Kyra Hanawahine: Small player, big impact
Kyra Hanawahine stands at 5-foot-2 inches. She is the shortest player on Oregon’s volleyball roster since 2014, but more impressively, the Honolulu native is the team’s only freshman this season.
Hanawahine began playing volleyball when she was 7 years old at a local volleyball clinic. It wasn’t long before she was playing on club teams. She even played on a team for 12-year-olds when she was nine.
“It was honestly the last sport I tried,” Hanawahine said. “My dad loves baseball and my brother played in college, so they wanted me to play softball. But that wasn’t for me. I just tried volleyball out of nowhere and fell in love with it.”
After attending workshops in Oregon during her first couple years of high school, Hanawahine was offered a spot on Oregon’s team heading into her junior year. She didn’t think twice about being the only freshman on the 2017 season roster.
“My parents were always excited about it,” Hanawahine said. “And I was really comfortable going in knowing I would be the only one. It’s exciting, I know that it doesn’t happen a lot in the collegiate level.”
Moving 2,528 miles and trading in sunny Hawaiian beaches for the rainy skies of Eugene was an easy choice for Hanawahine, who always wanted to be a Duck.
“I knew that this was my dream school,” Hanawahine said. “My dad went to grad school here, so our family was always Duck fans. To have my college experience here is really exciting.”
Although her small stature may seem like a disadvantage in a sport dominated by taller athletes, Hanawahine sees her height as something that lets her stand out.
“I know a lot of girls back home look up to me because I’m small,” Hanawahine said. “Even when I’m here, girls are like, ‘Oh, can I take a picture with you because I’m small and you’re small.’ Being that type of influence is awesome.”
Head coach Matt Ulmer noted that even though she’s the smallest on the team, her height has its advantages on the court.
“It keeps her closer to the ground,” Ulmer said. “That helps with her getting the ball up. Sometimes it can be challenging when you’re small to cover more area, but she has great reading ability and great speed, so you don’t even know that she’s her size.”
As a defensive specialist, Hanawahine finds herself motivated by the performance of fellow Ducks like Oregon’s previous libero Amanda Benson and current senior libero Alex Hojnar.
“For practice we alternate and I try to help her, give her some pointers, because she’s a freshman and she’s still learning our system,” said Hojnar. “She’s always encouraging me, and I’m always encouraging her. I’m looking forward to see what she does once I’m out of here.”
Hanawahine’s upbeat personality has helped the Ducks to an 11-5 overall record this season.
“Whether she’s on the court, at home or hanging out with friends, you get the same person. Someone who is super positive, driven, who loves to compete and push herself. That’s her, and that’s her pretty much all the time,” said Hanawahine’s father, George.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni
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