By Cindy Luis
For those who don’t have access to the web or don’t subscribe, here is Ann Miller’s story from today’s paper
After seventh-ranked Hawaii takes on North Shore volleyball neighbor Brigham Young-Hawaii — ranked eighth in NCAA Division II — tonight, and before it resumes its quest to remain unbeaten in the Big West next week, there is some paperwork to finish.
Tayler Higgins, who just set Punahou to its second straight state championship, and Kaiser High senior Nikki Taylor, who just added another inch and is now 6 foot 4, will sign national letters of intent. Both orally committed to the Rainbow Wahine months ago and plan to finalize the process in the early signing period, which begins Wednesday.
They have led anything but parallel lives since committing, but can’t wait to come together in Manoa.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m going to be excited, especially with Nikki kind of in the same position being local,” said Higgins, whose brother, Jeremy, is a UH quarterback. “She is very powerful up at the net, she’s improved a lot on her passing and back row since last year. She didn’t play the high school season this year and she’s been playing a lot of beach. That’s helped her with shots and control. I’m excited to come in with her.”
Higgins earned MVP honors at last year’s state tournament and this year’s Ann Kang Invitational. The 2011 State Player of the Year is the only Hawaii player in prepvolleyball.com’s Top 100 Senior Aces, at 19th.
Her entire Ku‘ikahi club team will play in college next fall, including Taylor Dayton at Santa Clara and 2012 state high school tournament MVP Carly Kan at Missouri.
Nikki Taylor did not play her final high school season “for personal reasons.” She has spent much of her time working out on the beach with new neighbor Hannah Rooks, who moved here from Atlanta and will probably be on the UH sand team next school year.
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Club season started Saturday. It was Taylor’s first taste of the indoor game since July, when she trained with the USA A2 team.
“My coach allowed me to be a six-rotation player,” Taylor said. “I’ve never come out of a volleyball situation like that, having as much knowledge of the game as I did. I needed that experience of hardly coming out in order to make it click that I can be that player.
“Mostly I need to work on my back-row defense. I need to be quicker, make quicker judgments. That’s also a reason I’m playing beach.”
Higgins is just 5-9, but can touch 9-8, same as current UH setter Mita Uiato. Higgins’ focus between now and August will be on consistency and blocking. ‘Iolani coach Kainoa Obrey, Higgins’ club coach, believes she has talents that can’t be taught and compares her to former UH All-American Kanoe Kamana‘o.
“She is very intelligent, has a high volleyball IQ,” Obrey said. “She can take control of a team. She comes from a family of quarterbacks, they are all natural leaders. … Her biggest thing is leadership. She’s athletic, not big, but she plays lot bigger than she is. She gets to a lot of balls. She makes ordinary passing look spectacular.”
Obrey also has seen more than enough of Nikki Taylor during club season. He watched her hit a ball straight down without jumping and envisions her on Hawaii’s right side.
He wants to see what is possible when she hooks up with someone used to setting the ball to a 6-4 hitter. “Once she gets in a rhythm with a setter she’s comfortable with,” Obrey said, “she can be very scary.”
Obrey’s brother Teoni is club director of Ku‘ikahi, the state’s largest boys club program. Taylor Dayton is their half-sister and convinced them to start a girls team two years ago. Last summer in 17s, Ku‘ikahi was 13th among 1,800 teams.
Kamehameha’s Pomai Recca and Joana Christenson are on the team, and probably headed to Hawaii Pacific and Southern Utah. Punahou’s Brittney Markwith will play for Army and Julia Lau and Claire Feeley are going Ivy League. Lau will be in Dartmouth’s back row and Feeley will play for Punahou graduate Erin Berg at Yale.
Others outside of Ku‘ikahi who could commit next week include Kahuku’s Penina Snuka (Penn State, according to Kahuku coach Camilla Ah-Hoy), ‘Iolani’s Loxley Keala (Missouri) and Asics Rainbows’ Tyler Marie Mau (Minnesota).
Among the boys, Hawaii Baptist and Ku‘ikahi senior Michael Fisher has orally committed to UCLA.