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Well-seasoned Maeda brings added essence

By Cindy Luis

LAST UPDATED: 1:46 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012

Banana bread, scones, muffins, okonomiyaki.

Give Emily Maeda an oven or a stove and she'll give you satisfying treats.

Treats with substance.

Treats that will surprise.

Treats that are made in the same way that Maeda has made herself into a Division I volleyball player for tradition-rich Hawaii. With perseverance, determination, hard work and soul.

An outside hitter at Roosevelt High, the 5-foot-6 Maeda didn't grow up with the dream of playing for the Rainbow Wahine. She had success and honors: Maeda helped the Rough Riders to a state berth as a junior, was named to the Star-Bulletin's Fab 15 all-state team as a senior and earned distinction from as outstanding digger.

College choices came down to a small Christian school in Oregon, Hawaii Pacific and Hawaii. She knew what she wanted to study (social work) but didn't know if she could play at the next level.

"She pursued us," Wahine coach Dave Shoji said. "I saw her in high school, but she wasn't going to have a shot with us as a hitter. She wasn't a back-row player and that's the only role she would have.

"So then it was ‘Do we spend time with this person, start from square one, and hope she develops?' I'm glad we did. I'm glad she stuck it out. She's quite the young lady and no one is more deserving than she is to be here."

Maeda, playing as a graduate student as she works on her master's in social work, likely won't be the starting libero this season. But she is expected to see plenty of time as the first defensive specialist off the bench.

"Her role may be more limited, but it's still very important," Shoji said. "She is playing with confidence and this role (as DS) has allowed her to relax a little bit.

"She is such a great example of how, when putting your whole self into a sport, you can contribute."

Maeda is the team's only senior but she knows she won't be alone on the court come senior night. Her family has supported her the whole way, and her teammates are making 2012 feel like Thanksgiving dinner.

"That's what we are," she said. "Lots of hearty dishes, very satisfying, very complete.

"This team has the potential to go far, we can go all the way. The work ethic is there, the energy is great. It's all about coming together."

Just like Thanksgiving dinner does at the end with the perfect pumpkin pie. It's Maeda's favorite, but it has to have one thing: a good, firm crust on the bottom.

It's how she likes it. It's how she's been during her career, a solid foundation on and off the court.

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