Dominican volleyball team adds star player

Former San Rafael High School volleyball star Tianna Tuatagaloa has come home to play again, practically in her backyard this time. Tuatagaloa has transferred from Gonzaga University, a NCAA Division I school, to be a graduate student and play for Dominican University of California, which will begin play this fall in NCAA Div. II. The 6-foot outside hitter is practicing with her new Penguin teammates in preparation for their season-opening tournament at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park Aug. 28-29.

“I bring a lot of knowledge. I’ve played a lot of years of volleyball. I bring an intensity I don’t think a lot the girls are used to because I’m used to living, breathing, dying volleyball every day,” Tuatagaloa said. “I’m here to have fun and make this team better and make the transition into a D-2 program a little bit easier because it’s going to be a tough season.”

The 22-year-old daughter of former Cal football star and NFL defensive lineman Natu Tuatagaloa will be introduced Thursday at the Pacific West Conference Women’s Volleyball Media Day from noon to 2 p.m. at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The Penguins’ inaugural PacWest home game will be against Notre Dame de Namur University at Conlan Center Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.

Tuatagaloa , who graduated from Gonzaga with a degree in Business Administration, planned on enrolling at Dominican to pursue her MBA. She was considering being a graduate assistant coach for the Penguins but, with a year of college eligibility remaining, she was convinced to play one more season.  That will allow her family to see her play more often after she spent five years in Spokane, Wash.

 “My family is just so excited to be able to travel two minutes (from home) to see me play and not have to jump on a plane,” Tuatagaloa said.

Dominican women’s volleyball coach Roger Goodwin is jumping for joy, too.

“With her experience level and her size she is going to be a player who is going to make an impact and stabilize our team,” Goodwin said. “Now I have more options on offense and she is going to help our defense with her blocking. I can’t wait to start playing and figure out the final configuration of our team … I think she is going to be a dynamic combination with (senior co-captain) Gabby Pecora on the outside. We’ll always have a go-to player at the net.”

After redshirting at Gonzaga her freshman year, Tuatagaloa appeared in 36 games in 2005.The next season, she had 69 kills, 47 blocks, 29 digs, 11 assists and four service aces in 69 games.

However, Tuatagaloa suffered a season-ending injury on Aug. 14, 2007, three days into preseason. She received a medical redshirt.

“I tore my Achilles tendon. It broke my heart,” Tuatagaloa said. “It was the worst day of my life.”

Now things for Tuatagaloa – and the Dominican women’s volleyball team – can only get better.