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Digging her roots on the other side of the country

By Angelo Brussich (Sports Editor)

We have all been there for that impromptu slide on an elementary school gym floor. That awful skin squeak and burn that comes with it. Thus is the essence of a volleyball dig, it’s going to happen, it’s almost inevitable. According to the NCAA, “a dig (D) is awarded when a player passes the ball that has been attacked by the opposition. Digs are given only when players receive an attacked ball and it is kept in play, not when a ball is brought up off a ‘put back’ (blocked ball).” No one in Hofstra history has been better at collecting digs than Hofstra senior libero Kylee Maneja. She’s really easy to spot; she’s the one in the different-colored jersey giving up her body to keep the ball alive. In the Pride’s September 7 against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, the native Hawaiian collected 13 digs to become Hofstra’s all-time leader in digs. “It’s been her goal since she first came here, when she was a freshman,” said Hofstra head coach Kristina Hernandez. The record was previously held by fellow Hawaii native Shellane Ogoshi (2004-2007), who set the mark at 1,660. “Records are meant to be broken. I knew that my record would be broken one day especially, as it should, because I am a setter and not a libero,” said Ogoshi. “I think the fact that Hawaii players are receiving great exposure from these types of milestones, whether it is by me, Kylee or any other Hawaii player at that, is amazing in itself.” She continued, “This not only benefits the players coming out of the state but it affords them the opportunity to get a good education and compete collegiately, which is ultimately what it is all about.” Maneja found herself only 155 digs behind the mark at the beginning of the season, so the question was not whether she would break it, but how high she would go. “It was a great achievement, I’ve been working for it since my freshman year,” said Maneja. “When I first got recruited here I told her (Hernandez) that I was going to start and take someone’s position, and I told her I wanted to break the all-time digs record.” Maneja currently finds herself at 1,928 digs for her career with four more games to play to add onto her already impressive record. Maneja claims the key to her success has been her approach to the game. “Just my aggressive attitude and my intensity that I bring on the court; I always shoot for match high digs,” said Maneja. “You just really can’t be scared. Before I came to Hofstra my aunt told me I didn’t hit the floor enough, she told me I couldn’t be afraid so you just have to go after it… you can’t hesitate. Digs are not easy to get. It requires forward thinking of where the ball might go and a willingness to give up your body for your team. As the libero, Maneja finds herself at the forefront of the defense against the attack as the leader of the team’s defense on the serve receive. “My role on the court is to lead the defense and to lead the serve receive,” said Maneja. “So I have to make adjustments if something’s not working... I just have to be in charge of adjustments for the defense and make sure everyone’s on the same page.” But why the different jersey? “Usually the response is, ‘Are you the captain of the team?’” said Maneja. “But I wear a different colored jersey because on the sidelines, the officials... have to track me because I can only go in for two people, and I can only serve once.” Volleyball is a major part of Hawaiian culture. According to Maneja, the women who play at the University of Hawaii are treated like celebrities, and the sport of volleyball is huge on the West Coast. “My cousins on my mom side, they all played volleyball and they went to California State schools. My aunt played… so I just grew up with the sport,” said Maneja. “I started competing, really competing in volleyball in seventh grade, and from then on I fell in love with the sport.” When schools began to come around and try to lure the budding volleyball star, Maneja originally wanted to stay on the West Coast and go to either a college in Hawaii or a California State school. But a clinic held by Hernandez for Hawaiian girls and a talk with her mother began to change her mind. “Coach Hernandez came down and she held a clinic for the Hawaii girls and I was like, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to go, I’ve never even heard of the school before,’” said Maneja. “But my mom said, ‘Just go’.” Maneja was at first fearful to leave her home, but her friends and family pushed her to check out Hofstra, an East Coast school. “[Friends and family] said California’s the same as Hawaii; you want to experience different things,” said Maneja. “When I came here I fell in love with the girls, they were so nice; I fell in love with the coaches; fell in love with the campus; and it’s only 40 minutes away from the city so I figured, ‘Why not’? The transition at first was tough, as Maneja had to get use to the fast-paced New York lifestyle compared to her normally ‘chill’ personality. “It was an adjustment because I’m a really chill person,” she said. “Over there it’s really slow paced and I came here and everything’s fast paced. So when I go home my mom’s always saying, “Drop the New York attitude,” and it takes me at least two weeks to get back to my chill personality.”

The young Hawaiian with the big dreams and high goals from the West Coast rose through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the team today, a team that includes women from all over the world. With members from Brazil, New Zealand, Colombia and Hawaii, how does all of it fit together? “I really don’t know how it works, but it works somehow; everyone just brings a different energy,” said Maneja. “I think it was hard in the beginning just because some of us spoke English better than the other girls. We couldn’t communicate effectively at first but we found ways to work around that.

”Now the chill Hawaiian looks to use her “New York” attitude to help push her team through the final home stretch of the season to get the Pride into the CAA Tournament.

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