It is common in college sports for schools to recruit local athletes.
Not only does it make sense financially, since some colleges are not always able to afford sending their coaches on scouting trips across the country, but also, there is something special about getting a star, local athlete to play in his or her hometown.
This practice has translated onto most of the 19 teams at Manhattan College as well, which have had the luxury of recruiting athletes from the tri-state area—New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
However, the Manhattan College volleyball team seems to be the exception to this trend, as 13 of the 14 players on the team are from outside of the tri-state area.
By far and away, the volleyball team has the highest percentage of players from outside of the region, with 93 percent. Trailing it is the men’s soccer team with 54 percent, women’s track and field with 44 percent, and softball at 38 percent.
But why recruit outside of the region? Volleyball head coach Mark Jones believes the talent available in other states is just too good to pass up.
“We’re always looking for the best players in the tri-state area, but most of the players that are playing volleyball at a very high level tend to be outside the area,” he says. “There are so many schools looking at the same kids, so we tend to go a little bit outside of the area to find some great kids to come to Manhattan.”
Jones has done just that, as the team is comprised of three players each from Hawaii, California, and Illinois, and one each from Maryland, Idaho, Wisconsin, and Germany.
Instead of recruiting players one by one and making trips to distant states often, Jones ensures that he chooses top-notch tournaments to scout, where he can see many players at once.
“Usually when we go out there, there are specific kids that we’re looking at, but also, there’s thousands of kids at tournaments, especially for qualifiers, that we’re able to see a lot of high quality kids in a very short period of time,” he says. “I think we just really pick tournaments where we know we’re going to have a lot of interest from, but also, we know that the level will be very high and it can help us be successful here.”
One of those players that caught Jones’ eye at a tournament is senior outside hitter, Malia McGuinness, who leads the team with 3.38 kills per set this season.
McGuinness is one of the 13 players who have traveled hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of miles to play at Manhattan.
Originally from Kailua, Hawaii, McGuinness had no idea Manhattan College existed.
“I honestly didn’t hear about it [Manhattan College] before Mark [Jones] emailed me,” she says.
But McGuinness, whose parents grew up in New York, and still had aunts and uncles in the city, was convinced to come to Manhattan.
In her time at the school, McGuinness has had the privilege of playing alongside three fellow Hawaiians in Juliana Behrens, Marissa Behrens and Allie Yamashiro, something she believes has helped her game.
“It’s so easy having three girls from Hawaii because they already know the way I play, and I know the way they play,” McGuinness says.
A player who has not had the chance to play with a fellow compatriot, but adds to the list of players born outside of the tri-state area is senior middle blocker, Anna Kitlar.
Kitlar, from Kiel, Germany, played volleyball at Avonside Girls’ High School in New Zealand for a year before returning to Germany to continue playing club volleyball and finishing high school.
She was recruited by Hofstra where she played at for two years before deciding to transfer to Manhattan College in 2013.
Having arrived at Manhattan with varying styles of play under her belt was something Kitlar had to learn to harness.
“The style of play is a lot different,” Kitlar says about the different countries and levels she has played at. “In Europe we play a lot of slower and higher balls, and here [the United States] it’s a lot of quick balls. So it’s a different technique, a different style, which you get used to after like a year I would say.”
But all the styles the volleyball players have brought on to the team is something Jones believes has helped.
“We can always use a few extra things that they [players] can bring to the program,” Jones says.
Kitlar believes it has added a new dimension to the team.
“I honestly believe that all these different styles we have on this team make our team better,” she says. “Having one style is easily predictable for your opponents, but if you have different styles and different hitters, it’s so hard for an opponent to scout you because they never know what to go for.”
It is no longer a secret that the volleyball team has become a recruiting hotbed for girls all over the country.
In fact, according to McGuinness, Manhattan has started to build a reputation in her home state.
“Before I came here, no one really knew about Manhattan College, and now I know that it’s a huge name back in Hawaii,” she says.
As long as the team keeps winning, which it has done a lot of lately, having four consecutive winning seasons dating back to 2010, the recruits will keep coming.
Jones believes that is part of the reason why Manhattan has become an attractive destination for recruits, but also thinks the school offers much more than that.
“We’re close to the city, and I think that definitely helps us,” he says. “But I think that our players are really coming here to make sure they have a great experience, make sure they graduate, and have a team that’s successful, which they can be a part of.”