The Left Coast’s top players - Danielson and Hill completing well rounded college experience

by Cindy Luis October 31, 2011 in Volleyball


Great players. Even better people.

Hawaii’s Kanani Danielson and Pepperdine’s Kim Hill have much in common beyond success on the volleyball court. The two senior All-Americans bring new meaning to the term “time management” when managing to devote quality time in the community and in the classroom.

And it’s all done with a humility that is as rare as they are.

“She wears it well,” Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies said of Hill. “If you didn’t look at the stats, you’d never know she was a great athlete. She never talks about herself, deflects the praise. Volleyball is very important but it’s not the most important thing. She’s a straight-A student, is involved with religious groups and SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee), volunteers. She’s just an outstanding human being.”

Hill, Pepperdine’s female athlete of the year as a junior, has taken advantage of non-athletic opportunities that the school offers, including a summer study-abroad program in Florence, Italy.
The religion major is part of Pepperdine’s Project Serve; she volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club on a Native American reservation “which was an amazing experience,” Hill said. “It was sad when it was over and I’m still good friends with the kids there.

“I was raised to believe God is first, family second, and volleyball and everything else comes after. I needed a faith-based school and I wanted to play at a top DI school. Pepperdine has been the perfect fit.”

The 6-foot-4 opposite hopes to play professionally after graduating in May. But the bigger dream is helping the Waves win their first West Coast Conference championship since 2003 and make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.

“It would be exciting to get that championship and get into the postseason,” she said. “It’s something I’ve never experienced.”

Danielson has competed in the NCAA tournament the past three years, with the Wahine advancing to the final four her sophomore season.

That she is a native Hawaiian playing for Hawaii is a source of pride. So is her culture; many of her community service projects reflect the Hawaiian practice of malama o ke aina (taking care of the land).
“My favorite project is taking the limu (seaweed) off the reefs so the reefs can keep growing,” said Danielson, who graduates in May with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Earlier this season, the 5-10 Danielson became just the seventh player in the storied Wahine program to reach the 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig mark.

“She may be the best all-around player the program has ever had,” said Hawaii coach Dave Shoji, in his 37th season. “You take the six volleyball skills and she is probably in the top five in all of them among all the players we’ve had … except for serving. That was the weakest part of her game until this year. She worked hard at it and it’s right up there now. She could have been a setter, has such a high volleyball IQ, great court awareness. She’s a tiger on the court but she’s this soft, mild-mannered person off the court. She’s a very well-rounded person, strong in the classroom and a terrific volleyball player.”

Shoji said that when watching Danielson come up through the ranks of local club volleyball, “We knew we had to have her in the program,” he said. “I wasn’t convinced she’d be the player she has turned out to be, wasn’t sure she’d be the terminator she is until we got her in the gym.

“All athletes of this caliber have a quality about them. Very few people achieve what she has been able to achieve.”

Danielson has shown a quiet leadership that speaks volumes when watching from either side of the net.

“Kanani gives Hawaii a kind of leadership and dynamic that is pretty special,” Utah State coach Grayson DuBose said. “You don’t get to be a three-time, soon to be four-time, All-American because you’re lucky.”