Khanya Madikizela has enjoyed a stellar volleyball career at the University of Fort Hare.
The education student has been a mainstay of the team during his four years at the tertiary institution and was instrumental in their run to the final at this year’s USSA championships.
He was selected for the Eastern Cape team on the back of these performances.
Yet, in all this time he never had an opportunity to represent UFH in beach volleyball, let alone play the sport.
The cancellation of the tournament since 2020 due to Covid and other reasons suggested he would not spike a ball in anger on the sand before closing the chapter on his Fort Hare career.
Fate had other plans, however.
In one final act, the 24-year-old donned UFH colours on Durban’s golden strand as beach volleyball made its comeback at this year’s USSAs.
And, as he had always done, he delivered. He and his teammate reached the quarterfinals despite the two-man format being completely foreign to him.
What’s more, two of the women’s teams reached the same stage – a special achievement considering that the travelling squad only came together two days before leaving for KwaZulu-Natal.
Madikizela never believed he would go so far in last week’s tournament.
Having to transition suddenly after having five players alongside him throughout his spell at UFH had been tough, he admitted.
“This was my first time playing beach volleyball and we only had two days to practise.
“It’s a big challenge because you have to cover the court while your teammate is blocking. It’s quite difficult when you have to do this alone.”
He was nervous as he warmed up for his first match, but quickly picked up what he needed to do on the sand once competition got underway.
Madikizela and wingman Vuyolwetu Hlabiso gave their all in the quarters, but were unable to register the victory against Tshwane University of Technology that would have put them into the last four.
The soon-to-be Fort Hare alumnus has played volleyball since school, where he took up the sport alongside some of his mates.
He found it was the best way to avoid the temptations of smoking and drinking in Umzimkulu and Bizana, where he grew up.
Reflecting on his time at Fort Hare, he was delighted that they had reached the championship decider at the USSA indoor tournament in Limpopo in his final year.
“It was very pleasing to be part of a team like that. I was very happy,” he said.
“We grew as a team and pushed so hard to become better.”
He yearned for one more year to see if he could improve in the 2024 beach volleyball tournament but, alas, it was not meant to be.
Though his stint at university had come to an end, he would continue playing volleyball at club level, he said.
UFH coach Trezah Nyathi-Ncube praised the performances of her troops in Durban, saying there had been significant progress.