UH-Hilo volleyball coach Gene Krieger thought libero Mina Grant was headed toward all-PacWest accolades last year before an injury derailed part of her season.
It was no surprise than that Krieger nominated the senior for preseason recognition this time around.
On Wednesday, the Pacific West Conference coaches agreed, selecting Grant as the league’s libero of the year as well as one of seven members, and only Vul, of the first team.
The Vulcans, coming off a 9-18 season in Krieger’s debut campaign, were selected to finish sixth in a 12-team league that no longer includes defending champ Cal Baptist, which moved to Division I.
Grant, a three-year starter from Southern California, ranked third in the PacWest last fall with 4.89 digs per set, and this season her role could become all the more important since UH-Hilo will depend on a number of underclassmen to fill the void offensively.
“Yes and no,” Grant told the Tribune-Herald last week. “I have a standard, and if you’re not doing your job, you’re making my job a lot harder.
“That’s OK, that just means I can step up more.”
The 5-7 defensive specialist is the first Vulcan to be named to the PacWest preseason team since Hillary Hurley was the preseason player of the year in 2011. With 1,173 career digs, she’s on pace to become the program’s all-time leader. Tanya Fuamatu, who compiled 1,559 from 1992-95, holds the mark.
One of only four seniors on a team with six newcomers, might Grant become more of vocal leader this season as well?
“If I have to,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean they can’t lay into me, too. “It’s a two-day street.”
Azusa Pacific was voted as the preseason favorite, collecting nine of the 12 first-place votes, and Julianne Miller was preseason player of the year. Biola and Concordia followed, each receiving a first-place vote – as did the Vuls.
UH-Hilo open its season Aug. 23 with two matches at the First Hawaiian Bank Volleyball Challenge.
“I’m pretty confident in us,” Grant said.
Point Loma’s Cara Keturakis is the setter of the year, and she Grant and Miller were joined on the first team by Perla Escobar (Hawaii Pacific), Emma Tecklenburg (Chaminade), Sara Wagenveld (Azusa Pacific) and Sabrina Winslow (Biola).
PacWest preseason poll
1. Azusa Pacific 140 (9)
2. Biola 125 (1)
3. Concordia 112 (1)
4. Chaminade 103
5. Point Loma 96
6. Hawaii-Hilo 78 (1)
7. Fresno Pacific 70
8. Dominican 59
9. Notre Dame de Namur 57
10. Hawaii Pacific 54
11. Academy of Art 27
12. Holy Names 15