Coming from a long bloodline of athletes, volleyball has always felt natural to me. By the time I was five years old, I was already shagging balls for some of the best volleyball players in the world. Throughout our summers, it became a tradition for my cousins and me to support my uncle throughout the various California AVP events. You may have heard of him… the 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist and AVP Champion, Eric Fonoimoana. Needless to say, I’ve always felt that it was my destiny to be part of the AVP.
Even here now on the AVP Tour, it still feels surreal to be on this journey. To give you an idea of how crazy this experience has been, let me take you through the trials and tribulations of the 2019 season.
Early in the year, I teamed up with my fellow USC Trojan Nicolette Martin, and we had signed up for one crazy preseason. We knew what we were getting into when we looked at the schedule beforehand — six straight weeks of matches, both domestic and international.
And what a six weeks it was.
After we received the bronze medal in Aguascalientes, Mexico, we were excited but hungry to work even harder for the next tournament. The AVP Huntington Beach Open was the next destination on the map and a major opportunity for us to showcase our skills on our SoCal home turf. Luckily, this is the location where Nic and I finally found some fire within ourselves — earning us the nickname Team Scream from friends, family, and other athletes.
Next up, Cayman Islands.
Here, we built on top of an already solid foundation and had some laughs, too — but ultimately landed short of our goal to win the bronze medal. One week later we left for Cuba, the last stop on the Norceca tour.
What a whirlwind.
Between the wind, rainstorms, and the shallow sand, Team Scream’s grit was put to the ultimate test. With the opportunity to face the native Cubans in the Finals, Nic and I put together a great match and came up just short of victory, leaving us in good spirits and with hope that we were finally finding our team chemistry and confidence within ourselves.
Heading into the AVP Austin Open, I was flustered and exhausted from travel. After Cuba, we had hit a storm in Orlando and even contemplated going straight to Austin rather than returning home to California. Fortunately, even after a crazy travel schedule, we had one day to sleep the jet lag away so that we would be ready to compete on the AVP.
Match day came and I remember feeling a certain fire within myself. I told Nic in the hotel room, “Today is going to be a good day! Let’s do this!”
Our first game was against Corinne Quiggle and Amanda Dowdy, a higher seed than us, but a great matchup nonetheless. There was a point in the match when I could see everything so clearly and I felt like I could hit any ball. Nic’s energy was enough to push me through every match.
The Quarterfinal match against Janelle Allen and Kerri Schuh to get into Championship Sunday was one I will always remember.
The two of us were loud as ever on the court, but it almost felt like we didn’t need to speak at all, because we were locked in and already knew what each other’s next move would be. I call it a sense of “Tunnel Vision” that I used to get when I played indoor.
When we reached match point, I looked over at Nic and said, “We’re finishing this now!” Nic placed a perfect high line shot to the corner and we both dropped to our knees. The waterworks started for both of us, but we quickly wiped our faces to gracefully greet our opponents.
Immediately after the game, I ran into the Players’ Tent to call my son. As soon as he answered, he said, “Wow Mommy! I am so proud of you! I love you!”
Already crying tears of joy, I responded:
“I work everyday for you, Buggy! All the times Mommy had to leave to play! All the practices Mommy does! All the times I ever missed a holiday or birthday, Baby that was for you! I hope one day when you get big you see how hard Mommy works. I hope you work even harder for whatever you want in your life. I love you so much!”
Having that moment with him — demonstrating to him how much I push towards my goals — was everything I ever wanted. He is my heart, soul, and purpose as I push through any scenario that ever comes my way. My faith will always steer my course and direct me to where I am supposed to be. Knowing that my child looks up to me will always push me closer and closer to my dreams. I owe my son the world!