Kayla Diaz had a pretty great freshman season as a setter on Howard University’s volleyball team. The Bisons won the MEAC tournament and with that a trip to the Division I NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
“That experience taught me that I’m surrounded by a lot of talented, high level players,” said Diaz, who grew up in Nanuet, New York. “We have so many super athletic people on our team and we can play anybody and be competitive.”
Before leaving campus in March, Diaz said the volleyball team received a workout plan from the lifting coach, which she has followed along with “getting a little creative.” “I like to go on social media and find different exercises that look fun,” she said. “I put them together and make my own workouts.”
Diaz grew up watching women’s college volleyball on television, always taking it as a learning experience. “Try to take their skills and incorporate it into my own game,” she said. Sometimes, all she had to do was look close to home because Diaz has always been surrounded by people who play volleyball.
“My mom and my sister played,” said Diaz. “I was able to watch my sister play club volleyball and go on to play collegiate volleyball at St. John’s. They’ve both rubbed off on me and I immediately fell in love with the sport.”
While the volleyball club scene in Rockland County isn’t as competitive as other parts of the country, Diaz was still a standout, being named NY Journal News Player of the Year. She played at Downstate Juniors VBC in Peekskill as well at Nanuet High School. Diaz considered following her sister to St. John’s, but ultimately decided Howard was a better fit for her.
“The atmosphere on campus inspires us to be great,” she said. “I’m honored to attend an HBCU with such rich history. It’s nice to be surrounded by Black excellence.”
Her teammates and coaches have been a great support system since she’s returned home. They have Zoom sessions weekly to check in and each player has a teammate/accountability partner. A psychology major, Diaz knows that fall sports, including women’s volleyball, may not take place this fall.
“We all want to go back and get on the court, but if we have to stay home, I’ll continue my routine of working out,” said Diaz. “I have my own volleyball, so I do play in the backyard and try to stay active, trying to build my skills as much as I can from home.