By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University senior volleyball player Alexa Dowdell (OH/OPP, Mililani, HI/Maryknoll HS) has been selected First Team All-Northwest Conference in voting by the NWC head coaches. Libero Kaylen Higa (So., Mililani, HI/Punahou School) of Willamettte was named Second Team All-NWC.
A total of 18 players were chosen for the 2016 All-Northwest Conference Volleyball Team. Six players were named to the First Team, with six more on the Second Team and six receiving Honorable Mention.
Joining Dowdell on the First Team were Hannah Stinson (Jr., MB) from University of Puget Sound, Emiko Kahler (Fr., OH) of Whitworth University, Erin White (So., S) of Whitworth, Caylie Shiramizu (DS/L) from Pacific Lutheran University, and Tiare Kaopua from Pacific University.
Stinson was named NWC Player of the Year, and Shiramizu was selected NWC Libero of the Year. Kahler was chosen NWC Freshman of the Year. Head Coach Kati Bodecker from Whitworth was voted NWC Coach of the Year.
First Team All-Northwest Conference
Alexa Dowdell (Sr., OH/OPP) was named All-NWC for the second year in a row. She was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2015.
This year, Dowdell ranked second in the NWC with 298 kills and 3.47 kills per set. She earned a .197 hitting percentage. She ranked second on the Bearcat roster with 247 digs and 2.97 digs pe sent. She also contributed 13 serice aces (0.15 avg.) and 44 total blocks (0.51 avg.)
Dowdell set her career high for kills twice this season. She pounded out 22 kills against Pacific Lutheran on Sept. 16, and also recorded 22 kills versus University of Puget Sound on Nov. 6 to help the Bearcats edge the Loggers, 3-2, in the final match of the season. She produced a career-high 25 digs against Pacific Lutheran. She reached double figures in kills 17 times
In 2015, she achieved 216 kills, while averaging 2.30 kills per set and hitting .251. She also was credited with 197 digs and a career-high 73 blocks. She finished the 2014 season with 184 kills and 203 digs.
"Alexa had a great year as a six-rotation player," Willamette Head Coach Tom Shoji said. "Everyone in the conference knew about her and planned their best blocking and defense to try and control her. That was something very new to Alexa and she handled it nicely.
"She was unstoppable at times and definitely our 'go to' person all year, Shoji added. "She passed and played really well on defense ... she developed into a great all-around volleyball player. She is one of the best we've had since I've been coaching here."
In her four-year Willamette career, Dowdell supplied the Bearcats with 743 kills, as she increased her kill total each season. She averaged 2.53 kills per set over the past four seasons and attained a .194 career hitting percentage.
Dowdell earned 709 career digs (2.41 avg.) to go along with 48 aces (0.16 avg.) and 148 digs (0.50 avg.). She played in 88 matches and 294 sets.
Second Team All-Northwest Conference
Kaylen Higa (So., LIB/DS) was chosen All-NWC for the first time. She led the NWC with 6.03 digs per set this season and was second in the conference with 519 digs.
She set a career high with 33 digs against Whitman College on Sept. 23. She registered 30 or more digs three times, made 20 or more digs 13 times, and was credited with 10 or more digs in all 24 matches.
"Kaylen was responsible for us being competitive in all of our sets and matches," Shoji commented. "If she was a little off, the whole team was off. She controled our serve/receive and controled our defense. If either of the two were not done well, we had no offense and couldn't be competitive. She did those things very well."
"She was truely our toughest player ... always flying around the court, diving, sprawling, sprinting for the dig," Shoji noted. "Leading the NWC in digs per set is a great accomplishment."
In two seasons with the Bearcats, Higa has amassed 950 digs in 180 sets, for an average of 5.28 digs per set. She played in every match and every set in 2015 and 2016. As a libero, she hasn't had many opportunities to attack, but when she has attacked, she has been successful with 14 kills, a .371 hitting percentage and just one attacking error.
Higa also has contributed on serves. She has recorded a total of 37 service aces, including 22 aces in 2015.