High School Sports

Timberline High School volleyball player Julianna Salanoa has a future that’s fueled by the past

Timberline middle blocker Julianna Salanoa (3), firing a shot between a pair of Olympia defenders during an October match, was a first-team all-4A Narrows League selection this season.
Timberline middle blocker Julianna Salanoa (3), firing a shot between a pair of Olympia defenders during an October match, was a first-team all-4A Narrows League selection this season. Staff photographer

Timberline High School’s Julianna Salanoa has plans. Big plans.

“I’d like to see myself going to college on a scholarship,” said Salanoa, who stars for the Blazers’ volleyball team. “I would really like to go to medical school.”

Her ambition is matched by her motivation. She said she is fueled by the memory of her father, who died of cancer when she was 10.

“It’s really hard for me because I am doing all of these things and he’s not here to see it,” said Salanoa, a junior middle blocker. “I really miss him, and I hope that he is proud of me.”

Salanoa is taking steps to make her dreams become a reality. A superior athlete who was limited last season by a nagging sprained ankle, she honed her skills at volleyball camps this summer at the University of Washington and Stanford — two schools that happen to have well-respected medical programs.

And she’s on top of her academics, Blazers coach Krista Manke said.

“She takes a lot of honors classes,” Manke said. “When I look at her grade report I see a lot of A’s, maybe one A-minus.”

Manke said the death of Salanoa’s father is something Julianna continues to deal with.

“She talks about it,” said Manke. “If she is sad she doesn’t show it.

“I know the emotional aspect of it is still there, but she thinks of it more like ‘I’m playing for him knowing he’s up there watching.’ 

The support of her coaches teammates and family, Salanoa said, has been crucial. She says her teammates are all like “sisters” and that this team is the closest team she has ever been with.

“They always come and support me, especially my stepdad (Shawn Cruz); he is always taking me to tournaments, to all the camps I have been to,” Salanoa said. “He is always there to support me. He pushes me to be better.”

Salanoa, who is 5-foot-11, said she began playing volleyball in middle school after having success in track and field and basketball. She made the varsity basketball team as a freshman and competed nationally in the shot put and discus.

But volleyball is her passion — and her singular focus now that she’s playing it exclusively. The camps this summer showed her how much she had to learn.

“I didn’t really start playing fundamentally until the camps,” she said. “They really helped me with my movement and all the technical and fundamental things I needed.”

It’s paying off for her and her team. Last Saturday, Salanoa helped the Blazers earn the second seed into this week’s Class 4A West Central District 3 tournament after losing to Bellarmine Prep in the 4A Narrows League championship match.

She also learned that she was a first-team, all-4A Narrows selection.

“If you sat down as a coach and thought, ‘This is what I want in a player,’ she fits every single thing you would want, and more,” Manke said. “She is such a blessing.”

Timberline plays Mount Rainier at noon on Friday at the district tournament. Should the Blazers get through districts, the next step would be the state tournament.

Salanoa said the Blazers are capable of playing with the best.

“I’m looking to go to state. We have the chemistry as a team to do it,” she said. “If we work hard and fight for every point, we can do anything.”

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