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Versatility gives young volleyball virtuoso an edge

On the beach or on the court, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame sophomore Zana Muno is an all-around achiever. Sports success runs in the family.

October 03, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

Whether setting, digging, hitting, serving or passing, 16-year-old Zana Muno of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is volleyball's version of a utility player. There isn't a position she can't play or a skill she can't master.

As her brother, JJ, a football-baseball standout for the Knights, points out, "She can do everything. She has the height, the speed, the athleticism, the smarts."

Seeing her on the court with her smile, energy and constant competitiveness helps explain why she was able to accomplish what no other teenager had done in the 19-year history of the junior beach volleyball tour.

She won the AAU national tour's three major beach events over the summer with three different partners. Others have won the events, but never in the same year.

"That's my game. I love it," said the 5-foot-9 sophomore, who's also a standout in soccer.

Nothing has changed now that she's playing indoor volleyball. Last week in a Mission League opener against Studio City Harvard-Westlake, she had 25 kills in a three-game sweep by the Knights.

It's her versatility that makes her invaluable. At any moment during a match, she can find a way to contribute.

"I can do more than one thing," she said. "People are so specializing these days, only doing this. I think that's what is going to give me an edge."

Her versatility is particularly striking in the beach game, because that's where players can never hide from the ball.

"Her genes make her the athlete she is," Coach Kristin Gorman said. "Her hard work and dedication to all she's done makes her the volleyball player she is."

Muno had no choice but to excel in sports. She has cousins who were baseball standouts at Loyola and Mission Viejo and now in college and the pros. Her brother is headed to UC Santa Barbara next season to play baseball. Her father, Larry, was the football coach at Playa del Rey St. Bernard. There also are athletes on her mother's side, the Monreals. Mother Kim went to Rutgers on a golf scholarship and grandfather George was a tennis coach at Torrance Bishop Montgomery. Grandmother Sue was a champion swimmer in high school.

"It's big shoes to fill but I'm hopefully living up to the Muno name," she said. "I'm just so proud to be part of the family."

JJ, a senior at Notre Dame, certainly fits the part of proud brother, cheering in the bleachers and helping organize his fellow football players into being vocal supporters. And he's been a protector of his sister too.

"This first boy I liked would run when he saw my brother," Zana said.

Yes, it's tough being in the Muno family. You'd better be good in sports, and any potential Muno boyfriend has to deal with the proud brother.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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