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This Week in WAC Volleyball - Aug. 31
Courtesy: Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i sophomore outside hitter Kanani Danielson has been named Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 24-30. This is the first WAC Player of the Week honor of the season for Danielson and the second of her career.

The ‘Ewa Beach, O‘ahu (Kamehameha Schools) native tallied 54 kills, 19 digs and 11 blocks over three matches en route to earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational last week. Danielson averaged a league-best 5.40 kills on .408 hitting as she led Hawai‘i to the tournament title with wins over No. 28 Western Michigan, No. 25 Santa Clara and No. 9 UCLA. Danielson, who led the Rainbow Wahine in kills in all three matches, tied a career high with 22 kills against Santa Clara. She also tied her career high with five blocks against both Santa Clara and Western Michigan. In the final match of the week against UCLA, Danielson hit .414, posting 16 kills in three sets.

Other nominees included: Liz Harden of Boise State tallied 25 kills and 12 digs in three matches and was named to the all-tournament team at the Bronco Invitational … Fresno State’s Lacey Gera was named to the Fresno State Invitational all-tournament team after averaging 3.00 kills and 1.30 digs … Kelsey Taylor of Idaho was named to the Crowne Plaza Titan Classic all-tournament team after hitting .302 and tallying 13 blocks over three matches … Louisiana Tech’s Nataliya Panova was named Lady Techster Invitational MVP after averaging 2.91 kills, 3.09 digs and 0.73 blocks as Tech claimed the tournament title … Lindsay Baldwin of Nevada was named to the Courtyard Marriott/Fairfield Invitational all-tournament team after averaging 2.50 kills, 3.12 points and 1.00 blocks as the Pack went 1-2 … Krista Altermatt of New Mexico State was named MVP of the Mean Green Classic after recording 31 kills and 32 digs in three matches as the Aggies claimed the tournament title … Utah State’s Shantell Durrant was named to the Best Western Canyon Pines Weber State Invitational all-tournament team after she tallied 24 kills and 12 blocks in three matches.

The WAC had 14 of its players named to all-tournament teams in the opening weekend of play, including three MVPs. Kanani Danielson of Hawai‘i,  Louisiana Tech’s Nataliya Panova and Krista Altermatt of New Mexico State were all named MVP of their respective tournaments. Meanwhile,  Liz Harden of Boise State was named to the all-tournament team at the Bronco Invitational and Fresno State’s Lacey Gera and Kelly Mason of were named to the Fresno State Invitational all-tournament team. Hawai‘i’s Aneli Cubi-Otineru and Dani Mafua were named to the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, while Kelsey Taylor of Idaho earned Crowne Plaza Titan Classic all-tournament honors. Bianca Bin and  Lori Hunsucker were named to the Lady Techster Invitational all-tournament team, while Nevada’s Lindsay Baldwin earned a spot on the Courtyard Marriott/Fairfield Invitational all-tournament team. Kayleigh Giddens of New Mexico State earned Mean Green Volleyball Classic all-tournament honors, while Utah State’s Shantell Durrant was named to the Weber State Invitational all-tournament team.

After winning three matches against ranked teams last weekend, Hawai’i moved up three spots to No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA)national poll this week. It’s the highest ranking for the Rainbow Wahine since they were selected No. 4 in the 2005 preseason poll. The last time Hawai’i was ranked higher during the regular season was on Dec. 6, 2004, when the team was No. 2.

Boise State Broncos (0-3, 0-0 WAC)
Head coach Shawn Garus made his debut at Boise State last weekend as the Broncos went 0-3 at the Bronco Invitational, falling to Northern Arizona (25-18, 26-28, 21-25, 22-25), Tulsa (25-22, 10-25, 15-25, 21-25) and Cal State Northridge (16-25, 22-25, 19-25) ... Freshman Liz Harden earned all-tournament team honors after averaging 2.27 kills, 1.09 digs and 0.55 blocks per set ... Amanda Remy recorded her first career double-double against NAU with 11 kills and 16 digs ... Alisha King posted a team-high 14 kills in the loss to the Lumberjacks ... Jeanene Rose had five service aces over 10 sets for a 0.50 average ... The Broncos travel to Portland, Ore., for the Northwest Challenge this weekend where they will face No. 3 Washington, Portland State and Gonzaga.

Fresno State Bulldogs (2-1, 0-0 WAC)
The Bulldogs went 2-1 at the Fresno State Invitational last weekend, sweeping Cal State Bakersfield (25-17, 25-19, 27-25) and Green Bay (27-25, 25-19, 25-20) before falling to Pacific (25-19, 16-25, 19-25, 19-25) ... Lacey Gera and Kelly Mason were named to the all-tournament team. Gera averaged 3.00 kills on .307 hitting, while Mason averaged 3.70 digs per set ... It was the first time since 1979 that the ‘Dogs had swept CSB ... With the win over Green Bay, the Bulldogs opened the season 2-0 for the first time since 2004 ... It was also the first time since 2004 that Fresno State swept two teams back-to-back ... Brianna Clarke leads the WAC with 2.10 blocks per set ... The Bulldogs travel to Laramie, Wyo., for the Cowgirl Invite this weekend, where they will face North Dakota, Montana State and Wyoming.

Hawai‘i Rainbow Wahine (3-0, 0-0 WAC)
The Rainbow Wahine went 3-0 at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational last weekend, defeating No. 28 Western Michigan (25-17, 25-16, 25-14), No. 25 Santa Clara (25-19, 25-27, 30-28, 25-13) and No. 9 UCLA (25-23, 25-18, 25-23) ... Kanani Danielson was named Most Outstanding Player after averaging
5.40 kills on .408 hitting and 1.10 blocks per set ... Aneli Cubi-Otineru and Dani Mafua were also named to the all-tournament team. Cubi-Otineru averaged 2.90 kills, 3.50 digs and 1.20 service aces, while Mafua averaged 13.00 assists and 1.60 digs ... Hawai’i moved up three spots to No. 4 in the AVCA poll, its highest ranking since the 2005 preseason ... The 3-0 start is  the first since 2004 for the Rainbow Wahine ... Hawai’i hosts No. 19 Saint Louis, No. 2 Texas and No. 10 California in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic this weekend.

Idaho Vandals  (2-1, 0-0 WAC)
Idaho went 2-1 at the Crowne Plaza Titan Classic last weekend, sweeping Appalachian State (25-20, 25-19, 25-16) and Lamar (25-20, 25-15, 25-13), before falling in five sets to Cal State Fullerton (25-23, 23-25, 25-14, 14-25, 14-16) ... Kelsey Taylor was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 1.64 kills, 1.18 blocks and 0.55 digs per set ... Sarah Conwell led the team with 34 kills for a 3.09 average ... Cassie Hamilton has seven service aces over the three matches for a 0.65 average, good for second place in the WAC ... Idaho has four players - Anna McKinney (1.82), Taylor (1.18), Alicia Milo (1.11) and Debbie Pederson (1.00) - averaging at least 1.00 blocks per set ... The Vandals travel to Las Vegas for the UNLV Tournament this weekend, where they will face Loyola Marymount, UNLV and No. 9 UCLA.

Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (3-1, 0-0 WAC)
Louisiana Tech went 3-1 to claim the title at the Lady Techster Volleyball Tournament last weekend, sweeping Arkansas-Pine Bluff (25-14, 25-10, 25-8), Centenary (25-12, 25-16, 25-14) and South Alabama (25-20, 27-25, 25-22) and falling to Tennessee-Martin (22-25, 21-25, 25-14, 25-27) ... Nataliya Panova was named tournament MVP after averaging 2.91 kills, 3.09 digs and 0.73 blocks ... Bianca Bin and Lori Hunsucker also earned all-tournament honors. Bin averaged 7.15 assists and 1.62 digs, while Hunsucker averaged 3.62 digs ... Samantha Crowder hit a WAC-best .625 on the week, committing just two errors ... The Techsters host Northwestern State on Tuesday before playing in the Southern Miss Invitational this weekend.

Nevada Wolf Pack (1-2, 0-0 WAC)
The Wolf Pack went 1-2 at the Marriott Courtyard/Fairfield Invitational last weekend, defeating Connecticut (22-25, 25-16, 18-25, 25-18, 15-8), before falling to UC Irvine (21-25, 25-20, 19-25, 16-25) and No. 26 Saint Mary’s (11-25, 12-25, 20-25) ... Lindsay Baldwin was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 2.50 kills, 3.12 points and 1.00 blocks per set ... By defeating UConn, Nevada won its season opener for the first time since 2003 ... Erin Garvey hit .513 on the week, good for second in the WAC. She committed just one error in 12 sets ... Kylie Harrington averaged 3.33 kills, 1.67 digs and 0.42 service aces per set ... The Pack travel to Tucson, Ariz., this weekend for the Wildcat Classic, where they will face Arizona, Eastern Washington and Houston.

New Mexico State Aggies (3-0, 0-0 WAC)
The Aggies claimed the title at the Mean Green Classic last weekend, defeating Southern Methodist (25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 17-25, 16-14), Northern Colorado (25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22) and North Texas (25-18, 25-21, 25-14) ... Krista Altermatt was named Tournament MVP after averaging 3.42 kills, 2.67 digs and 0.50 service aces ... Kayleigh Giddens was also named to the all-tournament team after averaging 4.50 kills and 1.75 digs ... NM State is now 25-11 in season openers ... Head coach Mike Jordan picked up win No. 250 with the victory over North Texas ... The Aggies are one of two teams in the WAC to go undefeated in the first week of play ... Giddens and Altermatt rank second and third in the WAC, respectively, in kills ... New Mexico State hosts Florida State on Friday and No. 8 Illinois on Saturday.

San Jose State Spartans  (0-3, 0-0 WAC)
San Jose State went 0-3 at The Invitational last weekend, falling to No. 4 Washington (10-25, 14-25, 19-25), San Diego State (25-18, 12-25, 15-25, 22-25) and Seattle (20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 19-25) ... Four freshmen made their debut Friday night against Washington ... Alex Akana led team in kills in two matches this weekend.  She had seven kills against Washington and nine vs. San Diego State ...  Taylor Japhet led the team with 18 kills against Seattle ... Caitlin Andrade started all three matches at setter and recorded 30 assists against San Diego State ... Katie Turner recorded double-figure digs in each match ... The Spartans travel to Stockton, Calif., for the Community Bankers Classic this weekend, where they will face host Pacific and either No. 5 Florida or No. 11 Stanford.

Utah State Aggies (1-2, 0-0 WAC)
Utah State went 1-2 at the Best Western Canyon Pines Weber State Invitational last weekend, defeating Weber State (25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 25-14) and falling to Gonzaga (25-20, 17-25, 25-22, 21-25, 8-15) and Utah Valley (25-18, 13-25, 20-25, 23-25) ... Shantell Durrant was named to the all-tournament team after hitting .294 and averaging 1.85 kills, 0.92 blocks and 0.46 digs ... Against Gonzaga, Durrant had a career-high 10 kills and tied her career-high with five block assists, while hitting .333 ... Libero Christine Morrill posted a WAC-best 60 digs over the three matches for a 4.62 average ... Liz McArthur averaged 3.38 kills, 1.26 digs, 0.46 blocks and 0.31 service aces on the week ... The Aggies host Brigham Young on Tuesday in their only match this week.

Hawai‘i, which shared the regular-season crown with New Mexico State a year ago, has been selected in a poll by the league’s coaches to defend its crown in 2009 and take home its 14th-straight regular-season title.

The Rainbow Wahine received eight of the nine first-place votes with New Mexico State earning the other first-place vote. Hawai‘i earned 64 total points followed by New Mexico State with 57. Utah State was picked to finish third with 45 points, followed by Idaho in fourth with 41 points. Nevada was picked fifth with 37 points, while Fresno State was selected sixth with 29 points, just ahead of San Jose State with 28 points in seventh place. Boise State and Louisiana Tech rounded out the poll with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Hawai‘i sophomore Kanani Danielson was named WAC Preseason Player of the Year. This is the fifth-straight season that a Rainbow Wahine player has earned the preseason honor with All-Americans Kanoe Kamana`o (2005, 2006) and Jamie Houston (2007, 2008) each earning the honor in back-to-back years.

Hawai‘i placed the most student-athletes on the 12-player team with five. Along with Danielson, seniors Aneli Cubi-Otineru and Amber Kaufman, junior Dani Mafua and sophomore Stephanie Ferrell earned preseason honors. Cubi-Otineru and Kaufman were all first-team all-WAC selections in 2008, while Mafua was a second-team pick and Ferrell was on the All-Freshman Team.

Nevada placed two players on the preseason team in juniors Lindsay Baldwin and Kylie Harrington, as did New Mexico State with seniors Krista Altermatt and Kelli Goodan. Utah State also had two selections in juniors Chelsea Fowles and Christine Morrill. Senior Anna McKinney of Idaho rounded out the preseason squad.

The 2009 WAC Volleyball Tournament will be held Nov. 23-25, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and will include the top six teams in the regular-season standings. The championship match will be televised live on ESPNU.

All-session tickets are $45 and can be purchased over the phone (888-234-2334) or online (www.orleansarena.com/event-calendar/wac-volleyball-tournament).

Two different teams – Hawai‘i and Brigham Young – have claimed the WAC Tournament title in the event’s 11 years. The Rainbow Wahine own the most titles with nine, including the last eight in a row.

The WAC Volleyball Tournament is a single-elimination event with the top two seeds receiving first-round byes and the champion earning the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Monday, Nov. 23 (Quarterfinals)
No. 3 Seed vs. No. 6 Seed    5 p.m.   
No. 4 Seed vs. No. 5 Seed    7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 24 (Semifinals)
Winner Match 1 vs. No. 2 seed    5 p.m.   
Winner Match 2 vs. No. 1 Seed    7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 25 (Championship)
Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4    6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

*times local and subject to change

Of the 12 first-team all-WAC players in 2008, five should return for the 2009 season, including three from Hawai‘i, Aneli Cubi-Otineru, Kanani Danielson and Amber Kaufman. Krista Altermatt  of New Mexico State and Lindsay Baldwin of Nevada also return from the first team. Eight of the second-team all-WAC performers return this season, including Katie Astle, Chelsea Fowles and Christine Morrill of Utah State. The other returning second-team honorees are Brianna Amian of San Jose State, Kylie Harrington of Nevada, Dani Mafua of Hawai‘i, Sadie Maughan of Boise State and Anna McKinney of Idaho.

The following are the returning statistical leaders in the WAC from the 2008 season.

In hitting efficiency, seven of the top 10 hitters are back, led by Hawai‘i’s Amber Kaufman (.380), who led the league a year ago. Teammate Stephanie Ferrell (.292), who ranked fifth last year, also returns. The remaining leaders are Idaho’s Anna McKinney (.287- sixth), Hawai‘i’s Kanani Danielson (.286 - seventh), Boise State’s Sadie Maughan (.275 - eighth), Utah State’s Katie Astle (.275 - ninth) and Hawai‘i’s Aneli Cubi-Otineru (.268 - 10th).

Four of the top 10 kill leaders are back for the 2009 season. The top returner is Fresno State’s Baylee Platt, who ranked sixth last year with 3.46 kills per set. Danielson was seventh, averaging 3.02 kps. Kylie Harrington of Nevada was eighth, averaging 2.90 kps, while Fresno State’s Brianna Clarke rounds out the returning leaders in ninth place with 2.87 kps.

Six of the top assist leaders from last season return for the 2009 campaign. Hawai‘i’s Dani Mafua is the top setter to return, finishing last season first in the WAC (11.20 aps). Chelsea Fowles of Utah State was third in assists, averaging 9.49 aps, followed by Fresno State’s Allanah Munson (9.43 - fourth). The remaining leaders are Nevada’s Sonnie Sei (8.90 - sixth) and Louisiana Tech’s Bianca Bin (7.24 - eighth).

Six of the top blockers return, led by Idaho’s McKinney, who was first with 1.42 blocks per set. Nevada’s Lindsay Baldwin was fourth, averaging 1.14 blocks per set, followed by New Mexico State’s Erin Birmingham (1.06 bps - fifth). The remaining block returners are Idaho’s Debbie Pederson (1.05 - sixth), Louisiana Tech’s KC Clayton (1.05 - seventh) and Boise State’s Maughan (1.04 - eighth).

Six of the top 10 servers return, including the top two. Hawai‘i’s Kaufman led the WAC in service aces per set, averaging 0.47, followed by teammate Cubi-Otineru (0.32 - second). Fresno State’s Kasey Van Grouw was sixth, averaging 0.27 saps, followed by Nevada’s Nicole Link (0.26 - seventh) and Lauren Kelly (0.26 - eighth). The remaining top server is Utah State’s Lori Wilson (0.26 - 10th).

Five of the 10 dig leaders return for the 2009 season. Utah State’s Christine Morrill is the top returner (3.79 dps - fourth), followed by Nevada’s Link (3.57 - fifth) and Boise State’s Lauren Hamm (3.49 - sixth). Rounding out the group are San Jose State’s Kristal Tsukano (3.28 - seventh) and Hawai‘i’s Danielson (2.91 - 10th).

Shawn Garus was named head coach at Boise State on June 30, becoming the ninth head coach in program history. He came from UNC–Greensboro, where he was head coach for the past four seasons. There he recorded three straight winning seasons with 20 or more victories while also leading his team to the Southern Conference finals twice. He also produced five all-SoCon players and 13 SoCon All-Academic honorees in his four-year tenure.

Prior to UNCG, Garus served as the top assistant coach at San Francisco during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, helping the team to a 35-27 record. In 2003, the Dons went 23-8 and Garus helped lead the team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and first-ever national ranking (No. 24).

Garus also spent time as an assistant at Texas Tech in 2002, helping the Red Raiders to a 14-14 record.

His first collegiate head coaching experience came from 1998-2002, when he directed the program at UC-Colorado Springs. During his time there, he led his team to its best school record of 22-9 in 2001 and first ever postseason appearance, as well as a regional ranking of No. 6.

The Glendale, Calif., native is a 1995 graduate of Cal State San Bernardino, where he played four years on the Coyotes’ men’s club volleyball team (1991-94). He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing specialization.

Continuing his playing career after college, Garus played in several Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Tour events from 1994-2003. He was the top-ranked player in Colorado from 1999-2001 and had a career-best 13th-place finish at the 2001 AVP Michigan Open.

The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee announced the following sites for regional and semifinal/championship competition of the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships.

Regionals (4): Dec. 11-12, 2009
Host: University of Florida
Stephen C. O’Connell Center
Gainesville, Fla.

Host: University of Minnesota
Sports Pavilion
Minneapolis, Minn.

Host: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Qwest Center
Omaha, Neb.

Host: Stanford University
Maples Pavilion
Stanford, Calif.

Semifinals and Championship: Dec. 17 and 19, 2009
Co-Hosts: University of South Florida and Tampa Bay Sports Commission
St. Pete Times Forum
Tampa Bay, Fla.

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