive kill average places her among the Top 15 in the country as well. Over the course of the season the Los Alamitos, Calif., native collected four Big West Player of the Week awards. A career-best 33-kill performance on October 26 against Long Beach State also earned her national recognition with a Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week selection. It was Hawai’i’s seventh overall and the first since Jamie Houston won it for the week of Oct. 6, 2006. With this year’s honor, Hartong becomes Hawai’i’s sixth Big West Player of the Year recipient.
In her first season donning the blue and gold, Formico has made an immediate impact, not just in the Big West, but in the nation. Hailing from Mountain View, Calif., the 5-foot 7-inch libero notched 792 digs during her freshman campaign, shattering the Big West record of 652 scoops set by former Gaucho Chelsey Lowe in 2011. With this accomplishment, UC Santa Barbara now owns the top four spots in the Big West annals. On the national front, Formico concluded the regular season with the country’s highest dig total, while ranking eighth in digs per set average (5.87). The diaper dandy is one of only five athletes to eclipse 700 digs this season.
The Rainbow Wahine, led by coach Shoji, continued where they left off in 1995 and constructed a perfect 18-0 conference record en route to collecting their sixth conference title. Hawai’i became the first Big West team to run the table since UC Santa Barbara in 2002. Along with an unblemished conference mark, Hawai’i tallied an impressive 26-2 overall record, falling to just two ranked opponents. The Rainbow Wahine stellar season earned Shoji Big West Co-Coach of the Year honors, the fourth of his career.
Gimmillaro and the 49ers battled adversity throughout the 2012 season. Despite losing four starters to injury over the course of the year, including two-time All-Big West First Team member Haleigh Hampton, who injured her shoulder prior to the start of the season, Long Beach State produced a 13-5 mark to finish second in the conference. Under the guidance of Gimmillaro, the 49ers closed out the year with a seven-match win streak to post an overall mark of 18-11. This is Gimmillaro’s first coach of the year honor since 2005, and eighth in his career.
Eight teams were represented on the first team with Big West Champion Hawai’i leading the pack with four selections and Long Beach State close behind with three nods. Cal State Northridge, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara each received two honors while Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara earned one accolade apiece.
Only a handful of athletes are making a repeat appearance on the first team list, which includes Cal State Fullerton’s Kayla Neto, who earned a spot on the All-Big West First Team for the fourth consecutive year. She becomes just the eighth Big West athlete to master this feat. UC Davis’ Allison Whitson is showcased for the third time and Cal State Northridge’s Sydney Gedryn and Casey Hinger picked up their second first-team honor.