NCAA Photos Archive
03 DEC 2010: The University of Tampa takes on Central Missouri University in the volleyball semifinals at Knight Hall on the Bellarmine campus during the NCAA Division II National Championships Fall Festival in Louisville, KY. Joshua Duplechian/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Hailing from one of the most beautiful, pristine places in Fiji, the hidden paradise of Savusavu, Mere Serea has had to fight for her dreams to become reality. Raised by her single mum, her family means the world to her and it’s the driving force behind this young sports woman’s success so far. Not every day you see young Fijian girl from humble background defying the odds and winning awards against her American peers. In the second part of this three-part series, we look at the girl from the ‘Hidden Paradise’.

Sport will always be a conduit for individuals to succeed. And in Mere Serea, her story is an inspiration that ‘you can achieve more if you put your mind into it’. Given an opportunity, selected for the Fiji Under 21 team but then having to withdraw when she earned her coveted scholarship to New Mexico Military Institute. Relocated outside of her comfort zone [her hidden paradise] through dedication, perseverance, passion and faith she is achieving her goals.

These are untold stories; Mere Serea, Agatha Gibbons and Vasiti Baleilomaloma. Stories that can motivate the young women of Fiji, and ones that need to be told. And while if they do appear, they never get the same coverage as the rugby boys–Last Word on Sports believe they are worth promoting. To show that with Beauty, Brains and Brawn, girls can do anything the ‘sevens boys’ can.

Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Mere Serea

In part two of a three part series, Last Word on Sport shines a light on three emerging stars who are defying the odds: Mere Serea, Agatha Gibbons and Vasiti Baleilomaloma.

She started her scholarship with New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) and currently she’s at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, completing her major in Criminal Justice. The 22 year old from Yaroi, Savusavu also won Best Female Athlete in her last year as a student of Suva Grammar.

Playing netball for Nasinu for two seasons but her heart was always on Volleyball. She was a Gold Medalist at the Coke Games in 2011 in long jump. The inter-continental competition gave the athlete a taste for the accolades to come, as she also took part in the relays. Then she made the Junior Kulawai (Fiji Women’s Volleyball) side in 2012 that went to the Asian Championship in Vietnam.

Those stages have all been supported by study and sacrifice. Missing her family, but also with a mind on the goal of passing tests. Education and scholarships are a privilege. And the collegiate star won applause from her peers in All American selection.

Following the footsteps of Ana Kaloucava, a champion athlete who set the stage for many sports woman born in Fiji. Mere also won the Lady Bronco Award two years ago. This award is given to the top Junior Female Athlete in the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association. (NJCAA).

Part Two: Mere Serea

Mere Serea – University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Position: Middle Blocker (Photo courtesy of M Serea)

In her years in the US system, she has won many accolades, increased her knowledge of the game and is doing well in her studies crucially. In the second of our three part series, Jovilisi Waqa speaks to Mere Serea.

LWOS: What courses/subjects are you currently Studying?

Mere Serea: “New Mexico Military institute is a junior college that is only for 2 years. I was focusing on Business but I did take some general studies classes, but now I’m about to graduate with a Criminal Justice Degree. I switched my major and am really happy.”

Name some of your personal Highlights:

“Last season, I managed to scoop some awards, then being named in the ‘first team’ in the Michigan Competition.”

That is recognition of the players impact. While at NMMI, she was a huge force. Helping them to make back-to-back National Championship appearances in 2013-14. During her two-year run, Serea made 1391 attacks with 633 kills, and had 48 solo blocks and 290 block-assists.

As proud of the development of the player on the court, LWOS was told that Mere recently I received an award called Ashe Award for academics; in keeping my grade 3.0 and above. This proves how, while success on the court is motivation, Mere is as proud of her studies and believes ‘marks’ are just as critical as defensive blocks.

Can you tell LWOS about Peer pressure/Pressure of living abroad?

“It was hard to get into peer pressure because the school had a lot of stuff to keep our students occupied, and being a Student-Athlete we did get drug tested and everything. So getting into trouble was your one way ticket back home.”

The pressure to succeed is palpable, in the high-stress environment of the US university/college program. Add to that a longing to be back in that hidden paradise, and you can agree that Mere’s achievements show the commitment that was born at NMMI.

Commitment to Study and Time Management Learnt at Military School

How do you balance your time?

“As a student athlete, time management was the key in getting everything done. I learned all of this when I was at home, but when I joined the military institute, it was literally being reinforced in its own little ways.

“For example: in the Military School it had its own schedule, which every individual has to followed. For myself, I got used to waking up around 5am in the morning, cleaning my room, going to formations, going to classes and volleyball practice in the afternoon.”

That regiment has given the girl from the Islands, a strong base now to further her career.

What is your background/struggles?

“I was raised by a single mother and my grandparents. Family is one of my main motivating factor that keeps me going Day in and day out. With their spiritual guidance and continuous support I was able to get through all obstacles I face being here and away from them.

“Though, I definitely missed home too.”

What have been any of your disappointments?

“I could say the odd injury.”

And what are your key Goals?

“So far my main goal is to graduate. Probably later on find a secure contract to play overseas. But. At the moment is getting that degree. To have a secure job, being able to take care of my family and most important to be happy and contend with my life.”

Mere Serea – University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Position: Middle Blocker (Photo courtesy of M Serea)
What advice do you have for youngsters?

“Never give up on your dreams and always remember the reason why you started in the first place”

“Since sports is considered as one of the fastest growing trades. I advise that every young person should take passion in their respective sports first, and trust the process because the benefits can take you anywhere. Therefore, stay focused in school and take passion in your sports, and the end result [from hard work] will come in due time.”

What Can We All Learn From Mere Serea?

“Anything is possible, if you put your mind into it.”

She was raised by a single mum. Did she moan? No, instead Mere Serea used that as a tool to drive her to where she is today. Her journey is not over yet, but with God and her mum and family behind her, there are more achievements that are yet to come from this young woman. Remember this young ladies name, as she continues to make a name for herself in the American.

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LWOS is thankful to Mere Serea for taking the time to share her story and in some way inspire young women and men out there, that you can follow her steps: balancing sports and studies, to achieve her goals.
This is part two of a three part series, by Jovilisi Waqa.

 

“Main photo credit”

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