YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

DePourtales Serves Volleyball as Versatile Player, Promoter


Specialization never appealed much to Valerie dePourtales. Or perhaps she was just too busy to stop and think about it.

DePourtales' work background includes concurrent career paths in banking, teaching, real estate, free-lance writing and sports instruction.

"I'm one of those people that kind of fits into a lot of different niches," dePourtales says.

DePourtales' voracity for variety is even more apparent when it comes to volleyball.

On the court--be it wood, grass or sand--she is one of the most versatile players in the United States.

DePourtales, 28, a former All-American at Brigham Young, 28, has competed internationally on women's teams and is one of the country's top-rated players in both grass-court doubles and Mixed-6 co-ed competition. She also is an ascending beach volleyball player.

"It's enjoyable to compete in all the different aspects of the sport and help promote it," says dePourtales, who lives in Montrose. "I think some people see the NCAA playoffs or the professional beach players and think, 'Gosh, I could never play like that.'

"But there's all different levels. If you can't play professionally on the beach, you can play in your recreation league down the street while you're building up your skills."

DePourtales' ability and ambassadorial spirit landed her on volleyball teams that have made tours of Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union and Australia.

Her grass-court career began three years ago when she teamed with Karen Bonokoski of Huntington Beach. The pair has won numerous tournaments and has never finished lower than third in competitions sponsored by the Federation of Outdoor Volleyball.

"To an extent, a good volleyball player can find a way to play at various levels," says Bonokoski, 24, who played at Cal State Long Beach. "But Valerie is unique because of the success she's reached at each of those levels."

DePourtales' most recent triumph came in co-ed competition, in which teams include three men and three women. The co-ed game, played on courts with nets set at the men's regulation height of seven feet, 11 5/8 inches, is a power game in which women, generally, set and play defense while men hit and block.

DePourtales was named woman Player of the Year in Mixed-6 volleyball--the highest level of co-ed competition in the United States--after she helped lead NIKE of Southern California to the U. S. Volleyball Assn. national championship last August in Las Vegas. With dePourtales at the controls as setter, NIKE went unbeaten through the 38-team, four-day tournament.

"You look for a woman who can either set or play defense, and if you get a combination of the two, you've got a gem," says Steve McManus, a member of the NIKE team who has been playing co-ed volleyball for 12 years. "Valerie can do both.

"She's an excellent setter and she isn't afraid to dig a ball that's coming 70 or 80 miles an hour or harder."

Next month, dePourtales and her teammates will travel to the beaches of Miami, where they will represent the West in the co-ed national sand championships.

"I think the development of co-ed (volleyball) is still at an early stage as far as development as a sport and strategies," says dePourtales, who also participates in recreation leagues in Glendale and Long Beach. "Playing with the men adds a different dimension to the game. I think it's made me a better overall player."

DePourtales began her climb through the volleyball ranks as a setter and outside hitter at Villa Park High in Orange County, supplementing her experience with the school team by participating in the junior national program.

The class valedictorian in high school, dePourtales earned an academic and athletic scholarship to BYU, from which she was graduated with a degree in economics.

She was also named an NCAA Top-5 Scholar Athlete, an honor awarded to only five undergraduate students each year.

She went on to play for Athletes in Action, was part of a "Volleyball for Peace" delegation that toured the Soviet Union in 1987, and performed with a team in exhibition matches at the World Expo in Brisbane, Australia, last year.

Last summer, dePourtales and Bonokoski won the first beach tournament they entered, obtaining their "A" rating. The partners are hoping to eventually improve their game enough to gain a "AAA" rating, which will allow them to compete with the professionals.

DePourtales has difficulty foreseeing a day when she will not be playing volleyball at some level.

"Volleyball has given me opportunities I would have never had otherwise," dePourtales says. "I don't plan to stop playing until there's nothing new left to experience."

Los Angeles Times Articles