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Q&A with Nevada's Kayla Afoa, the star of Pack volleyball's 2019 turnaround

Kayla Afoa
Kayla Afoa has helped rebuild the Nevada volleyball program. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)

Nevada volleyball outside hitter Kayla Afoa ranks first in the Mountain West in kills (301), first in points (351), seventh in aces (25) and eighth in digs (297), making it easy to argue she's been the best player in the conference this season, and that includes a loaded Colorado State team that is 22-1 and ranked 14th in the nation. Beyond her individual stats, the Wolf Pack has played much better as a team this season compared to last when Nevada went 8-21 overall and 1-17 in the MW. In 2019, Nevada is 15-8 overall and 5-6 in conference, which places the team tied for fifth in the MW.

For Afoa's stellar play – she also competes in track and field for the school – she is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for October, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. You can watch the full interview with Afoa below, or check out a Q&A with a portion of the conversation below.

Q&A with Kayla Afoa

On how she got into playing volleyball

Kayla Afoa: "I guess just starting young with sports. I started with soccer and then got into volleyball. Once I started playing volleyball I said, 'Wow, I really love playing this game.' It was just the thrill of it. Every point is different. Every ball is a different ball."

On why she chose volleyball as her main sport

KA: "Just going from soccer to volleyball, it's a very big difference. When you're playing soccer, going back and forth, it takes a while to get a goal to score. It takes a lot to kind of get one point. In volleyball, it could be back and forth. You could get five points in a row. It's just quick."

On Nevada's turnaround from last year to this year

KA: "It's just a much different culture than it has been in the past. A lot of team chemistry on and off the court. It could definitely improve off the court, but I just think we have built trust and that definitely helps to impact our success."

On why she didn't transfer like many other teammates

KA: "I kind of heard that transferring is not the easiest thing or process, and also I thought I had a good connection with (coach) Lee (Nelson) and the coaching staff as well as our teammates. That kind of helped me stick around, the bond that I've created with people here in Nevada."

On moving from her hometown of Honolulu to Reno

KA: "It's for sure a totally different world. It's a change, but it's a positive change. It's not impacting me in a negative way. I've had to get adapted to it, and I think I've done that pretty well."

On why there are so many good athletes from Hawaii

KA: "I think it's definitely going off representing where we come from. It's so small, everybody knows everyone. Just the fact that we want to get away from home also, but really represent where we come from."

On where growing up on Hawaii is as cool as it sounds

KA: "Definitely there are good and bad spots, but for the most part it is paradise."

On whether she went to the beach and surfed a lot as a kid

KA: "More now than in high school and growing up. Growing up, it was always sports, sports, sports. We didn't have time to go the beach. Mainly during breaks in school, but even then it was sports every day."

On her favorite things about living in Reno

KA: "I'd say just the fact that it's such a big city, but it feels so connected and little at the same time. Just like it's, 'The Biggest Little City in the World.'"

On what it'd mean to get to an NCAA Tournament before graduating

KA: "That'd be a dream come true. It'd be a dream to me to make it to the NCAA Tournament."

On the potential of achieving that as a senior next season

KA: "With the graduating class at Colorado State this year, I think many teams are going to step up in the conference and it will be interesting to see next year how the season goes."

On whether she can believe her senior season is next year

KA: "I can't. It's so fast. Me and Lee were just talking about how I played Libero freshman year at Colorado State and it's already my third year, it was my third time playing Colorado State. It's gone so fast."

On how she's been able to thrive at outside hitter being 5-foot-9 (most outside hitters are 6-1 or taller)

KA: "Definitely just knowing the challenge of being undersized. I just try to develop different skills being undersized. Being able to hit high and hard against a big block against me is something I've definitely worked towards and just working different shots."

Previous Athlete of the Month honorees

September: Sam Harned, golf

August: Kendal Stoval, soccer

July: Lucas Weber, football

June: Nicola Ader, track and field

May: Stephen Osborne, golf

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