This week, The562’s coverage is sponsored by Long Beach Gives. Visit LongBeachGives.org to find your cause! Donations will be accepted through Sept. 22.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Volleyball in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
Senior Aaliyah Fasavalu is a self-described “shy kid” but that’s made her a better middle blocker for the Millikan girls’ volleyball team.
“Yeah, I guess I am more of an observer off the court so (defense) is a natural fit,” Fasavalu said. “Off the court I’m a little quiet so defensively it’s fun to be a little sneaky and pop out of nowhere and get a good block in. That feels really good and I really like to block. It’s always been my favorite part of playing.”
Millikan hopes Fasavalu is on her game today when the Rams travel to Wilson for a second-place showdown. The match is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“She is just the most humble, hard working girl I have ever coached,” Millikan coach Ashleigh Atsaros said of Fasavalu. “I don’t think she realizes how talented she is and what she is capable of.”
Fasavalu fell in love with volleyball by watching her dad Brandon, aunts and uncles play pickup games at the park on the weekend.
“They would play for hours but I didn’t play because I was kind of scared because they were like monsters out there,” Fasavalu said. “I wanted to play more competitive volleyball with people my age.”
Fasavalu started playing in a league at the park and then moved to Long Beach Volleyball Club before joining Mizuno last year. All the while, the 6-foot and lanky Fasavalu has been a middle blocker ready to disrupt any attack.
“For me, middle is the most fun position,” Fasavalu said, who knows she will have her hands full against Wilson hitters like Chloe Pravednikov. “We really have to defend the net and not give (Wilson) the opportunity to swing on an open net and slow the ball down for our back row to defend. It’s about following the ball.”
She had a choice of which high school she wanted to attend and play for, but Fasavalu followed her school and club friends to Millikan. However, she struggled with the social rigors of attending a new school.
“It’s just a matter of me overcoming social anxiety because I over think sometimes,” Fasavalu said. “I’ve been trying to break out of it.”
That shyness doesn’t follow Fasavalu onto the court where she thinks she is the most comfortable.
“She brings great energy and so much brightness into practice and games,” Atsaros said. “It’s a pleasure to coach her, and having her this season has been huge for us. Her defense has been a big weapon for us.”
“We’re a very competitive group that works hard in practice, we just need to keep our energy the same and consistent until the end of every set and every match,” Fasavalu said. “It’s about morale and communication.”
Earning a role on this Rams team is even more impressive when considering the fact that Fasavalu missed most of last year with injury, and only returned to the court in late July.
“It was really difficult,” Fasavalu said of rehabbing stress fractures in both shins. “But it taught me that there are some things I can control and things I can’t control. It’s a matter of taking advantage of the things I can control and being patient. Eventually things will go the way they’re supposed to”
“Even when she’s injured she’s always coming to practice looking for a way to help out and be a good teammate,” Atsaros said.
Fasavalu doesn’t have any offers but wants to play volleyball in college where she also wants to study nursing.
“It’s interesting and nice to give back and help other people,” Fasavalu said.