UM volleyball athletes share similar backgrounds

Over the first 14 matches of the season, sophomore outside hitters Kolby Bird and Anna Haak have become fixtures in the Hurricanes starting rotation.

They both play integral roles on the team. Bird, who had a career-high 16 kills against UTSA on Sept. 2, continuously stuffs the stat sheet for Miami. Bird is third on the team in both kills (87) and blocks (30), and she has a solid 0.228 hitting percentage. Haak, who is known for flying through the air for ferocious slams, is second on the team with 146 kills this year and has three recorded double-doubles this season.

Bird and Haak’s journeys to Miami started more than 5,000 miles away from each other, yet the Canes share similar stories.

Bird, who grew up in San Diego, ­began her volleyball career in fourth grade.

“I grew up around it because my parents were both professional beach players in California,” Bird said. “They didn’t push me into it, but they suggested it, and I love the sport.”

Haak hails from Ängelholm, Sweden and started playing volleyball at age nine, around the same time Bird did halfway across the globe.

“My friend’s parents were starting a volleyball club in our town and my mom had played volleyball before, so I joined and I loved the sport,” Haak said.

While hard work and long hours honing their craft propelled the two outside hitters to collegiate volleyball, the road to Coral Gables wasn’t always easy.

“We all come from different areas all around the country and all around the globe, and it’s crazy how different you can play volleyball,” Bird said. “Coming in as freshmen, we had to basically start from scratch and learn a new system.”

Bird and Haak have received numerous personal accolades. Bird was named to the Wildcat Classic All-Tournament Team this month, and Haak earned ACC Freshman of the Week honors last season. Despite their individual successes, their sights remain set on capturing an ACC Championship this season.

Both players look to help the Hurricanes defeat ACC-foe Boston College at 7 p.m. on Friday. The match will take place at Knight Sports Complex as Miami seeks its first conference victory.

Correction, Oct. 3, 2016: This article previously referred to Kolby Bird as “he,” which is incorrect. “He” has been corrected to “she.”