A hundred yards from the CWU women’s rugby team’s practice, you can hear distinct yelling coming from players constantly motivating each other.
The closer you get, you can begin to make out who is who and where these voices are coming from.
Among the loudest and most vocal calls to keep pushing themselves is Yana Manoa, second year flanker from Oakland, California.
If you’ve been to a women’s rugby game, you might know Manoa as a sure tackler and aggressive athlete.
Her speed allows her to be effective on both sides of the ball and it does not go unnoticed.
“Yana is one of our most physical players on the field,” head Coach Mel Denham said. “Her true strength is the fact that she is a dynamic, fast runner as well.”
Manoa’s rugby journey began when she was a sophomore in high school, out of admiration for her brothers. She grew up hearing stories from her father and siblings that made her grow curious about ruby.
The rest is history.
After playing two years of high school rugby, she was already being recruited to play collegiate rugby.
Manoa recalls being in class and receiving a call from Denham about possibly playing for CWU.
“It was during school,” Manoa said. “I got a phone call that said ‘Hello, this is Mel Denham from Central,’ so I ran out of class.”
While receiving an opportunity to continue playing was exciting, it meant more than just a chance to play rugby.
It meant pursuing her education and making her family proud.
“My mom was really happy because I’m the first one of her kids to go to a university,” Manoa said. “My dad was really happy, too. It was all good emotions but they also reminded me to stay focused.”
Although her talents and natural athletic abilities come on full display during games, Manoa will be the first to tell you that none of this comes easy.
In the Tongan culture –and all other Polynesian cultures—family plays a huge role in your life and leaving them can often times be difficult.
“Last year I broke down and didn’t want to continue school, but my teammates really helped me,” Manoa said. “They helped realize I was doing this for my family and myself.
Manoa is pursuing her degree in photography and wants to someday have her own business. Despite the hardships, she believes that hard work and paying attention to the little things are what help you reach your goal.
“I don’t like when people just say, ‘Oh you’re good at tackling,’” Manoa said. “I would watch videos on tackling and slow-motion videos of myself because it’s those little things that make a difference.
I didn’t just wake up one day good at tackling.”
Manoa’s work ethic separates her from others and she is representing much more than just herself.
She is playing for her Tongan culture, family and her belief in God.
“Although [my family] isn’t here, I still carry their last name and I have to make them proud,” Manoa said.