WAIMEA — One of Waimea High School’s recent graduates will soon head for the Pacific Northwest.
Daneica Muraoka received a partial academic scholarship and will attend Pacific University, a Division III private school in Forest Grove, Ore.
There, Muraoka will join the school’s women’s volleyball team and plans to study health science. She’s yet to visit the campus.
“I’m excited. Pacific can be a new experience for me,” Muraoka said Friday. “Not only trying to be more independent myself because my parents won’t be there, but also trying to balance schoolwork. Time management is also exciting to me. I’d like see where things go from there.”
Muraoka signed her letter of intent on May 22 at the Clem Gomes Gym at Waimea High School.
“I felt it (not only showed) appreciation for the hard work I’ve done. It was an appreciation for what the coaches have done for me and the sacrifices that my family has made for me,” Muraoka said. “Everyone has supported me in every way. The signing wasn’t just for me. It was for everyone who helped me get to this point.”
Muraoka played middle blocker for the Menehune and was a varsity player the last three seasons.
“(I most remember) how close of a team we were every year, not just one year — this continuous feeling of being part of more than just a team,” she said. “No matter how mad or how angry we could against each other, we always try to motivate each other to become our best person on and off the court.”
Waimea had a 10-3 KIF record to win the league championship. It’s the first since 2013 and seventh under head coach Chad Delanoza.
Muraoka scored that game-winning kill in a playoff match against Kapaa to clinch KIF.
“I felt on top of the world,” Muraoka said of that kill. “Before the play started, my setter looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Just come in hard.’ I was like, she’s probably going to fake me out and set to someone outside. I went in hard, and thankfully it was an overpass, which made it an easy pass. It was an easy set. Once she set it, I hit it with all I could. And, yeah, we had it in the bag thankfully.”
At the New City Nissan Girls Volleyball Championships–Division II state tournament on Oahu, Waimea was 1-2 and just missed out on playing in the final day.
Delanoza said Muraoka — who’s 5 feet, 10 inches tall — wasn’t a natural middle blocker but has grown into the position.
“At the time, she was one of the tallest players that came out of the JV program after her freshman year. It wasn’t really a project. It was about getting her familiarized with the position,” Delanoza said. “As the years went by, playing against better middles and better competition, she realized she wasn’t that far behind.”
He added of seeing her get a chance at college ball: “It’s an exciting time, not just for her, but for our program. It’s the reason why we do these things — to get them to the next level and get an education.”
Muraoka said he’s been contacting schools the past few years hoping to land a scholarship.
She said she started getting more responses during her junior year. Pacific University was one of the schools that showed interest.
“They said I definitely have a spot on the team. It’s just I have to try out for the varsity, or if anything, I automatically make it on the JV squad,” she said. “They were really welcoming. They said they want the best for us and how they have a training program during the summer we have to stick to. It’s not the easiest, but it’s worth it at the end.”
Delanoza said Muraoka has been coachable and has a “feisty” attitude, and that will bode well for her in college.
“She wants to excel. She’s easy to coach, and that’s probably one of the biggest strengths that a lot of kids that go on to the next level need to have right off the bat. You got to be coachable,” Delanoza said. “She’s going into a different culture. But things that are stacked against her, there’s not too many things. When you’re coachable, you’re able to overcome and challenge it even more so.”
In Oregon, Muraoka also plans on trying out for Pacific University’s golf team. She’s been playing golf for five years.
“Actually, my friend (Waimea High alumna Bailee Taeza) golfs for Pacific. She told me they needed more women golfers,” she said. “I contacted the head coach, and he said they do have spots. So, I’ll be trying out during the spring.”
When she does leave her home island, Muraoka will miss spending time with family and friends.
“And, it’s going to be cold up there. I’ll probably miss the weather we have down here,” Muraoka said.