VOLLEYBALL: Foster’s Tapealava setting up for success

It was a hard drive to the hoop. Something Lesieli Tapealava had done a thousand times before. This time, however, it was different. Instead of finding the hoop, Tapealava was met by a pair of defenders, both of whom sent her crashing to the court.

A few months ago

It was a hard drive to the hoop.

Something Lesieli Tapealava had done a thousand times before. This time, however, it was different. Instead of finding the hoop, Tapealava was met by a pair of defenders, both of whom sent her crashing to the court.

“I couldn’t breathe or concentrate or anything else,” Tapealava recalled about the play that ended her freshman basketball season at Foster High. “I was scared.”

Tapealava had reason to be scared. She had just torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in her left knee.

Her season?

Finished.

Fastpitch in the spring?

Gone before it even began.

What about volleyball, Tapealava’s preference of the three?

That remained very much in question after March surgery, but Tapealava, now a sophomore, has returned to the court and looks to the future with optimism.

“I am sure we can (win) if we believe in ourselves, bond and work as a team,” said the sophomore setter.

Foster posted a 2-6 record in Seamount League play a year ago, and hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2005, which happens to be the last time the Bulldogs advanced to the state tournament. However, with rising talent like Tapealava, the present and future certainly is bright.

“We would be struggling if we didn’t have someone (at setter) who knew what to do,” said second-year coach Brandi Travess. “She was the key to our offense last year as a freshman, which is a huge accomplishment. She basically had to learn the entire (offense) during the length of the season. She was able to learn everything she needed to know, and run the offense by the end of the year.”

Which helps explain why Travess was just a bit nervous during the summer, when it wasn’t yet clear whether Tapealava would be able to return to her customary setter position.

“I thought she’d have to miss three to four weeks of our season before being cleared,” Travess said. “But she has been practicing. She’s not 100 percent, like she was before the injury, but we’re glad to have her.”

Tapealava’s return has been one of the many bright spots of the early season for the Foster team, which is small in stature — Travess estimates the average height is 5-foot-3 — but big on versatility.

Along with the return of Tapealava, the Bulldogs also are hoping for a triumphant return from Boravy Moravong, a senior outside hitter who saw some action last year, but suffered from a severely sprained ankle that cost her the end of the season.

“She didn’t really have the opportunity to play as much as she could have,” said Travess, who noted that Moravong tried to play through the injury several times last in the season only to have the ankle continue to swell. “This year, she is a senior and is doing an excellent job in leadership.”

Which is going to be key for a team that lost eight girls from last year’s bunch, including Neta Tapealava — Lesieli’s older sister — who was the lone all-leaguer on the team. Despite the losses, the Bulldogs head into the season full of hope and a certain level of familiarity with Travess, now in her second year.

“This year, all the girls know the drill,” the coach said. “They know how things operate, and the practices have been a lot smoother. I don’t have to explain things every minute.”

That being the case, the Bulldogs are aiming high this fall.

“My goal is to always get the girls to focus on reaching the state tournament,” Travess said. “If the girls are focused, their potential is unlimited.”

FOSTER VOLLEYBALL: AT A GLANCE

Coach: Brandi Travess, second year.

Last year: The Bulldogs finished 2-6 in league play and 3-11 overall.

Top returners: Sejla Suta, sr., middle blocker; Lesieli Tapealava, so., setter; Yan Le, so., libero.

Top newcomers: Boravy Moravong, sr., outside hitter; Veronica Sun, so., setter; Kirsten Goins, so., middle blocker.

Key losses: Neta Tapealava, outside hitter; Vansica Sun, outside hitter, Ashley Martin, libero and outside hitter.

Team strength: Solid returning group with tremendous leadership and unity.

Team weakness: Height.

Outlook: This is a relatively young bunch with a bright future. Travess, who coached at Evergreen and Steilacoom High Schools before coming to Foster, is feeling more at ease this fall as the girls have an established set of expectations and have become comfortable with the system. Playing in the Seamount League, which is a collection of Class 2A and 3A teams, provides plenty of challenges to the Bulldogs. Kennedy has long been the dominant team of the league while Mount Rainier typically challenges. Foster may not be able to contend with those particular programs, but should enjoy more success than in 2009 and a bump in wins is expected.

Last state appearance: 2005.

Top finish at state: Sixth place in 1994.

REMAINING 2010 SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME

Sept. 16 Renton Foster 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 Tyee Tyee 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 Bremerton Foster 7 p.m.

Sept. 23 Evergreen Evergreen 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 Highline Foster 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 Tyee Foster 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 Tournament Bellevue CC 9 a.m.

Oct. 5 Evergreen Foster 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 Lindbergh Lindbergh 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 Lindbergh Foster 7 p.m.

Oct. 15 Charles Wright Charles Wright 5:45 p.m.

Oct. 19 Hazen Hazen 7 p.m.

Oct. 21 Renton Renton 7 p.m.

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