The 2016 Big West Conference Champion, University of Hawai’i, collected two of the top three awards, while UC Santa Barbara nabbed the final honor. Rainbow Wahine senior Nikki Taylor was named Big West Player of the Year and Big West Coach of the Year was awarded to Hawai’i’s Dave Shoji. Grabbing the final award was UC Santa Barbara’s Lindsey Ruddins, who was named Big West Freshman of the Year.
The senior from Honolulu, Hawai’i, earned her second consecutive Big West Player of the Year award after pacing the Big West in three categories - kills per set (4.59), service aces per set (.65) and points per set (5.9) - and guiding the Rainbow Wahine to their fourth Big West title in five years with a near-perfect 15-1 league record. The last time a player nabbed two straight player of the year honors was in 2012 and 2013 when UH’s Emily Hartong grabbed top honors. Taylor’s impressive service ace average ranks her second in the nation and places her in the Top 10 all-time in the Big West’s record book, while also sitting in the top 15 in both kills and points per set. With the postseason still in front of her, she currently sits in 11th place in Hawai’i’s career kill list with 1,354 total kills.
The 6-foot 4 opposite collected four Big West Player of the Week honors over the course of the season to bump her career total to 10, placing her second all-time in Big West history. She also received an AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week accolade the final week of the regular season after lifting UH to victories over Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara as she averaged 5.29 kills, 2.57 digs, 1.14 service aces and 0.57 blocks per set. Taylor will lead Hawai’i in its 35th NCAA Championship appearance this week as the Rainbow Wahine travel to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on USC in first round action with a possible second round showdown with No. 2 seeded Minnesota or North Dakota.
Ruddins has made a name for herself in her first season donning the blue and gold. The outside hitter from Laguna Niguel, Calif., sits third in the Big West with a 4.09 kills per set average and second in points per set with a 4.69 mark. She also sported a team-best .31 service ace average while posting eight double-doubles. She registered season-highs in both kills (27) and digs (15) in a 3-1 victory over Cal State Fullerton on November 11 for her final double-double of 2016. Over the course of the season, Ruddins collected five Big West Freshman of the Week awards for her efforts on the court. Ruddins is the first Gaucho to earn freshman of the year since Taylor Formico did so in 2012.
Leading the Rainbow Wahine to their fourth Big West title in five years, and eighth overall, with a near-perfect 15-1 mark earned Shoji his sixth Big West Coach of the Year accolade. With the conference title, Hawai’i grabbed the conference’s automatic bid to the their 35th overall and 24th consecutive NCAA DI Women’s Volleyball Championship. The Rainbow Wahine, who lead the conference and rank in the nation’s top 20 in three statistical categories, enter the postseason riding a 17-1 win streak. In the final week of the regular season, Shoji collected his 1,200th career victory. He became just the second NCAA DI women’s volleyball coach to hit the 1,200 win milestone. Shoji, who is in his 42nd year at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine program, now has a career record of 1,201-203-1. He is right behind Penn State’s Russ Rose who notched his 1,200th career win earlier this season. Rose currently has a 1,208-195 career record. This is Shoji’s fifth Big West Coach of the Year honor.
Seven teams were represented on the first team with Hawai’i leading the way with five selections apiece. Long Beach State and Cal Poly nabbed three nods each, UC Irvine collected two and CSUN, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara each picked up one selection.
Taylor also received her fourth All-Big West First Team honor to become just the 10th player in conference history to master that feat. Her teammate Emily Maglio, along with Cal Poly’s Raeann Greisen, Taylor Gruenewald and Taylor Nelson, Long Beach State’s Nele Barber and UC Irvine’s Harlee Kekauoha, each picked up their second first-team accolade.