While most fifteen and sixteen year olds spend their summers working a part-time job or attending camp, Justine Wong-Orantes and Sara Hughes spent their summer traveling abroad and racking up gold medals.
The California natives showed their skills to the world in Umag, Croatia, placing ninth in the U19 division of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Youth World Championships. Just days later, the pair moved indoors and took home the gold medal in the 16 Open division at the Junior National Volleyball Championships in Atlanta, Ga. The girls then added another gold to their résumé after competing in the U18 division of the AAU Junior National Beach Volleyball Championships.
“Stepping on the court for the first time in Croatia I had so many different feelings. I was nervous and excited at the same time, I had to calm myself down and remember it was another game of volleyball,” Sara said.
Justine echoed her teammate’s sentiment: “Not only was it my first time traveling out of the country, it was my first time playing internationally. It just makes me want to train and work harder, so I can get this opportunity again.”
These girls are not unfamiliar with the demands of playing volleyball at a high level. Both Justine and Sara play for their high school varsity teams, Los Alamitos and Mater Dei, respectively. They are regular partners on the beach and both play for Mizuno Long Beach 16 Rockstar volleyball club.
“Not only is Justine just my partner, she is one of my best friends,” Sara said of her partner of eight years. “We always work together and play for one another. I love playing with Justine and we have had so many great volleyball experiences together.”
Naturally, Justine feels similarly: “I am so blessed to have Sara as a partner. We really have a connection that no one will understand.”
We just might be looking at the next Kerri and Misty.
Originally published in September/October 2011