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The 22-year-old graduated from the University of Texas-Arlington last week from the safety of her family home in Riccarton, having completed her studies and four seasons of college volleyball.
“I was meant to be walking across a stage last week to graduate with my psychology degree, but I’m definitely glad I’m back in New Zealand given the current climate,” she said.
The former Burnside High School student and current New Zealand senior player said her two years at Hillsborough Community College in Florida and then her final two years at the University of Texas-Arlington were highlights both in life and her sporting endeavours.
Manderson said it was her year 9 opening night at Burnside which introduced her to volleyball.
“We were all just having a tour of the school and went into the gym and (Canterbury coach) Sam Ryburn was there, and he said for me to give it a try and so I hit the ball and it all went from there.
“I played hockey mostly but I’d played netball, basketball, touch, swimming and athletics before high school.”
Manderson trialled for the Burnside team and because she was tall (1.77m) she was put in the middle of the court.
“I grew early but once others caught up, I moved to be an outside hitter,” she said.
She said the turning point was making a New Zealand under-16 training camp and, while she did not make the team, it gave her confidence to pursue the sport with added confidence.
She said she saw her friends recruited to play volleyball in the United States and she thought she would try too.
“The goal was to try to make a division one or two school straight away but I was focussed on doing architecture at the time and it was hard to balance both.
“A junior college was a great fit for me for the first two years.”
She said Hillsborough allowed her to balance study and sport and helped her develop into a division one player for her two senior seasons.
“Texas felt like a good fit for me - they’re a top-100 school and at our best we got into the top-70 in America.”
It was at that time she realised architecture was no longer for her.
“The workload was high with a lot of time spent in the studio creating models and drawing.
“For so long that had been what I wanted to do, but I realised I did not love it as much as I thought I should love it.
“Volleyball was more important to me at that point and I really enjoyed the psychology side of sport so that worked out.”
Manderson said she enjoyed her time as the only international on the team in Texas.
“We trained five days a week and we’d travel every weekend to play games,” she said.
She said she had hoped to travel after graduation but with those plans on hold, a return to the Christchurch volleyball scene was highly likely.
“I’ll definitely keep playing volleyball here with my club team Shirley and I’ll try to stay in the fold with the New Zealand (senior) team and what opportunities come from that,” she said.