The Limitless Future of Hawai’i’s Emily Maglio
WAIKIKI — It is not easy for a 6-foot-4 teenager to disappear into a late Spring evening without a trace. Without her teammates realizing it. Without anyone, save a few, knowing it.
Yet that is exactly what Emily Maglio managed to accomplish during the end of her red shirt freshman year at the University of Hawai’i.
The Bows had been in Huntington Beach for the Big West Championships. They swept Cal Poly, fended off Long Beach, 3-2, then did it again in the finals. The rest of the team celebrated. Maglio did, too. Then she found a ride to the airport and hopped on a plane.
She had a final to take.
“Half the team didn’t even know she had left,” her partner, Katie Spieler, said.
And then, before the other half realized Maglio had been gone at all, she was back for a morning practice with Spieler – and then she was on a plane again, bound for Gulf Shores, Alabama for the NCAA Championships.
“She literally didn’t complain once,” Spieler said. “That’s just the kind of person she is. That’s crazy! Most people would just think that’s so insane but no one even knows because she’s so quiet and she just does it.”
Quiet. That was the cheerful heads up Hawai’i coach Jeff Hall gave prior to an interview with Maglio. And indeed the coach was correct: her explosive and wildly athletic style of play is almost comically belied by her wonderfully humble and soft-spoken demeanor.
When asked about her freshman post-season scramble to win the Big West, fly five-plus hours to take a final exam, fly back to California only to head directly to Gulf Shores, she allowed a soft smile.
“That,” she said, “was something.”
It was also something how well Spieler and Maglio played that season. Initially, they weren’t slotted to be on the same court. Spieler was tapped to play with Heather Friesen. When Friesen went out with an injury, the coaches had an open conversation with Spieler, asking her whom she wanted.
“Definitely Maglio,” Spieler remembers responding.
Good choice: By season’s end, the two were named Big West Team of the Year.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing,” Maglio said, laughing.
If that humility comes off as a bit of false modesty, it’s not. Scott Wong can attest to that. He was the first to find her. As a high schooler, Maglio, a Canada native, competed for Pinetree Secondary School and the Coquitlam Ducks in British Columbia. At Pinetree, she was named team MVP and the school’s female athlete of the year. With the Ducks, she won three straight British Columbia provincial championships and, in 2012, the Canadian Nationals.
Even still, “she wasn’t a great physical athlete,” Wong, then the associate head coach at Hawai’i and now the head coach of Pepperdine’s indoor team, said. “She contacted the ball real well. You have your thoughts about recruits and sometimes you go out on a limb but I never thought she’d be as good. I thought she’d be good but it’s a pleasant surprise.”
Maglio sent emails elsewhere, too. Everyone said no. Everyone but Wong and Dave Shoji, who gave her the chance she needed in Hawai’i.
What Maglio has become, in her five years on the Island, is the first player to be both an All-American indoors and an All-American on the sand in the same year. Twice she’s been named Big West Team of the Year, that award she once didn’t know was a thing. On March 30 of this season, she earned her 100th career win.
“It’s incredible,” she said of the volleyball culture in Hawai’i. “I walk around and people are like ‘Are you Emily Maglio? Can I get a picture?’ It’s unreal.”
Katie Spieler has seen a lot of volleyball in her life. She’s played against April Ross. Against Alix Klineman. She’s seen the best this sport has to offer. With that in mind, she doesn’t toss around compliments lightly. And yet, when the subject of Maglio comes up, she gushes.
“We always joke, we’re like ‘Either I’ll marry a Canadian or you marry an American so we can play together’ because she really does have Olympic potential for beach for Canada,” Spieler said. “I really don’t say that about anyone but when you play with someone for a year, there’s always little things that come up, even if you have the best partner. But with her there was literally nothing. She’s so steady, she was such a great partner.”
Ask anyone and you will get the same answer: Yes, Maglio could be an Olympian on the beach. At the moment, indoor is her current trajectory, as she’s already on the Canadian Indoor National Team. Already heading that direction.
But there remains one more tournament for Maglio. One more shot at a National Championship, where the Bows are the seven seed in this weekend’s NCAA Tournament. What happens after that is up to her. She could become a vet, as she has studied to be. She could become an Olympian indoors. She could become an Olympian on the beach.
“She is like my favorite person of all time,” Spieler said. “She’s super under the radar. She’s one of the highest-level players I’ve seen in this sport.”
Previous NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship previews
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