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Sniffen’s perseverance leads to invited walk-on opportunity at Portland

Sniffen

Mileina Sniffen has gotten far listening to her father’s advice, especially when it comes to volleyball.

That fatherly advice from Scott Sniffen led her to the University of Portland recently — with a president’s academic scholarship in hand from the school, she will be an invited walk-on to the school’s beach volleyball team when she arrives in the fall.

The Haleakala Waldorf School senior had planned on attending Colorado Mesa and try out for the indoor and beach teams, but was told recently the teams were both full. So for a couple weeks, she was in college volleyball limbo.

“Of course, I was devastated but my dad told me something that really stuck with me, which was ‘When one door closes, another door opens,’ “ Sniffen said. “So, he just said, ‘Keep working at it, send those videos out, email more coaches.’ “

One of the coaches she emailed was Dylan Hamilton, a Seabury Hall graduate who is the beach head coach and an indoor assistant for the Pilots.

“I sent him my videos, we chatted a bit and, yes, I can’t wait to play beach volleyball for the University of Portland as a walk-on next year,” Sniffen said.

Hamilton coached Sniffen as a youngster on Maui beaches.

“He was my coach when I was young, and he’s a good family friend, so I decided I wanted to reach out to him to see if they had any more room on their beach volleyball team and if I would be a great asset for their team — and I’m so excited to find out I was,” she said. “Yup, that’s how it all started.”

Sniffen finished her time with her dad as coach on Saturday when she led Haleakala Volleyball Club to second place in the Pueo Volleyball Classic at Maui Prep and was named MVP of the tournament. The HVC team was made up of students from Haleakala Waldorf.

“She’s always had a knack for ball control and digging,” said Scott Zucco, who has coached Sniffen on the beach in his Aloha Volleyball Association since she was in the sixth grade. “Since she’s been 16, 17, 18 she’s getting more offensive with it. Even though her height isn’t past 5-5, she’s just way more offensive now because she’s got a stronger mind, stronger muscles, bigger jump. I feel the game is really starting to come around for her the last year or two.”

Sniffen currently has a 3.95 cumulative grade-point average and is leaning toward a physical therapy/kinesiology path in college.

“They have offered a pretty hefty scholarship, which is much needed for me,” she said. “But I’m still working on some other financial aid and scholarship papers.”

She is excited for the NCAA Division I opportunity — Seabury Hall graduate Shayla Hoeft is a graduate student playing her final season of college volleyball currently for the UP beach team and former Molokai resident Noelani Helm is the starting setter for the indoor team.

“I kind of did some self assessment and realized beach volleyball is where my heart is, it’s my passion,” Sniffen said. “Also, adding on all the school work and just to do college life it would be very difficult for me to do both. … I wanted to settle on one and beach is definitely the one that I picked out.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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