Leandra Mangual Duran set to serveLeandra Mangual Duran set to serve

Don’t take anything for granted, have no regrets.

Leandra Mangual Duran eyes final collegiate season after competing at Puerto Rico National Team camp this summer

Stay Connected

Leandra Mangual Duran was on top of the world. Her Hokies volleyball team had just defeated Queens University 3-1 at home on Carilion Clinic Court at Cassell Coliseum. The date was September 15, 2023. It may not have been her best match, a modest 8.5 points scored, a few aces and 10 digs to help the squad earn the victory, but it didn’t matter, the Hokies were 10-0 and off to the best start to a season in the program’s 45-year history.

The next day, to close the Virginia Tech Classic, the Hokies fell in a five-set match to visiting ECU.

That kickstarted a five-game losing streak, and from there the Hokies would only win three more times in 2023, finishing 3-15 in ACC play.

Mangual Duran doesn’t see that kind of slide happening this season, her last in a Virginia Tech uniform.

“I think there are going to be a lot of surprises this year,” she told hokiesports.com. “I think a lot of people have counted us out for a while and there are going to be a lot of surprises, especially some really good moments in Cassell. My biggest message to Hokie Nation is to come out and support this fall.”

An outside hitter and team captain, Mangual Duran has been back on campus for a few weeks with her teammates eagerly awaiting the official start of preseason training for the 2024 volleyball campaign.

“We have been working really hard, extremely hard physically, mentally, emotionally and building our culture and chemistry for this season to be better than it was last year and I think the most important thing that we have, especially playing at Cassell, is our fan base,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s really heartwarming to lose a big point and you look in the stands and you see so many people supporting you, it’s really encouraging to see.”

She returned to Blacksburg with a renewed sense of vigor after competing against the best of the best from her home country, Puerto Rico where she was called into the national team camp earlier this summer.

A Rio Grande native, Mangual Duran grew up 20 minutes away from San Juan, the capital of the island. Many of the other camp attendees are also from the suburbs of San Juan and as a consequence, the camp was held in the metro area so the athletes would not need to travel far from their homes.

“I would just go home to my childhood home and my parents or my grandparents would have a very nice home-cooked meal waiting for me,” she said of her post training routine. “Then we would just debrief and talk about my experience for that day on the court.”

Last season, Mangual Duran led the Hokies with 259 points and had the second-most kills on the squad. She maxed out at 17 kills in a September match against Delaware State at home, but reached double figures in that category 10 times. A transfer from the SEC, she had a bit of an adjustment to the style of play at Virginia Tech and in the ACC.

Mangual Duran's 2023 Highlights

“The biggest thing that I worked on (at the National Team camp) was my hitting, my offensive part of the game,” Mangual Duran said of what she focused on. “I’m playing against girls that are grown women who are taller than me, who are stronger than me, and it was really impressive to see how my game elevated just by being around them and being able to play with them.

“For example, last season, I focused a lot on hitting high hand and I found a lot of success,” she recalled. “It was really important and encouraging for me because I was able to continue that throughout the entire camp. I did a really good job hitting high hands, using different shots in my offense. I think that the offensive side of it was the part that I saw how important it was.”

The ACC certainly prepared her for the opportunity. On any given night, the Hokies will face a nationally-ranked team, a national title contender or at least a squad with athletes that can jump out of the gym and present a unique challenge.

“I think the ACC is one of the best conferences in the nation, the competition is very good and the physicality that other teams bring to the ACC as well as we do is really tough,” Mangual. Duran said of the now 18-member conference. “When you’re playing against teams like Louisville, now that Cal and Stanford are coming in, when you playing against top 10 teams, it prepares you for this level.”

But it’s not just the matches on Fridays and Sundays that had her feeling confident on the plane back to Puerto Rico. It was the time spent in the gym, the weight room and the coaches’ offices at Virginia Tech that really shaped her to be a player that could be invited to a national team camp.

“Playing at Virginia Tech, I think I’ve learned a lot from the coaches and my game has elevated a lot,” she commented on her experience as a Hokie thus far. “I think that last season I was able to get continuously better, which I was really thankful for because it came from my teammates helping me get through everything: mentally, physically all of that, and then my coaches who did a really good job supporting me.”

For Mangual Duran, this fall is a last hoorah in collegiate volleyball, the close of one chapter before another one begins. She plans to enter the professional volleyball draft in Puerto Rico at the conclusion of the collegiate season. Before she reaches that stage of her career however, she and her teammates have outlined several goals.

Some of Mangual Duran’s include physical benchmarks like improving her vertical and strengthening her shoulder so she can confidently swing all season long.

She and her teammates have set some goals for their results on the court as well.

“Last year we were really close to being undefeated in non-conference so our goal is to be undefeated this time,” she stated. “In ACC play it’s not going to go from zero to 100 but we believe that we can go at least .500 in the ACC. I think that’s a very attainable goal”

One thing that’s clear about Mangual Duran and the Virginia Tech volleyball program, they are not satisfied and are willing to put in the work to improve. Just ask Mangual Duran about her mentality as she embarks on her sixth season of collegiate volleyball.

“My mindset for this year is don’t take anything for granted and have no regrets,” she said. “I don’t ever want to leave Virginia Tech feeling like there’s something else that I could have done, that I could have done more. I want to empty out my tank until December and I want to do it for the people next to me.”

She added, “I love Puerto Rico and representing my country at the NCAA level. That island that’s 100x35 has my heart.”