Pacific volleyball standout honored on and off the court

Darina Kumanova on the volleyball court

Darina Kumanova

From Bulgaria to Baltimore to Stockton, junior Darina Kumanova has been developing an impressive collegiate volleyball career while navigating life in a new country.  

The outside hitter, a key offensive player for the Tigers, earned recognition on and off the court this season. 

The American Volleyball Scouting Report named Kumanova its Global Player of the Week in October after she played a key role in Pacific’s upset of nationally ranked Brigham Young University. It is the third time she has been selected for the honor. 

The Sports Management major also was honored as a 2022 Academic All-District selection by the College Sports Communicators and advanced to the Academic All-America ballot. The award requires a minimum of a 3.5 grade point average. 

She finished third on the team in kills with 247 and helped the Tigers earn a post-season berth in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. She also recorded 56 service aces, leading both her team and the West Coast Conference in that category.  

“It’s always nice to have your hard work recognized, but I certainly don’t play for the individual accolades and awards,” Kumanova said.

A native of Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, Kumanova decided to pursue college in the United States late in her high school career after talking with friends who were enjoying the experience of playing in the United States. She enrolled at University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2020. Though her first collegiate season was delayed until the spring, she helped the Retrievers win the America East Volleyball Championship and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. 

“I enjoyed my time at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, but I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could play at a higher level,” she said. “The transfer to Pacific was a chance for me to play in the highly respected West Coast Conference.

“Even going back to my time in Bulgaria, I have always had an affection for California and wanted to live here. Continuing my college career in California at Pacific was easily one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” Kumanova said.

Head Coach Greg Gibbons said he enjoys watching Kumanova grow.

“Darina has been a great addition to our program,” Gibbons said. “She has a true passion for the game and loves to compete. She made an immediate impact to our team, beginning the day she arrived.”

In her remaining seasons, Kumanova wants to elevate the Tigers’ volleyball program with a West Coast Conference championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’d love the chance to accomplish that feat here at Pacific, and we’re trending in the right direction.

“We’ve beaten high-quality teams the last few seasons with Brigham Young University and Pepperdine, so I’m hoping we can build off those wins and reach our goal of competing in the NCAA Tournament,” Kumanova said.

While she was excited to join the Tigers, Kumanova said her limited English skills made the transition difficult.

“That was tricky to navigate. I took English classes in high school, but that’s different from actually being in the United States where I have to speak English all the time,” she said.

Her English has notably improved in the last few years. “I strive to improve as a student-athlete every single day, and that’s what drives me and motivates me to work as hard as I do,” Kumanova said.

“My dedication in the gym and the classroom revolves around my genuine love for volleyball and going to school. I appreciate the honors and that people are noticing the work I’ve put in.”