This is the third installment of Next One Up, an occasional summer feature series taking a look at some of the biggest up-and-coming stars in the Long Beach sports world.
Most high schoolers look forward to summer as a time to rest and relax, hang out with their friends, maybe go to the movies a few times while recharging their batteries and preparing for the year ahead.
Long Beach’s elite volleyball players, on the other hand, are at work. Long Beach Poly sophomores-to-be Adonia Faumuina and Rylie McGinest both spent the first half of the summer competing with their Mizuno club team, which reached the national championship match in Indianapolis before falling and collecting silver.
Both Faumuina and McGinest received All-Tournament honors at the Girls’ Junior National Championships, a prestigious award only given to a handful of players across the country. For a pair of athletes at one public school to be recognized that way is unusual, to say the least. The duo didn’t have much time to bask in their accomplishments, either. Almost immediately after wrapping up in Indy, Faumuina and McGinest were headed to Ft. Lauderdale for the USA Volleyball High Performance Camp, a gathering of the best youth players in the country.
“It’s actually been kind of fun,” said Faumuina. “It’s a really good experience because you get to learn how to take responsibility for yourself and practice time management, getting ready and up on your own in the morning. I think it’s part of growing up.”
The schedule in Florida is intense, with two practices a day and a team luncheon in between.
“We’re just walking from the hotel to the convention center and then back to the hotel,” said Faumuina. “It’s so humid.”
Faumuina are both over six foot tall and are both physical athletes. Poly and Mizuno’s weight programs have obviously paid off for the athletes’ physique; Faumuina is a setter who started at outside hitter for Poly last year, while McGinest is an imposing middle blocker. But the biggest challenge ahead for the pair isn’t physical this year, it’s stepping into a leadership role as the best players on their team despite only being sophomores.
“They’ve got a chance to be really special,” said Poly coach Leland McGrath. “When you have leaders who embrace the weight room, it makes everything easier. Girls who love training and the weight room is what makes the real difference between the top girls.”
Poly’s team last year was senior heavy, with five graduating seniors all going on to play NCAA Division 1 volleyball this year. With setter Liz Schuster headed to Cal State Fullerton, it’s likely that Poly will employ a 6-2 system to allow Faumuina to both play her natural position and take advantage of her height as a hitter.
“I like both, some days I love setting, some days I love hitting,” said Faumuina. “All the seniors who left really helped me and Rylie, we felt welcomed and they’re like family to us now. We want to set a good example for the incoming freshmen, we feel a leadership responsibility.”
Scholarship offers aplenty have poured in after the breakout summer the pair have had, and they’ll both be able to choose between the best teams in the nation–Faumuina said that Oregon, Texas, and USC are in the lead for her at the moment, but there’s no rush on a commitment.
McGrath is happy that his young stars get a chance to see the best players in the country this summer.
“My first conversation with them was, ‘Are you proud, are you stoked?’ It’s a lot of work to get to this position,” said McGrath. “They get to see other really physical athletes and measure themselves against them.”
The next three years are sure to hold many highlights for Poly’s up-and-comers–but first, another summer of hard work.