HCC volleyball player to represent New Zealand next month

- Petra Manderson set out in the world when she left her New Zealand home to play volleyball at Hillsborough Community College.

Now she's preparing to hit a new level, as captain of the U23 New Zealand team. 

"Yeah, I'm very proud to represent my country," said Manderson. "I think it's like a really cool opportunity, and to be the captain of the team, I think it's really cool."

Her squad will compete in the Asian U23 Volleyball Championship in Thailand from May 6-23, playing countries like Malaysia and Iran.

"The top three teams, I think, go on to the world champs," said Manderson. "So, it's kind of like a qualifier for the worlds."

"A lot of the teams at the Asian champs, like China, Japan, Korea, they're all in like the top 5 or 10 in the world, so it's going to be quite a tough competition."

When she came to the U.S., Petra learned to play volleyball at a faster pace. It's something she wasn't used to.

"I think the Asian teams play a lot faster, as well," said Manderson. "They set a lot quicker. Having played against teams that run the same kind of plays will help prepare me."

"Hopefully by playing in our system, she has learned to think more quickly, to move more quickly, and then she'll be able to adapt to whatever style of play they want to play," said HCC head volleyball coach, Gary Larkin.

He added Petra's team-first mentality earned her the honor as captain of New Zealand's U23 -- from the other side of the world. What she'll bring back with her to this side, is a new one.

"She'll come back someone who's even more mature and has seen volleyball in such a different light and played under such extreme circumstances that we're going to really reap the benefits of it when it's all said and done," said Larkin.

Her knowledge of the game, from ocean to ocean, will spike, too. 

"I've played for the, like, senior women's team for New Zealand," said Manderson. "But, I think being the captain of the under 23 team is probably, like, one of the best accomplishments I've had so far."

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