Kamana‘o surprised by NCAA nomination
As a freshman, Kanoe Kamana'o did a Hawaiian chant at the 2003 AVCA All-American banquet as an introduction for Rainbow Wahine senior teammate Lily Kahumoku.
Four years later, Kamana'o has followed Kahumoku as a nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year.
Since its inception in 1991, only one volleyball player has won the national honor: Nebraska's Billie Winsett-Fletcher in 1996.
Kamana'o isn't worried about becoming the second. The Hawaii and Western Athletic Conference career-leader in assists said she's happy to be considered.
"I'd be surprised if I won and I'm not expecting anything,"she said. "It's a really great honor to be nominated."
Kamana'o was one of two athletes nominated by the WAC for the annual award, given to a senior athlete based on athletic and academic accomplishments, community service and leadership.
In her mind, her college career has long been over. Once the final ball went down in the elite-eight loss to UCLA on Dec. 9, Kanoe Kamana'o was ready to move on with her life.
» 2006: QuiongJie Huang, UH diving
» 2005: Tracie Uchima UH softball
» 2004: Lily Kahumoku, UH volleyball
» 2003: Margaret Vakasausau, UH volleyball
» 2002: Petra Gaspar, BYUH tennis
» 2001: Camille Kalama, UH soccer
» 2000: Raylene Howard, UH basketball
» 1999: BJ Itoman, UH basketball
» 1998: Nani Cockett, UH basketball
» 1997: Angelica Ljunquist, UH volleyball
» 1996: Dianna Cervantes, UH cross country
» 1995: Kym Weil, UH softball
» 1994: P.J. Brun, UH softball
» 1993: Danelle Haia, UH softball
» 1992: Heidi McElhaney, UH swimming/water polo
» 1991: Heather Hasslinger, UH diving
So it came somewhat as a surprise when she learned this week she had been one of two nominees from the Western Athletic Conference for the annual NCAA Woman of the Year.
The award recognizes senior female athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their careers in academics, community service, leadership and athletics.
"It was kind of surprising since my season has been over with and I didn't realize that there are still awards being given out," Kamana'o said.
"It's a really great honor to be nominated by the conference. I'd be surprised if I won -- there are a lot of great athletes nominated. It's nice to be considered among them."
The 10 finalists will be announced in early October, with the national winner announced Oct. 27.
The award was instituted in 1991 and, until last year, each state had one nominee. In 2006 the format was changed to allow candidates from all the NCAA conferences, Division I through III.
The most recognized national winner likely is former Connecticut basketball star Rebecca Lobo (1995). The only volleyball winner was Nebraska's Billie Winsett-Fletcher in 1996.
Except for Brigham Young-Hawaii's Petra Gaspar, an All-American and national champion in tennis, all previous Hawaii state nominees had been Rainbow Wahine.
Last year, the WAC nominated UH's QuiongJie Huang, an NCAA champion diver, along with Nevada soccer player Annie Baxter.
STAR-BULLETIN FILE / 2006
Hawaii's Kanoe Kamana'o is an NCAA Woman of the Year nominee. She wants to continue playing professionally.
Joining Kamana'o this year from the WAC is Utah State's Jennie Twitchell, an All-American in track and cross country. Kamana'o and Twitchell were chosen from a list of nominees presented to the WAC senior women's administrators.
Also considered were Boise State golfer Katherine Street, Fresno State soccer player Rochelle Jagdeo, Fresno State basketball player Chantella Perera, Nevada soccer player Lauren Kinneman, New Mexico State volleyball player Jackie Choi and San Jose State volleyball player Jessie Shull.
Kamana'o graduated in May with a communications degree.
She is spending the summer working for an architectural firm, running youth clinics and healing nagging injuries, including a sprained toe.
The Iolani School product was the WAC Player of the Year three consecutive seasons and received All-America recognition four straight years.
She finished her first Wahine season as the WAC, West Regional and National Freshman of the Year.
Kamana'o also won the WAC's Joe Kearney Best Female Athlete award in 2005 and 2006 and finished as the UH and WAC career leader in assists (6,428), which is also seventh in NCAA history.
Off the court she earned All-WAC and all-district academic honors.
In the USA Volleyball pipeline since the youth national team, Kamana'o said she hopes to continue playing professionally.