Wahine Willoughby named All-American
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i sophomore Kim Willoughby was officially named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America first team yesterday. She is one of only two sophomores on the 12-woman team, which includes seven players in this week's final four, and eight seniors.
The second team includes six underclassmen and Nebraska junior Greichaly Cepero, the AVCA's national Player of the Year last season.
Willoughby, a 6-foot left-side hitter from Napoleonville, La., elevated over the opposition in her second season. She led the country and broke UH and Western Athletic Conference records with 850 kills, an average of 7.20 per game. The total and average are fourth-best in NCAA history.
Willoughby also led the WAC with a .341 hitting percentage and broke the school record by averaging 3.66 digs a game. She had 26 double-doubles (10-plus kills and digs) and a WAC-record 43 kills in a five-game victory over San Jose State. She also had a WAC-record 34 kills in a sweep of nationally ranked UC-Santa Barbara, and set another UH record with 36 kills in a four-game victory over UTEP.
As a freshman, playing on the right side, Willoughby averaged 3.14 kills and hit .254. Her startling rise this season was a combination of maturity and necessity. The Wahine lost both left-side hitters from last year's final-four team Jessica Sudduth used up her eligibility and 2000 All-American Lily Kahumoku took her junior year off.
UH coach Dave Shoji shifted Willoughby to the left and "second-guessed myself all year" about not giving Willoughby more responsibility her first season.
"I didn't feel like I wanted to put her under that pressure because we had Jessica and Lily," Shoji said. "Her role last year was good for her and the team. It broke her in. But maybe if I had put her on the left, Sudduth would have been fine on the right. She might have flourished, but to make her change probably would not have been fair to her in her senior year. It was a lot easier for Kim to go in on the right. We might have been better, but that's hindsight."
Only two players in NCAA history averaged more kills in a season. Loyola Marymount's Sarah McFarland set the record last year, at 7.78. She averaged 7.35 the year before. In 1988, Missouri-Kansas City's Catalina Suarez averaged 7.54.
"I had an inclination she'd have to get a lot of kills," Shoji said of Willoughby. "But I had no idea she'd get this many. Her percentage is good, her control is phenomenal. I don't know if she even knew she was capable of this, but as the season wore on, it became more apparent she could do this and she wanted to do it and she had to."
QUICK SETS: Former Wahine assistant Kerry Major, head coach at the University of Pennsylvania the last four years, is the East Region's Coach of the Year. That makes her eligible for national honors. Major led Penn (18-7) to the Ivy League championship and its first NCAA Tournament appearance. ... Hilo's Reed Sunahara is Conference USA's Coach of the Year in his second season as Cincinnati's head coach. Sunahara helped the Bearcats (23-8) to their first outright conference regular-season championship, third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and first tournament victory.