Mandi Kiholm is living a dream. Ever since she could remember, she had BYU paraphernalia plastered on her walls and she dreamed of being a student at the Y.
After spending the past two years (2000-2002) as a student at Utah Valley State College, and an athlete as a starting middle blocker on its women's volleyball team, Kiholm saw her hard work pay off with an invitation to be a Cougar.
"I really enjoyed it at UVSC," Kiholm says. "I forged a lot of friendships and learned a tremendous amount from Sam (Atoa, UVSC coach).
"But BYU is where I'm supposed to be."
This season has been one of adjustments for Kiholm, pronounced Kai, not Kee. Not only is she in a different scholastic setting, but she has made a switch on the court as well, sliding from the middle to the rightside, where she currently serves as a reserve to senior All-Mountain West Conference candidate Carrie Bowers.
Her expectations are simple. Kiholm intends to be ready at all times, but she will take this year to learn a new position as she watches and competes daily with Bowers in practice. Sitting behind Bowers isn't as hard as it may seem. "It'd be hard for me if I knew I was better," she says.
Kiholm has a straight-ahead personality, some would term it no nonsense. She has a vision of the big picture, but is careful not to overlook the little things. Kiholm enjoys the game of volleyball, but also embraces the peripheral perks of being an athlete as well. She has been involved in various coaching and mentoring programs for young athletes, and hopes to teach in the future.
Like any athlete used to playing and making contributions during a match, Kiholm bides her time and is continually seeking for ways to improve.
Friday, Sept. 19 marked the second time UVSC (in its first season as a Division I team) had ever faced BYU, and first since 1982. It was a sweep for the Cougars, but Kiholm entered the match in the second and third games to face her old mates. Her most significant contribution came to end the match, as she teamed with teammate Lindsy Lewis-Hartsock to put down the match-sealing block.
Perhaps the epitome of a grounded athlete, Kiholm has never taken things for granted and has worked for what she has. She is definitive in her answers and is unwavering in her beliefs.
"My dream's come true," she says. "For the longest time my house was littered with BYU stuff from my dad. Now I'm here."
More dreams are sure to come true for Kiholm.
Favorite Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Favorite Band: Creed and anyone that is good
Favorite Food: Ice cream
Favorite Actor: Heath Ledger
Favorite college course: Stress Management
Favorite professional sports teams: Sacramento Kings
What is your favorite shampoo: Bed Head
What is your favorite scent at Bath and Body Works: Cucumber Melon
What is your favorite breakfast meal: Jamba Juice- Kiwi Berry Burner
I play volleyball because: I have always loved it. I can achieve so much on my own personal level. There is a certain feeling I cannot explain that drives me to play.
Before a volleyball match, I: Watch an episode of Friends, and take a long shower.
Who has had the greatest influence on your volleyball career and why: Bruce Boyle -- My club coach for three years who helped me find my true passion. Bruce taught me unique fundamentals and believed in me.
One place you would like to visit and why: Austria - I want to run on the fields from the 'Sound of Music.' It is so beautiful!
What is your favorite hobby away from volleyball: I love to be with my family! I love to play with my nephews and niece and I can't wait for the two that are on their way.
What is your most memorable athletic achievement or moment: Above any award or recognition, I would have to say my opportunity to come to BYU. This has been my dream since I was so young. This has not only been my dream, but my family's as well. My greatest moment was when I was able to tell them that I had finally reached my goal.
What gets you pumped up before a match: It sounds a little odd, but I mentally see myself succeeding. I see myself making that amazing block and killing that ball. I just can't wait to get out there and physically succeed.
My advice to young volleyball players: Follow your dreams and never give up. There will always be someone who will say you can't make it where you want to go; never let them win. Never compromise your own standards to appease someone else. You are children of God and have infinite potential.
Which reality show would you want to be on: Elimi-date - I know I would be kicked off because I was the little BYU girl, but at least I would be able to let my standards known.
What is the best book you've ever read: The Harry Potter series
If you could only keep one possession, what would it be and why: My baby blanket. Because I have kept it this far!
What is your most memorable date: We went up to Deer Creek and blew up air mattresses and paddled with our arms around the lake.
What is one thing you want to do in your lifetime: Go skydiving
What is your biggest fear: SPIDERS!!!
How did you spend your off-season: I coached and refereed for youth leagues. I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents as a last goodbye before she got married.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years: Be married to my best friend with a few kids. I want to be teaching by then.
If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be: My dad, President Hinckley and whoever that guy is that I am going to marry.
Interesting facts most people don't know about me: In high school I was a Cougar as well. We were even blue and white! Even though I was a volleyball player, my best friend was the captain of the cheer squad. I love to play the piano and I wish so bad that I could sing.