Entering high school, Utah Volleyball junior Adora Anae didn’t envision herself as a Division I volleyball player, much less the star of a nationally ranked team.
Anae wasn’t on a volleyball team until eighth grade when she joined the school team at the request of her friends.
“A lot of my friends played volleyball and they made me start,” Anae said. “I wanted to be on the same team as my friends, so I just started from there and then took it more seriously in high school.”
From humble beginnings, Anae soon climbed up the volleyball ranks. At Kahuku High School in Kakuku, Hawaii, Anae was on the basketball, soccer and track and field teams, in addition to the volleyball team.
In her sophomore year at Kahuku, Anae noticed colleges were taking interest in her volleyball game and that’s when she knew she needed to get serious about volleyball.
“I was just playing around for fun and then as a sophomore, I was getting looked at by [head] coach [Dave] Shoji at the University of Hawaii, so I thought that I could play DI volleyball,” Anae said. “From then on, I started taking it more seriously, and I knew my future was in volleyball.”
Anae comes from a sports family, one she says had a big impact on her volleyball game. Her uncle Robert is currently the offensive coordinator for the Virginia football team, and he is the former BYU offensive coordinator. Her brother Bradlee is a freshman on the Utah football team, and her cousin Wendy is a redshirt junior on the Ute women’s basketball team. Being in a family full of athletes pushed Anae to be her very best.
“We were just all involved in sports 24/7. I have a rich tradition on my dad’s side of sports,” Anae said. “What motivated me was me and my siblings. We were just so competitive, so we would just try and beat each other out and be the best we could be. We couldn’t ever lose to each other.”
That drive to win, hard work, dedication, and a growing body fueled Anae, that she and her high school team were runners-up in the Oahu Interscholastic Association volleyball championship, but she didn’t have a lot of schools calling. Due to an injury her sophomore year, Anae missed the club season, denying her the chance to travel and play in tournaments where college coaches were present. After Anae healed from her injury, she got to showcase her talents in Las Vegas as a junior, grabbing the attention of UCLA. Utah got in touch with Anae soon after, and Anae liked what the Utes had to offer.
“I was stoked because Pac-12 schools were actually looking at me,” Anae said. “When Utah offered me, I thought about BYU and how my family was associated with all the sports there and kind of thought I had to apply.”
Utah volleyball head coach Beth Launiere knew she had something special when she first saw Anae.
“Her body type and her length, she has arms that far exceed her height, she’s just a long athlete,” Launiere said. “She’s a smooth athlete, and she was a bit raw, but I saw potential because of her raw athleticism.”
In her freshman season at Utah, Anae played in 114 sets for the Utes, finishing the 2014 season with 115 kills. At the end of the season, Anae was named to the first team Pac-12 All-Freshman Team – the first time a Ute volleyball player had the honor bestowed upon her.
“Beth was a really good coach technical wise, doing double-days, I really think I improved from then on,” Anae said. “We had a lot of experienced players, all the starters were seniors, so I learned a lot from them, and it was just easier to learn from all the seniors and to get better quickly.”
Anae got better and fast, and she helped lead the team. Anae appeared in every one of Utah’s 118 sets in 2015, and she led the team in kills (501), digs (388) and aces (22). She was named to the All-Pac-12 1st-Team, and she wrote her name into the record books with the most kills in a season.
“I just knew I had to do it for my team,” Anae said. “There weren’t very many offensive weapons on our team last year, so I just knew that I had to do all that I could to contribute to the team’s success. It took a lot of mental preparation and physical preparation, on and off the court.”
This season, Anae and the Utes have been ranked No. 21 in the AVCA Coaches Poll, and they have notched wins against No. 9 BYU, No. 16 Colorado and No. 13 Washington State. Anae has been a big part of those wins as she leads Utah in kills (343), digs (235) and service aces (26.)
“I want to take each weekend and get some more big wins, small wins, however many wins we can collect in the Pac-12,” Anae said. “I think we did a really good job. I think we’re destined to be great in the Pac-12.”
With Anae at the helm, the Utes could be able to achieve greatness in the Pac-12 and beyond.
“Adora is a great competitor, she gets pretty focused on winning, and has that attitude all the time of just being a competitor,” Launiere said.