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Lakenheath sophomore has high hops, hopes on court

Number 80 Maya Hagander listens to guidance from varsity volleyball coach Dennis Ullery during a practice at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 29, 2016. She made the varsity squad as a freshman last year and is considered to be one of DODEA-Europe???s best young players.

WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 13, 2016

RAF LAKENHEATH, England ― Maya Hagander yelled for the setup and time seemed to slow as the volleyball hung in the air. Then it sped again as she spiked it over the net through a throng of defenders.

“It honestly feels like you’re on top of the world when you slam the ball down,” said Hagander, a sophomore volleyball player at Lakenheath who’s considered to be one of DODEA-Europe’s best young players. “But you always have to think about the girl that set it up and made it possible.”

Hagander has spent a lot of time thinking about how a successful volleyball sequence comes about. She grew up around the sport, as her father has coached teams while stationed in Korea and Lakenheath.

“She used to hang around at the practice and occasionally get a chance to hit around afterwards,” David Hagander, Maya’s father, said.

Soon Hagander was playing competitively, and she made an immediate impact. Her first volleyball tryout was at age 11 for the Boswells youth program in Essex, England, where she played for four years under the watchful eye of her coach, former Great Britain Olympian Rachel Laybourne. At age 12, Hagander competed in the Volleyball England Inter Region Championships and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Last fall, Hagander turned her attention to DODEA-Europe volleyball, joining the Lakenheath Lancers varsity squad as a freshman. Success once again came quickly. Hagander earned All-Region first team honors and was named to the All-Tournament team at the Division I European tournament in November.

Lancers coach Dennis Ullery, a veteran of 15 seasons at various levels of volleyball coaching, attributes Hagander’s success to her “spirit” as much as her skillset.

“She obviously possesses a genuine ability and gift for the game of volleyball,” Ullery said. “She leads the game not only because of her knowledge and skill level but because of her spirit.”

Ullery isn’t the only DODEA-Europe coach impressed with Hagander. Vilseck coach Brian Swenty, who runs an annual summer volleyball camp for DODEA-Europe volleyball prospects, envisions a bright future for the rising DODEA-Europe star.

“Maya clearly has what it takes to be a dominant player in DODEA-Europe. She is tall, athletic, and moves well,” Swenty said. “She clearly has an opportunity to play at the next level of volleyball if she continues to work hard and put forth the effort.”

She appears to be doing just that. Over the summer, Hagander traveled to Colorado to participate in the USA National A2 Invitational. The elite program features five rigorous days of training and places participants in high-level action in front of collegiate coaches from across the United States. Hagander herself hopes to play volleyball for Duke University while studying to become a dermatologist.

Experiences such as this summer’s camp in Colorado can only help Hagander eventually reach such goals. Swenty suggested that they could also help the development of the DODEA-Europe teammates and opponents Hagander will encounter over the rest of her high school career.

“Hopefully, she was able to learn quite a bit that she can bring back to our students so they can grow as well,” Swenty said.

howard.william@stripes.com

Sophomore volleyball player Maya Hagander serves the ball during a varsity practice at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 29, 2016. She made the varsity squad as a freshman last year and is considered to be one of DODEA-Europe???s best young players.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

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