HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Senior Isaac Kneubuhl came to Cal State Northridge expecting to be a star, but has found the competition to be far more challenging. "Once you get to the college game, you realize damn, these guys are really good."
Reality check for Kneubuhl
The shock of suddenly playing against people with similar talents can be tough for an athlete used to being the best.
» Height: 6-foot-1
» Position: Outside hitter
» Major: Kinesiology
» High school: Kamehameha '03
» Accolades: 2002 Star-Bulletin player of the year; three-time high school all-state selection; three-time MPSF all-academic selection
Cal State Northridge senior Isaac Kneubuhl had always stood out on the volleyball court for his superior talent. In high school, he was selected to the Star Bulletin all-state team as a sophomore. By his senior season, he was named player of the year and had led Kamehameha to two state championships.
When it came time for the 2003 Kamehameha graduate to move on to college, he took his talents to the West Coast, where he expected to experience much of the same.
"I came in here hoping I would have a great career and I would be successful," Kneubuhl said. "As much as I would like to think I've had a great, successful career, it's been hard."
His first shot in the arm came when he redshirted his freshman season and didn't get to see the court. He played in every match the next three years and has put up adequate numbers, but it wasn't how he originally envisioned things.
"I had dreams and aspirations of being an All-American my first year or any time," Kneubuhl said. "I was kind of a big name in Hawaii my high school years. As you make the transition into college ball, none of that stuff ever matters. Once you get to the college game, you realize, 'Damn, these guys are really good.' "
The 6-foot-1 Kneubuhl has spent most of his career at outside hitter, but is undersized at the collegiate level.
He has finished in the top four on the team in kills every season and tallied a career-high 195 digs as a junior.
He had also been the team's iron man, never missing a game in his first three seasons.
That all changed last month when he sprained his ankle against Pepperdine and missed the next three matches.
His first match back was last week against top-ranked BYU. He tied a career high with 22 kills. His return to the court couldn't have come any sooner.
"I have never been injured my whole career," Kneubuhl said. "I'm probably between 90 and 95 percent. I've been fortunate."
It has been especially tough knowing his career is coming to an end.
The thought of not playing volleyball for the first time in his life has been tough to deal with. Anything he has faced on the volleyball court is nothing compared to what lies ahead.
"Volleyball can be stressful, but thinking about what I'm trying to do after school is a lot more stressful," Kneubuhl said. "It has crept into my mind the last couple of months."
He will graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology, but job opportunities are something he has yet to explore.
CSU Northridge coach Jeff Campbell has told Kneubuhl he thinks he would make a great coach, but Kneubuhl is unsure if he would be passionate enough to do it.
What he does know is that no matter what he ends up doing, it won't be back in Hawaii.
"I plan on staying in California," he said. "I don't see myself coming back home in the near future. Maybe in some of my older years."
Kneubuhl has battled some of Hawaii's premiere volleyball players through his college career. Recently, he played against Spencer McLachlin (Punahou '07), Jordan Inafuku (Kamehameha '07) and Kawika Shoji (Iolani '06) at Stanford.
More than half of the teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation have players with local ties, but Kneubuhl warns of a possible drop off in the future.
"It almost seemed like after my time and maybe after Shoji's time and McLachlin's time, it didn't seem like there were a lot of bigger names coming out," he said. "It seemed like it started to die off, especially in the beach game."
Kneubuhl played beach volleyball all the time growing up on Maui, but has noticed a disinterest in the sport every time he goes back home.
"At least in the Maui scene, it seemed to be dying off and people wouldn't be playing," he said. "It seemed like it would be a lot bigger even before my time."
The sixth-ranked Matadors continue a six-match road trip tonight with a game at Pacific and then a rematch with Stanford tomorrow.