Juliene McLaughlin and Kaimana Lee are from different worlds. But at GW, the two sophomores share a common interest: volleyball.
McLaughlin, an outside hitter, hails from outside of Toronto. Lee, a setter, is a native of Hawaii. Both players have been bright spots on the GW volleyball team, a squad that has struggled this year.
The pair has become the team’s most potent offensive tandem. Lee is the team’s quarterback, setting up McLaughlin, who is like a football wide receiver, finishing the play for her team.
Getting used to life in the District was not a simple task for both players.
“Americans definitely have a different mentality on sports and life so it was a big change for me to get used to,” McLaughlin said. “But I think I have adjusted well.”
Lee, who attended Seabury Hall High School in Maui, led her team to consecutive island championships. She was named the Maui Interscholastic League Player of the Year during her senior season in 2003.
“The hardest thing for me was the cold at the end of the first semester,” Lee said. “The thing is I wanted to come to school here so all the new things about the city I wanted to embrace because it’s part of the experience.”
However, Lee’s life on the island of Maui is not comparable to life in D.C.
“They are two totally different worlds, I feel like I live two totally different lives,” she said. “The island life is so much slower (than Washington), and you literally know everyone on the island. So it’s nice to go back to. Volleyball-wise it’s very different, people (in Maui) are brought up on volleyball while here on the east coast it’s more about basketball.”
Lee and McLaughlin’s team has not had much success yet this season (4-12, 1-4 Atlantic 10). Both players entered a lineup that had just lost three seniors to graduation last spring. Despite strong individual seasons, winning is still the most important thing.
“Personally I would not like to have any of the personal accolades and have the team win,” McLaughlin said. “I mean I haven’t played my best in some matches and we have won. It’s frustrating when you play well and we don’t get the results.”
The team lost their first seven contests of the season before winning at home during the GW Invitational. After the seventh and final loss of the streak, Lee went out on a limb and proclaimed that “we are going to annihilate (the next opponent we play).”
The team came out inspired in their next game. The Colonials beat their next opponent and ended up winning three in a row, capturing the GW Invitational tournament.
McLaughlin and Lee have also become good friends this year. Their close relationship has helped them become team leaders.
“I think we have a good relationship because when we yell at each other on the court we can both take it and it gets the job done,” McLaughlin said.
GW head coach Jojit Coronel said the teammates have not had an easy year. As two of the team’s strongest players, there is more pressure to succeed.
“I think there is a lot of pressure on them from the crowd and their teammates,” Coronel said. “From a coaching prospective we don’t put any more pressure on them than any of their teammates.”
Coronel also said the future is bright for the two players, but they still must improve.