Talk about innate tendencies — Salpointe senior outside hitter Andrea Owens was in her mom’s womb when her mom played volleyball in college.
“I’ve looked up to her my whole life; she played volleyball when she was pregnant with me,” Owens said of her mother Natalia, who was on the Peruvian National Team before she concluded her college career at Washington State in 2005.
Her father Michael has coached volleyball since he earned his Spanish education degree from Washington State about 15 years ago and began coaching at Pullman (Wash.) High School.
Andrea was already 2 by the time Natalia exhausted her eligibility with the Cougars.
“Volleyball has been a thing my entire life and every day she tells me I need to love the sport and that’s just what I do,” Andrea said of her mom.
Michael and Natalia, Andrea and their two younger sons Alexander and Antony have lived in Tucson the last eight years, moving from Washington when Michael was hired to teach in the University of Arizona’s Department of Spanish and Portugese. Natalia and Michael studied together in the languages department at Washington State.
Michael is now the head girls volleyball coach at CDO after a stint at Central Arizona College, where he is now a language professor. He and Natalia operate the Southern Arizona Volleyball Academy.
Last week, Andrea had the opportunity to play against her dad’s Dorados. She had 20 kills, three aces and nine digs in Salpointe’s 3-0 victory.
Natalia mentioned that Andrea was originally slated to attend Ironwood Ridge because the family lives in that area.
“Very early on, Andrea showed an affinity for the sport and when she started middle school, we knew we had to help her find a school that would allow her to grow not only as a person but also as an athlete,” Natalia commented. “At the end of middle school, we didn’t know where she was going to attend high school. Of course, Wilson (Middle School) feeds into Ironwood (Ridge), so that was the plan; a plan that only lasted five weeks because one day out of nowhere Andrea comes home and asks, ‘Mom can I go to Salpointe?’
“A good friend of hers was going there and she really wanted to experience high school with her bestie. We started the process in July and she was ready to attend in August. At the time I was teaching at Marana and Michael started coaching at CDO, so our family was a little bit divided.”
Family friends Mike and Cathy Kishbaugh (the parents of Salpointe setter Brandy Kishbaugh) provided transportation for Andrea to practices and games.
“They were true lifesavers,” Natalia mentioned.
The uncommon occurrence of a daughter playing against a team coached by her dad was “fun,” according to Andrea.
“I like it. We have a little bit of a competitive love for each other and it’s exciting,” Andrea said. “We definitely talked (after the match). He was a little mad at me (because the Dorados lost). It was love.”
Natalia takes the diplomatic route when sitting in the stands when her daughter plays against her husband’s Dorados.
“Everyone kept asking, ‘Who are you rooting for?’ My answer was always good volleyball,” she commented. “Both my husband and daughter are very competitive but Salpointe always won in each of their matches. Andrea was delighted to get 17 kills in her first match against her dad as a freshman and then to get 20 in her final match this past week as a senior.
“He is always very proud of her but wouldn’t have minded to have to comfort her after a loss to CDO once back at home. Even though they were rivals in a sense, they would hug before each match during the line up announcements and would discuss tactics and situations afterward.”
With the family’s background in volleyball, Andrea naturally has developed into one of the best players in the state.
She is one of only four seniors on this year’s team, which is 11-1 heading into a significant match at Phoenix Notre Dame Prep (10-0) today at 5 p.m.
Standing at 6-foot-2 — her mom was a middle blocker at 6-1 — Andrea has 815 kills, 773 sets, 82 blocks and 524 digs in her four-year career with the Lancers.
“Andrea has skills in all areas of the game,” said Salpointe coach
Heather Moore-Martin, a four-time state champion coach who is in her eighth season with the Lancers after a historic successful run with Catalina.
“We could have her set right now. She could block middle right now. She outside hits for us at this moment, but she could also libero. She just has skills in all areas.”
Andrea is set to sign with North Texas on Signing Date on Nov. 11. The Mean Green’s head coach, Andrew Palileo, has a background with Michael and Natalia as Washington State’s head coach from 2008 to 2010.
Andrea will study criminal justice and psychology with the goal of being an FBI agent or detective.
She carries the trustworthiness of a leader who lays down the law with her teammates in a constructive way.
“She’s learned how much volleyball means to her over the past four years,” Moore-Martin said. “I think that she values the opportunity to be with her team. She does a nice job of being very inclusive, and caring about everybody.”
The Lancers are loaded with younger talent with seven juniors, including Jalynn Ransom, younger sister of former Salpointe football standout Lathan Ransom, who is now at Ohio State.
“Us seniors, we have to be leaders so next year the juniors and sophomores can really bring up the team,” Owens said.
One of the intriguing elements of a Salpointe practice, other than the focus and intensity displayed by the players throughout, is that Moore-Martin allows the seniors to speak to the group at the end to reinforce their objectives.
Andrea plays a significant role as coach figure on the court as a motivator.
“Andrea is a huge piece to our puzzle,” Moore-Martin said. “She’s an encourager. She’s a supporter.”
Growing up in a family so devoted to a sport such as the Owens family — the two boys play club volleyball — the pressure can mount for a child to succeed.
Natalia said allowing Andrea to pursue her goals at Salpointe alleviated any such circumstance. The decision to grant Andrea’s wishes to play in Moore-Martin’s program will result in her becoming a legendary Lancer.
“Like most players, high school has been a very important and worthwhile experience,” Natalia mentioned about her daughter. “Our thought was that high school volleyball would be hers.
“We are so involved in every other aspect of her development that we wanted to give her the space to have that experience.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.