St. Anthony’s 2022 Women’s Volleyball Preview – The562.org

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The562’s Season Previews for the 2022-23 School Year are sponsored by Vertical elevationthe official fundraising partner of The562.

The562 volleyball coverage is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation

St. Anthony’s new head coach, Keli Pula, walked behind the scenes of some of the biggest and most successful high school volleyball programs in the region. Now that he is back as a coach in his hometown, Pula is delighted to work with this young group of saints. While the spotlight may not be as bright as when he was at Long Beach Poly or Mater Dei, he has the same passion for the sport and a desire to bring championships to Long Beach.

“Every practice we have, I feel excited and encouraged by what we have,” Pula said. “The players accepted me; the parents, the AD, the director, they all made me feel welcome, and that makes my job very easy.

Pula won’t have too much time to get acquainted with his new team, as he took charge around six weeks before the start of the season. As he works to build chemistry within the roster, he knows he has a few veteran leaders he can rely on, including senior captain Rylee Tuaolo.

Standing 6ft tall, Tuaolo is the most imposing presence for the Saints, and she will take on a new role this season. She played midfield last season for St. Anthony – also her position at the club – but will move to bowling this season where she will look to rack up wins and anchor the Saints’ offense.

“As a senior and as captain of the team, I want my presence to be known on the pitch and I want the girls to know they can count on me,” Tuaolo said. “Anyone who plays in midfield knows it’s a big transition from midfield to center, but it’s just something to adapt to and it’s better for my team. Whatever works for the team, that’s what I’m going to do.

Tuaolo said she was excited to be more of a focal point on offense and take more swings this season. She also enjoyed the transition to the new coaching staff, with Coach Pula taking over from Alicia Lemau’u, who stepped down after a decade at St. Anthony.

“It’s been different, but in a good way,” Tuaolo said. “I feel like it’s more competitive and we’re learning more routes and systems. I learned a lot from Coach L. so I just switched to Coach Keli and his great coaching skills so everything went well.

Junior libero Annalee Smith will be one of the main contributors for the Saints and is by far the most vocal leader on the pitch. Pula praised his abilities and work ethic.

“The last time I had that kind of libero player for me, we won a CIF championship and went to State at Long Beach Poly,” Pula said of Smith. “I like her vision, her nose for the ball and she works really hard.”

Championship aspirations will require a big step forward for the Saints, who have won just one game in 2021. However, Smith believes the group is improving every day and she hopes to push them towards a more successful campaign.

“Since I’m going to be an upperclassman this year, I really want to try and show a little more leadership,” Smith said. “I think we certainly hope for more wins this season. We’ve all talked about it. Every workout really helps us.

Elsewhere in the Saints roster, senior Sydney Luckey will start on the outside, while rookie Piper Owen shows a strong arm and great potential. With just two seniors on the roster, the newcomers will have plenty of chances to make their mark as Pula look to put their stamp on St. Anthony’s schedule.

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