PAY ATTENTION - Manu Tuiasosopo gets ready to hit a return Wednesday as setter Leana Moleta backs her up during practice at Palmdale High School in Palmdale.


Big on Heart

Local U-15 girls volleyball team competes in Div I Tournament

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Monday, May 14, 2007.

Valley Press Sports Correspondent

PALMDALE - Hard work pays off.

The AVVC-Nai'a club volleyball 15-and-under team is proof of that. The girls competed in a Division I tournament this past weekend, which is the first time a club team from the Valley has done so.

"These are the best girls I've had, and the most supportive families," co-coach Andrea Buckner said.

The team had a tough test right off the bat, playing three of the top 10 teams. One of those teams happened to be the top team in California, where the libero's height matched the height of AVVC Nai'a's middle blocker.

"California is the premier state for volleyball, so if you play the best team in California, you are basically playing the best team in the country," co-coach Rachel Behen said.

"These girls are never the tallest or the fastest, but they are consistent and work hard," Buckner said."

With the girls having tournaments out of town, and practice three times a week at two different schools, parent support is a definite must.

"These are the best parents I've had," Behen said. "Some of them come and stay for the entire two and a half hour practice."

It is the support from the parents, and the closeness of the girls that has made the team perform at such a high level.

"This team is very together and very close. Most of us have known each other for a couple of years now," Leana Moleta said.

Moleta is the lone setter, and plays for her seventh grade team at St. Mary's. Her poise as well as her talent, definitely makes up for her youth.

As a setter and a captain, she holds a vital role in getting the offense going for her team.

"Our ability to work together despite the age differences is great," Manu Tuiososopo said. "All of us work really hard."

Tuiososopo is another captain on the team, and made the Paraclete varsity team as an incoming freshman this year.

Arlyne Stockhausen also made the Paraclete varsity team this year as a freshman, and is the final captain for the club team.

The players are not the only ones who know each other well. Buckner and Behen have know each other and been friends for a few years.

Buckner is the former girls coach at Highland, where the team was a valid contender for the Golden League title each year.

Behen is the current coach of Littlerock's girls team, which also proves a threat in the GL.

Littlerock was the only team to beat the Golden League champions, Lancaster, this past season.

Each coach knows the others style very well from coaching against each other, and now they use their similarities and differences to work together and create a well-rounded team.