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This Week in WAC Volleyball
Courtesy: WAC
New Mexico State middle hitter Amber Simpson has been named Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for Nov. 25-30. This is the second WAC Player of the Week honor of the season for Simpson and the fifth of her career.

The senior from Quincy, Ill., led the Aggies to a pair of wins last week to secure their third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. In a sweep of Virginia Commonwealth on Thanksgiving Day, Simpson put down 16 kills on 24 attempts with only three errors for a .542 hitting percentage. In a five-set thriller at in-state rival New Mexico, she finished with 14 kills and seven blocks. For the week, Simpson averaged 3.75 kills on .368 hitting, 1.00 blocks and 4.75 points per set.

Other nominees included: Hawai‘i’s Nickie Thomas hit .323 with 1.88 kills and 1.75 blocks in a pair of wins ... Kylie Harrington of Nevada was named to the all-tournament team of the Banker’s Classic after averaging 3.17 kills per set.

Both Hawai‘i and New Mexico State will represent the WAC in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Rainbow Wahine earned the No. 7 overall seed in the field and will face Belmont at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5, in Los Angeles. The Aggies will travel to Berkeley, Calif., to take on Saint Mary’s at 6 p.m. Friday.

UH is making its 27th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its 16th in a row. This is the fifth-straight season and sixth in the last eight years that the Rainbow Wahine earned a top 16 seed but will not host the first and second rounds. Hawai‘i has advanced to the NCAA Regionals in nine of the last 10 tournaments.

The Aggies earned an at-large berth in the tournament after posting a 25-8 record. This is NMSU’s third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth overall.

Hawai‘i’s Jamie Houston had 34 kills last week to become just the second player in UH history to reach the 2,000-kill milestone. She picked up her 2,000th kill to end the first set of the win over Cal Poly on Nov. 28, and now has 2,009 on her career.

Boise State Broncos (9-19, 5-11 WAC)
No. 7 Boise State was swept (15-25, 16-25, 17-25) by second-seeded Hawai‘i in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament to close out the season ... The Broncos were led by Sadie Maughan and Jeanette Jenkins with five kills apiece.

Fresno State Bulldogs (7-20, 3-13 WAC)
Fresno State went 1-1 at the WAC Tournament, defeating Louisiana Tech in four sets (23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-19) in the opening round before falling to top-seeded New Mexico State (17-25, 17-25, 22-25) in the quarterfinals ... The Bulldogs out-hit the Lady Techsters .224 to .096, and out-blocked Louisiana Tech 12-10 ... Baylee Platt posted her seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 18 kills and 15 digs ... Lacey Gera added 20 kills on .382 hitting to go with five blocks, while setter Allanah Munson dished out 47 assists ... In the loss to the Aggies, Platt led Fresno State with 14 kills and eight digs.

Hawai‘i Rainbow Wahine (28-3, 15-1 WAC)
UH went 2-0 last week, defeating Cal Poly in five sets and three sets ... Nickie Thomas had a career-high 11 blocks while posting nine kills and a .389 hitting percentage on Nov. 26 ... Hawai‘i qualified for its 16th straight NCAA Tournament, earning the No. 7 seed. It will face Belmont in the first round on the campus of USC ... UH has made 27 of the 28 NCAA Tournaments ... UH has a record of 20-2 in first round matches, including a record of 8-2 in first round matches on the road ... Jamie Houston put away 34 kills on the week to become just the second player in UH history to reach the 2,000-kill milestone. She now has 2,009 on her career.

Idaho Vandals (19-10, 11-5 WAC)
The Vandals closed out the season with a 1-1 record at the WAC Tournament, sweeping Nevada in the quarterfinals (25-20, 25-21, 25-18) before falling to eventual champion Hawai‘i in the semifinals (21-25, 24-26, 14-25) ... Idaho out-hit the Wolf Pack .250 to .164 and bettered Nevada in kills (42-39), assists (40-35), service aces (5-2) and blocks (9-7.5) ... Sarah Conwell led Idaho with 12 kills on .375 hitting, while Haley Larsen added 10 kills ... Idaho out-blocked Hawai‘i 13-8, including seven by Kelsey Taylor ... Haley Larsen posted a match-high 14 kills in the loss ... Larsen was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 4.00 kills, 1.83 digs and 0.50 service aces.

Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (4-24, 0-16 WAC)
The Techsters fell to Fresno State (25-23, 23-25, 22-25, 19-25) in the opening round of the WAC Tournament to close out the season ... Natasha Kolunija led Tech with 13 kills.

Nevada Wolf Pack (12-17, 7-9 WAC)
The Pack closed out the season with a 0-2 record at the Banker’s Classic last week, falling in straights sets to No. 21 Utah (16-25, 22-25, 19-25) and Portland (17-25, 19-25, 23-25) ... Kylie Harrington was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 3.17 kills per set.

New Mexico State Aggies (25-8, 15-1 WAC)
The Aggies went undefeated last week, sweeping Virginia Commonwealth (25-18, 25-16, 25-22) and defeating New Mexico in five sets (20-25, 25-22, 25-14, 21-25, 15-11) ... Amber Simpson averaged 3.75 kills, 1.00 blocks and 4.75 points per set ... It was the 10th consecutive victory over the Lobos ... The Aggies earned their third-consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament and their fifth in the last six years ... NMSU will face Saint Mary’s in the first round on the campus of California.

San Jose State Spartans (13-18, 7-9 WAC)
The Spartans closed out the season with a loss at San Francisco (14-25, 23-25, 20-25) ... In her final match in a Spartan uniform, Colleen Burke led SJSU in hitting (.333), kills (10) and blocks (4), while Kelly Crow led the team with 12 digs ... Colleen Burke ends her Spartan career ranked second all-time in hitting percentage (.314), seventh in block assists (281), eighth in total blocks (301) and ninth in kills (1,196).

Utah State Aggies (11-17, 9-7 WAC)
No. 4 Utah State closed out its season with a five-set loss (25-16, 23-25, 16-25, 25-17, 8-15) to fifth-seeded San Jose state in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament ...  The Aggies tallied more digs (62-60) and blocks (8-6) than the Spartans ... Melissa Osterloh posted her seventh double-double of the season in the loss, finishing with 20 kills and 10 digs.

After sweeping past Boise State and Idaho, Hawai‘i defeated New Mexico State 25-19, 25-27, 25-18, 25-9 in front of a crowd of 5,250 in the championship match of the WAC Tournament Sunday to claim its ninth-straight title. Jamie Houston took tournament MVP honors, hitting .341 with 22 kills, 11 digs and three blocks in the championship match. Joining Houston on the all-tournament team were teammates Stephanie Brandt and Aneli Cubi-Otineru, New Mexico State’s Amber Simpson, Krystal Torres and Lindsey Yon, Idaho’s Haley Larsen and San Jose State’s Colleen Burke. With the win, Hawai‘i earns the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

For the second year in a row, Hawai‘i outside hitter Jamie Houston was named the WAC Player of the Year. Teammate Kanani Danielson captured Freshman of the Year honors, while New Mexico State’s Mike Jordan was named WAC Coach of the Year. 

Six different schools were represented on the first team and eight overall. New Mexico State, the first seed in the WAC Tournament, had four players named to the first team and one to the freshman team. Second-seeded Hawai‘i had four players on the first team, three on the second team and two on the freshman team. Utah State placed one on the first team, three on the second team and one on the freshman team. Idaho, Nevada and San Jose State all had one player on the first team.

For the 13th-straight year, Hawai‘i boasts the WAC Player of the Year. Houston has ranked in the Top 50 nationally in kills per set all season, averaging 3.99. The senior hit .300 or better in 11 matches this season and finished conference play ranked second in the WAC in kills per game (4.08). She is a four-time all-WAC honoree.

Danielson earned Freshman of the Year honors, the sixth Rainbow Wahine player to do so. She was also one of 12 players named to the first team and one of six players on the all-freshman team. She hit .305 with 2.57 kills and 3.04 digs in WAC matches.

This is Jordan’s second Coach of the Year honor, having earned the award in 2006, as well. He led the Aggies to their first-ever WAC regular-season title and the top seed in the tournament. NMSU handed Hawai‘i its only WAC loss in three sets in Honolulu.

Houston is one of six returning first-team members, along with teammate Aneli Cubi-Otineru, Idaho’s Haley Larsen, and New Mexico State’s Amber Simpson, Krystal Torres and Lindsey Yon. Larsen is the Vandals’ first-ever four-time honoree.

New Mexico State and Hawai‘i shared the 2008 WAC regular-season title. It is the first-ever title for the Aggies and the 13th straight for the Rainbow Wahine. This is the first time there has been a tie at the top of the standings since 1998, when Hawai‘i and BYU were the Pacific Division co-champions with 13-1 marks.

In the most recent NCAA statistics (Dec. 1), the Rainbow Wahine rank fourth in the nation in assists per set (13.81), kills per set (14.76) and won-loss percentage (.903), and sixth in hitting percentage (.293). Meanwhile, Idaho ranks third nationally in blocks per set (3.02).

Two WAC players are currently ranked in the Top 50 nationally in kills per set – Haley Larsen, Idaho, 12th (4.44) and Jamie Houston, Hawai‘i, 32nd (4.06). In blocks per set, three WAC players appear in the Top 50, led by Idaho’s Anna McKinney in 12th place with a 1.42 average. Amber Simpson of New Mexico State is in 21st place with 1.35 per set and Lydia Blaha of Boise State is in 46th place with a 1.16 average.
In overall team stats, Hawai‘i leads the conference in hitting percentage (.293), assists (13.81), kills (14.76) and service aces (1.50). Idaho is tops in blocks per set (3.02) and digs per set (15.34), while New Mexico State boasts the lowest opponent hitting percentage (.129).

In conference only statistics, Hawai‘i currently led the WAC in hitting percentage (.309), assists (14.22), kills (15.20) and service aces (1.64). New Mexico State was tops in opponent hitting percentage (.084) and digs (15.47), while Idaho led the WAC in blocks (3.14).

Individually, Idaho’s Haley Larsen leads the league in kills (4.44) and points (4.90) per set. Hawai‘i’s Amber Kaufman leads the WAC in hitting percentage (.379) and service aces (0.47), while teammate Dani Mafua and is tops in assists (11.19). New Mexico State’s Krystal Torres leads the league in digs per set (4.57), while Anna McKinney of Idaho is tops in blocks per set (1.42).

In conference matches only, Hawai‘i’s Mafua and Kaufman were tops in assists (11.94) and service aces (0.46), respectively. Larsen led the conference in kills (4.48) and points (4.90), while Amber Simpson was tops in hitting percentage (.391). Idaho’s Kelsey Taylor led the WAC in blocking (1.61) and Torres was the leader in digs (4.77).

The following are the sites for regional competition of the 2008 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships.

Regionals (4) Dec. 12-13, 2008
Host: Colorado State University
Moby Arena
Fort Collins, Colo.

Host: Pennsylvania State University
Rec Hall
University Park, Pa.

Host: University of Texas
Gregory Gymnasium
Austin, Texas

Host: University of Washington
Bank of America Arena
Seattle, Wash.
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