Tuesday, November 13, 2001
WAC honorsThe fruits of a summer of hard work blossomed in November for Kim Willoughby and Margaret Vakasausau.
for 5 Wahine
4 UH players make first team
-- Gustin, Willoughby, Ilustre
By Grace Wen
The two members of the Hawaii volleyball stayed in Hawaii to work out and put in extra time in the weight room. Their efforts were manifested on the court and awarded yesterday.
Willoughby and Vakasausau were two of five Hawaii players to earn Western Athletic Conference recognition. Maja Gustin and Hedder Ilustre joined them on the first team, while sophomore Lauren Duggins was named to the second team.
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji was the coach of the year for the fourth time in six seasons. Shoji shared the honor last year with Texas-El Paso's Revis Ward-Daggett.
Rice's Rebeca Pazo, a 6-foot outside hitter, was named the conference freshman of the year.
Willoughby was the coaches' unanimous choice for player of the year. The 6-foot outside hitter exploded for 6.95 kills per game (2.34 kills more than the next player) against WAC opponents and hit .349. The sophomore led the team in defense with 3.56 digs and posted 19 double-doubles this season. She is the sixth Wahine to be named player of the year since Hawaii joined the WAC in 1996.
"I think it's great, but I like it even more because so many people on my team made All-WAC," Willoughby said. "That's even better. I think that's the most exciting thing, because that shows we have an all-around team. We have blockers who made it. We have a setter that made it. We have a defensive specialist that made it. We have a hitter that made it.
"I'm more excited about it for Margaret. People were wondering about how our team is going to do, because Jen Carey started the past two years and now we have Margaret coming off the bench. I was more excited for her than anybody else on our team. I was here this summer with her just watching her work out ... going hard every day. And then double days, she busted her butt every day. I think no one else on our team deserves any award more than she does."
In just her first year as the starting setter for the Wahine, Vakasausau earned first team recognition. The last UH setter to do that was Robyn Ah Mow in 1996. The junior averaged 12.45 assists per game and was often the emotional spark of the team.
"I don't know what to say," Vakasausau said. "I wish I could have contributed earlier and developed more skills sooner, but it's quite an honor."
Gustin, the preseason WAC Player of the Year as a middle blocker, was another unanimous first-team selection. After shifting to the outside, the 6-3 sophomore became more comfortable on the left as the season went on. Ilustre, Gustin's counterpart in the back row, averaged 2.02 digs and had five matches with double-digit digs.
It was no surprise that Hawaii had five of six starters on all-conference teams. The Wahine won their sixth WAC title with a perfect 13-0 record. Hawaii hasn't lost to a WAC opponent in 55 matches, including 52 regular-season meetings.
"It's nice to get recognized for a lot of hard work," assistant coach Charlie Wade said. "We have kids on our bench who could be all-conference in any number of conferences."
With the addition of Louisiana Tech, the 10-team WAC expanded its all-conference teams to 12 players, up six from last year.