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La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Kiana Wurtz brings family attitude to beach and indoor volleyball

La Jolla High School senior Kiana Wurtz says volleyball is "a great environment," whether indoors on the beach.
(Courtesy of Stephanie Montion Marquez)

For La Jolla High School senior Kiana Wurtz, playing volleyball is a family affair — whether it’s with her biological family, school family or beach family.

Having played beach volleyball since fifth grade with her father and sisters, Kiana now plays for the Club 692 beach volleyball team and indoor volleyball for the La Jolla High Vikings.

“My dad [Todd] has been playing beach volleyball since he was in his 20s, and he got my sisters [Siena and Cassidy] and I into it,” said Kiana, 17. “He used to live in Arizona and moved here after college. He would go to south Mission [Beach] and play every weekend and a lot of days of the week. He would start with pickup games, then there would be an organized game. He got my sisters into it and we did the same thing. We would play pickup games and just pepper with each other. Having a family that all played the same sport was fun because we could all go down to the beach and play together.”

That enthusiasm migrated from the sand to the court. “My dad’s passion for it … made me a lot better,” said Kiana, an outside hitter for the Vikings. “He trains me on the side, and we used to have a net in the backyard and would play. I wanted him to play with me every day when I was younger. Now my dad comes to all my tournaments and games.”

Kiana now dedicates that kind of energy to her team family and said she loves the environment of volleyball, whether it’s the full six-person indoor team or the two-person beach volleyball team.

“I feel like volleyball is a great environment; everyone loves the sport,” Kiana said. “I used to play softball and soccer but I got tired of it, but never got tired of volleyball. In beach volleyball, there are different shots and ways to play and you learn more as you play. You can go on playing for years for other sports and not learn as many new things as you learn in volleyball.”

This year’s La Jolla High squad is “pretty young,” and Kiana sees her role as a senior as bringing confidence, energy and persistence. “I feel like some of the younger girls were a little nervous at the start of the season,” she said. “But we pushed them and told them they were going to play well and kept the energy up. It brought the team together.”

After working in a two-person team in beach volleyball, it “took awhile” to get into a flow working with a larger team, Kiana said.

“I’m only 5-foot-7, and people definitely think it’s just height that is an asset to volleyball, but being strong mentally and physically and not giving up is going to win you the game,” she said.

When the school season ends, the Bay Park resident will return to Mission Beach for her club team activities.

When not on the court or on the sand, Kiana volunteers with other youth sports leagues and with homelessness outreach groups.

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.