Volleyball has long been one of the most successful sports at Long Island University, with the team excelling in conference play and earning multiple trips to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament. While there were a few rough spots early in the season, since settling into conference play the Sharks have been strong, amassing an 8–4 record thus far.
Adding a dominant presence this season is freshman Celine Mukura, a six-foot-seven outside hitter from Rwanda. She and an older sister came to the U.S. four years ago to attend high school in Utah, and that is where she took up the sport of volleyball. The opportunity to play at the Division I level and pursue a degree are keeping Mukura highly motivated.
“[At home] I participated in school activities, but it wasn’t a main priority for me,” said Mukura, who comes from a tall family, but said she is the tallest so far. There was encouragement to get involved in sports and right from the start she has liked volleyball’s fast pace and intensity. “It gave me something to do, and it also gave me a way to use my height.”
Watching Olympic volleyball this past summer inspired Mukura. Seeing amazing tall women gave her extra motivation to excel at the sport. The camaraderie of her LIU team is making the transition to the collegiate game easier. She appreciates the busy pace and excitement of New York City and the diversity of the student population at LIU.
“I always like when I’m getting better, when I’m learning something new and I apply it,” said Mukura, who is studying artificial intelligence. “I have a long way to go and it’s amazing how far I can go and what I can become.”
Last weekend, LIU went on a road trip to New England, defeating Merrimack College 3–0 and dropping a tough match to Bryant University 2–3. This weekend, the team is at home in Brooklyn, taking on Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) on Friday and Fairleigh Dickinson University on Saturday to close out regular season conference play. The NEC tournament is the following weekend.