A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: MALINE VAITAI
Vaitai (pictured) has played in all 84 matches since her freshman year in 2010

Vaitai (pictured) has played in all 84 matches since her freshman year in 2010

Oct. 11, 2012

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - Over the past six years, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore volleyball team has achieved many things. Whether it be winning the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship in program history or holding the nation's longest home winning streak, these women have recorded an abundance of success.

It's a team grown to become a family; a contingent that has evolved into a conference powerhouse.

The growth of the program can be attributed to several things. One could note the coaching staff, style of play, retention figures or even recruitment. More than likely it is a combination of all of the aforementioned, but the program has also developed its players into better competitors as well.

And none may be as impacting as that of junior Maline Vaitai (Salt Lake City, Utah).

The soft-spoken outside hitter has been a staple in the starting lineup for UMES over the past three years. Aside from junior Jingqiao Li (Beijing, China) she is the longest tenured player at UMES. Vaitai has played in all 84 matches of her collegiate career, a streak that dates back to her rookie year in 2010.

Over the past three years, she has the most kills (944), digs (548) and blocks (138) of any Hawk on the floor. She has ranked among the top-3 in every major category for the team since 2010 and has guided the Hawks to a 23-2 conference record during her tenure. Vaitai was named MEAC Rookie of the Year in 2010, MEAC Preseason Player of the Year in 2011 and has been awarded the MEAC Player of the Week on numerous occasions.

To what does she attribute her success to?

"Never give up," said Vaitai. "No matter who or what gets in the way."

The Salt Lake City, Utah product uses several things as her motivation on the court. She admits to being underestimated throughout her athletic career and has had to prove doubters wrong at every stop of her journey. Above all, it is her father that drives her to become a better person and student-athlete.

"My father is my biggest motivation," said Vaitai. "It is because of his hard work and determination. I hope to one day build the character that he has always displayed as I've seen while growing up."

Vaitai has led UMES to a 61-23 record since she first stepped inside the William P. Hytche Athletic Center in 2010. She has been a part of two 20+ win seasons thus and with 17 wins so far in 2012, every sign hints at the streak continuing into 2013.

The volleyball program was also successful before Vaitai arrived, but it was not the win-loss record that drove her towards Princess Anne.

It was her fondness of Head Coach Don Metil and Assistant Coach Eric Hammond.

"UMES was the right fit for me," said Vaitai. "My mind was set to go to the Air Force Academy, but then I came to visit the Eastern Shore. The coaches were very kind and knowledgeable and showed a true passion for helping their players exceed on and off the court. They have built a good program and a great team."

Her ability to influence others is not just seen on the court. She aspires to be a part of a pediatric practice and enjoys taking care and working with children. Vaitai also has a passion for spending time with her family and friends.

She notes that she is thankful to be given the opportunity to further her education and play the sport that she loves, but she is not the only person that has been blessed throughout her experiences here.

The volleyball program, fans and university are all thankful that she has chosen UMES. Everyone within athletics is looking forward to continue watching her grow over the next year and a half.