Set ’em up, knock ’em down: Chloe Ka’ahanui and Aryanah Diaz are leading the culture of greatness

Michael LaRocca, Staff Writer

Junior outside hitter Aryanah Diaz has been the Bobcats’ most versatile player, as she’s second on the team in kills (181), third in assists (128) and second in aces (19). Photo from Connor Lawless

Amid Quinnipiac volleyball’s difficult first full season since 2019, the pressure to be successful has developed a tense atmosphere for the team during its matches. Lucky for it however, when two players from some of the warmest places in the country step on the court, all that tension melts away.

Junior outside hitter Aryanah Diaz of Miami, Florida, and sophomore setter Chloe Ka’ahanui of Honolulu, Hawaii, have both cemented their roles on a Bobcat team that is working to find an identity after losing its fall season in 2020.

Quinnipiac volleyball head coach Kyle Robinson expects greatness from his squad, despite the team being a work in progress.

“Go be like Tom Brady,” Robinson said to his team.

That greatness is generally what he receives from Diaz and Ka’ahanui.

Through the team’s first 20 matches of the season, Ka’ahanui exemplified her role as the main setter by leading the team in assists (423). Diaz has been the true workhorse of this Quinnipiac squad, being second in kills (181), third in assists (128) and second in service aces (19). She has done all of this while virtually never leaving the court, leading the team in sets played (74).

“I have different goals every day when I come in,” Diaz said. “I know I have the ability to help the team with anything I do. Whether it’s setting, whether it’s playing outside, whether it’s playing right side. I just constantly feel like I have the talent and the energy to bring into the court and help everyone.”

Despite being an outside hitter, Diaz staked her claim as an impact player through her setting prowess during her freshman season in fall 2019. That year, she led the team in assists (667), similar to what Ka’ahanui is doing at this very moment.

“I didn’t recruit Aryanah,” said Robinson, who became the head coach in January 2019. “I didn’t see much film on her until almost she showed up for preseason … then she showed up, and she’s just a really good volleyball player.”

Robinson has developed a reputation for coaching many great setters and great players in general throughout his tenures at Long Island University (LIU) Brooklyn, University of Oklahoma and Quinnipiac. He is credited with coaching four setters of the year and five conference players of the year, among other accolades.

Sophomore setter Chloe Ka’ahanui is sixth in the MAAC in assists (423). Photo from Alex Bayer

His next player to be up for those awards would most likely be Ka’ahanui, the first setter Robinson recruited as the head coach of the Bobcats, bringing her to Hamden all the way from Honolulu.

“I recruited three Hawaiians when I was at Oklahoma, and one when I was at LIU,” Robinson said. “I love the Hawaiian style, the style of volleyball that they play has an international flavor but with just a different soulfulness and a different pridefulness … they respect the game on a different level.”

As a star athlete in Hawaii, Ka’ahanui recognized the change in the level of competitiveness she had played against in her youth especially compared to MAAC volleyball.

“So back home, we don’t really have taller, bigger girls, but the competition is still high,” Ka’ahanui said. “We definitely have longer rallies than what we have up here. I think there’s just a lot more competition up here. There are bigger girls, harder swings, a lot more hustling. But, I mean, I love the competition up here, it’s really pushing me to be a better player on and off the court.”

With both Diaz and Ka’ahanui having a couple more years left of their athletic eligibility, Robinson will look to keep improving the surrounding talent he has on the roster to achieve a winning record for his first time as the Bobcats’ head coach and win the program’s first-ever conference title.

“The setters are really the artists on the team,” Robinson said. “They’re not painting a masterpiece yet, but they’re getting close.”