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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Kalei Mau finds serenity with volleyball and Arizona

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Heather Newberry

Arizona outside hitter Kalei Mau (10) spikes the ball on Oregon State outside hitter Katelyn Driscoll (12) in McKale Center on Sept. 30, 2016. Mau is in her final season with the UA volleyball team.

Coming to the mainland provided Tyler-Marie Kalei Hulu Mamo O Kohala Mau, or Kalei Mau, the opportunity to become a part of the tradition behind the Arizona women’s volleyball team.

Mau is a unique player at the collegiate level, as she started experimenting and playing the game as a teenager.

“Volleyball today is really pressed on young girls in high school, and club volleyball is a really big thing,” Mau said. “Not for me. I was a soccer player my whole life and I just experimented with volleyball before I got into high school.”

She grew up in Kahaluu, Hawaii, and since age 3, she had been learning how to kick a ball and never touch it with her hands.

“I was really good. It was my life,” Mau said. “I played soccer every day.”

At 16 years old, she decided to exchange using her feet to kick goals to using her powerful arm to make kills over the net.

Mau spent countless hours practicing to be able to come to the mainland where she could be better recruited. She was soon getting offers from ranked Division I volleyball teams, including Minnesota.

“It got me excited and I put behind the fact that I was really behind in the sport and the knowledge of the sport,” Mau said.

She attended Minnesota her freshman year of college and said she loved everything about the program, but it became too much of a test of her ability to play the sport.

“I’m such a high-level competitor, but at the time, I wasn’t a high-level volleyball player,” Mau said. “So, when I was there, [I] was like a kindergartner getting thrown into a college-level program.”

Mau looked for other options of where she could play college volleyball. She wasn’t looking into the success of different programs, but instead for a coach that could relate to her on a personal level and help improve her skills.

Arizona head coach David Rubio was the head coach to take the young player under his arm.

“[Rubio] has taught me overall how to function on the court. I could always hit hard and jump high, but you can only do so much,” Mau said. “He broke up the whole aspect of the game, telling me how to score. He taught me how to pass, which is a huge part of my position of a six-rotation outside.”

Mau had her breakout as the Wildcats’ primary offensive weapon in 2015 and finished her junior year third in the Pac-12 Conference and 23rd in the country with 4.33 kills per set.

Mau is now a senior finishing up her volleyball career at Arizona. She has 338 kills this season on a .226 hitting percentage.

She continues her focus on the rest of her Wildcat career, but is looking forward to her future playing volleyball.

“I’m starting to move onto the next chapter of my life; I’m looking on to play overseas,” Mau said. “I want to focus on my volleyball career. I haven’t had the best experiences with my body and my health lately.”

Mau suffered from a concussion at the end of the 2015, taking her out of the final two games of the season.

The 2016 season has not been easy for Mau, either, as she’s been battling a ruptured disk in her back and a dislocated shoulder.

“I really think as long as I can manage my body, I can have a good future in professional volleyball,” Mau said.

She said she has learned more about her body and has the motivation to carry the family name for her final season at Arizona.

“My family is really important to me. My niece, Tavilyn Tatofi, is my biggest fan. My grandpa is struggling to come out here, and I know he would really love to come out here, but he can’t,” Mau said.

She has four regular season games left in her Arizona Wildcats volleyball career, and Mau’s family will be coming to Tucson for Senior Night on Nov. 23 as the Wildcats take on Utah. 


Follow Syrena Tracy on Twitter.


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