Kaylee Manns: Bali Pure's jet-setter looks to help the team win
MANILA, Philippines – "Funny, mom, I don't think I am in Kansas anymore."
Reprising that classic line from the Wizard of Oz was Kaylee Manns, who hails from Topeka, Kansas, but has literally traveled the world because of her volleyball career.
Manns, who moved 8 hours away from home to play for Iowa State during her college days, is now used to the life of an international volleyball player.
Kaylee has racked up frequent flyer miles in a dizzying pace, having played in Europe, South America, and Asia so much that "I can have my own Discovery Channel show," she jokes while having lunch with her new Bali Pure teammates in Quezon City.
Manns and the rest of Bali Pure took part in a meet-and-greet with elementary and high school students from Ateneo, of which most of the players from the volleyball team hail from.
"I have been here in the Philippines for a while, coming back and forth to play, and I have seen the sport grow by leaps and bounds," noted the 28-year-old Manns.
"Playing international volleyball, I love the adventure, indulging myself in different cultures, and meeting new people. It has certainly opened my eyes to so many things. Playing abroad for so long has definitely made me more resilient, independent, worldly-wise if even possible, and well, open to new things."
Most recently, she played for 8 months in Turkey. While it was fun, she was away far too long from loved ones. She was prepared to head back to the US when former Bali Pure coach turned player Charo Soriano asked if she wanted to suit up for the Shakey's V-League Reinforced Conference.
"I just played in Turkey last year where it was an 8-month season. I wasn't sure I wanted to do something that long and Bali Pure offered something short and right before the year's end; I thought it was perfect," Manns said.
"Plus, I have known some of these girls (from the team) before so it was an easy decision," she added.
The outgoing, adventurous, and highly optimistic Manns cited the Philippines as one of her favorite places outside her home in the United States.
"I love Brazil – the culture, the people, the liveliness; everyone's so relaxed. I love Switzerland. It's so clean. It's like Disneyland. It's like nothing bad happens there. I took up skiing. Here in the Philippines, where everyone seems like you are a part of their family. Everyone helps each other out and that is one thing I love about the culture here. Traffic may be bad in Manila and it's got a lot of people but 45 minutes out, it's like paradise. So I love that."
The Purest Water Defenders have lost some vital cogs in Alyssa Valdez, Grethcel Soltones, Janine Marciano, and Alyssa Eroa, but have picked up former San Sebastian star Sasa Devanadera, Sue Roces who played with the Lady Eagles once upon a time in the SVL, Manns, and her compatriot Kate Morrell who is a powerful open hitter.
Tai Bundit, Ateneo coach and former Pocari Sweat team consultant, is now Bali Pure's head coach. Some of the mainstays from the team's maiden conference during the SVL season-opener include Denden Lazaro, Dzi Gervacio, Mae Tajima, Amy Ahomiro, Bea Tan, and Soriano.
"We've begun training like what – 5 days ago? We're still in the process of learning to play together," said Manns. "It helps that we all super get along with each other. As for Coach Tai, he's intense. I like that. He never stops and never gives time for rest; sort of what I was used to back home."
She added: "I hope to bring my game and experience to this team and to lead them to a championship. I'm a very vocal person on the court and I'll say the honest truth how we are performing. I will not sugarcoat things. Tell me what you need from me and I will tell you what I need from you."
"Hopefully, we can put everything together and lead Bali Pure to a championship. That would be a nice story to tell – how a girl from Kansas helped a club team from the Philippines realize its dreams." – Rappler.com