Aryanah Diaz reaches 1K kills in final stretch of Quinnipiac volleyball career

Kyle Robinson and Aryanah Diaz pose for a picture celebrating her 1,000th career collegiate kill.
Kyle Robinson and Aryanah Diaz pose for a picture celebrating her 1,000th career collegiate kill.
Tyler Rinko

Over 1,500 days ago, a 5-foot-4-inch outside hitter from Miami made her debut for the Quinnipiac volleyball team. Battling against William & Mary, 17-year-old Aryanah Diaz knocked down the first seven kills of her collegiate career, a respectable debut.

She didn’t lead the team in kills that morning, or that season, but she refused to quit on the team or on herself. Five seasons, 120 matches and 993 kills later, Diaz became the second Bobcat in the program’s Division I era to record 1,000 kills in her collegiate career.

On Quinnipiac’s senior day victory against Siena on Nov. 5, Diaz – now a graduate student, notched nine kills – putting her over the 1,000-kill plateau in front of family, friends and anyone else who made the decision to wander into Burt Kahn Court that day.

With the Bobcats up 9-5 on the Saints in the first set, Diaz received the serve from Siena libero Emily Wood; Quinnipiac setter Damla Gunes then sent a bump set back Diaz’s way. Using her robust left-handed swing, Aryanah sent the ball right into the block of Siena’s Sina Toroslu and Kayla Jones. It rebounded off of their hands and fell softly out of bounds to Diaz’s left. Her 1,000th kill.

Quinnipiac head coach Kyle Robinson promptly suspended the match to present her with a golden volleyball inscribed with the words “Aryanah Diaz, 1,000 Kills vs Siena 11/5/23.” The pair embraced, and the action of her final home match as a Quinnipiac athlete continued.

“I didn’t really think I would reach (1,000 kills) because I played so many different positions,” Diaz said. “But to score it here today on a very special day for our seniors also made my last game nice.”

Aryanah Diaz (1) secures her 1000th kill with this spike against Siena on November 5, 2023. (Tyler Rinko)

Heading into Quinnipiac’s last home weekend of the 2023 season, Aryanah needed 14 more kills to reach the milestone. Her mother, Yadira, knew this, and decided to decorate a colorful tri-fold poster board in preparation for her daughter’s achievement, including a countdown at the top.

“I made it for her throughout the week,” Yadira said. “I’m an art teacher so I just wanted to get that prepped for her. I knew she had about 14 kills left so I thought it would be good to show a little countdown.”

Aryanah insisted she had no knowledge of how close she was to the achievement, but had her suspicions during the leadup to the weekend slate.

“I don’t keep track of my numbers,” Aryanah said. “This weekend, the energy was different. I think my mom was a little too excited for a regular home game weekend. So I figured that something was going on.”

Aryanah nearly reached that mark a day earlier, as a 12-kill performance against Marist on Nov. 4 left her with 998 for her career, just two away. Robinson presumably discussed the milestone with Aryanah during the match, to which she responded with the aforementioned ignorance.

“According to Aryanah, she doesn’t know what I’m talking about,” Robinson said on Nov. 4. “I think she’s F-O-S (full of shit), but maybe she’s right, maybe she doesn’t know.”

Regardless, Aryanah only needed to wait less than 24 hours to get those two extra kills. And among the pomp and circumstance of the senior day celebrations for setter Chloe Ka’ahanui and middle blocker Lexi Morse, Aryanah’s achievement sparked another level of sentimentality.

Aryanah was recognized on senior day last year as an undergraduate. However, there was a true finality to her performance this senior day as it was the last time the graduate student would step foot on Burt Kahn Court as a Quinnipiac athlete.

“For me it’s tough, because these moments are special, but it also signifies the end of something,” Robinson said. “The end is not bad, because the end just brings new beginnings.”

The milestone-reaching kill was not the prettiest of Aryanah’s career – not by a long shot – but none of that mattered to Yadira.

“It was an amazing play no matter what,” Yadira said. “I know we were all expecting a more exciting play, but I think it was a fantastic way to get to 1,000.”

When all is said and done, Aryanah will likely be recognized as the most decorated player in the history of the Quinnipiac volleyball program, and she isn’t done yet.

Some of her accolades include:

  • Winningest player in D1 program history (59 wins)
  • Second in D1 program history in kills (1007)
  • Second in D1 program history in digs (1345)
  • Second in D1 program history in service aces (136)
  • 2022 MAAC Volleyball Champion
  • 2022 MAAC Volleyball Championship Most Valuable Player
  • 2022 All-MAAC Volleyball First Team
  • 2021 MAAC Volleyball All-Championship Team
  • One-time MAAC Player of the Week
  • One-time MAAC Student Athlete of the Week

Most of those recognitions are for Aryanah as an individual. But that’s never been her style, nor has it been the team’s style.

“The team is the priority,” Robinson said. “The individual accolades are cool, but the team is what we’re all about here.”

Aryanah could take all of the credit and say she is the best player in program history. From an objective standpoint, she could be right, but she’ll never say it.

“I’m (not) thinking like, ‘Oh, I won the award,’ and whatever,” Aryanah said on April 20 while reflecting on the team’s 2022 MAAC championship. “I’m thinking more like the team made history, not I made any sort of history. When I sit back, I’m more shocked that this is the first time that this program has done anything like this. I don’t necessarily want to put my name single handedly in those victories. This was a very team-(oriented) victory.”

Aryanah came to Hamden as a 17-year-old, ready to play for a program that just hired a brand new coach who was fired from his previous position.

Now at 22, she will leave Hamden after giving everything she had, with the numbers and the accolades to back her up, whether she likes it or not.

No matter where Aryanah travels in life, it seems as if all roads will lead her back to the sport she loves most.

“Volleyball is my life,” Aryanah said. “I grew up in the gym. I’ll continue playing if I can get the opportunity, but I don’t think I’ll get very far away from volleyball.”

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