Plenty of local teens spent this summer in the sun and sand, but no one worked harder than Oviedo beach volleyball standout Rileigh Powers
July was a busy month for 5’10” Rileigh Powers. The Oviedo High volleyball star flew to Los Angeles to represent the state of Florida in the BVCA (Beach Volleyball Clubs of America) National Championships, the HP National Championships, and, following that, the AAU Junior Olympics, where she captured a gold medal. Whew! And you thought your kids had a whirlwind summer vacation.
The busy summer break was the culmination of Rileigh’s recent accomplishments as she has become one of the nation’s top junior players. In 2014, she was such a strong presence on the team that won the AAU Club National Championships that Rileigh was named to the AAU All-America team. And in 2015, her parents watched Rileigh clinch the bronze medal in the USAV National Beach Championships held in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In 2015, she was a silver medalist at the Rox National Beach Championships and was named to the National Prep Volleyball’s Frosh 59 list. And Rileigh’s volleyball skills aren’t just confined to the beach. Earlier this year, she and her team took home the bronze medal at the AAU National Indoor Championships.
But let’s back up. Those watching Rileigh dominate the court must wonder where she acquired her flair for volleyball.
“No one in our family plays volleyball,” says Rileigh’s dad, Brad Powers. “It was totally something she picked up on her own.”
Rileigh began what would be a very successful volleyball career at a young age. St. Luke’s Lutheran School offered a fun, intramural program to expose young players to the sport, and in second grade, Rileigh decided to give it a go. Not only did she enjoy it, she revealed tremendous potential. In addition to playing for St. Luke’s, Rileigh also donned a uniform for the local YMCA recreational league and a team at the Oviedo Gym & Aquatic Facility.
Based on input from coaches and other parents, Rileigh’s mom and dad were encouraged to enter her into club volleyball.
“Rileigh always seemed to be so far ahead of the curve in her development,” Brad recalls. “Not knowing the sport, we really had no concept, but we could tell she had a love and passion for it and always gave 150 percent.”
“I started playing at OVA [Orlando Volleyball Academy] in sixth grade,” says Rileigh. “This was when I really started focusing on playing competitive volleyball. I just loved the high level and challenge of club volleyball.”
When she’s not dominating the beach, Rileigh currently plays indoor volleyball for Oviedo High School.
“There is something special about playing for your high school and having an amazing coach like Coach [Jennifer] Darty,” she says.
Rileigh showed great promise for both indoor and beach volleyball, a fact not missed by many, including Gary Dosantos, a beach volleyball player himself and the father of one of Rileigh’s club teammates. Gary recognized that with Rileigh’s talent on the hardwood, she would be a menace on the sand.
At the end of an indoor season, Gary asked her to consider beach volleyball by playing in an OVA tournament partnered with his own daughter, Corina.
“It was the first time Rileigh played beach volleyball, and they won the tournament, beating much more experienced players easily,” says Brad. “We were blown away at how the two of them played.”
“It was so much fun from the first time I played, and I was hooked,” Rileigh says.
Two-on-two volleyball requires a partner you can rely on, and Rileigh found that in Lexy Denaburg, an outside hitter for Merritt Island High School and a club player at Cape Coast Volleyball Club. The two teamed up for a beach tournament this past April, and “it was definitely a match made in heaven,” says Brad. Rileigh adds, “Lexy is very similar to me as she also plays outside hitter, and we have similar personalities.”
A serious commitment to the sport means that the girls push each other, and parallel physical attributes make the partnership even more compatible.
“One of the other things Rileigh loves about playing with Lexy is that she is also about 5’10”, and they have a very similar type of game,” says Brad.
While she still carries a torch for indoor volleyball, Rileigh admits that she prefers the sand between her toes.
“I like beach volleyball better because I love getting more touches on the ball, since in indoor you only touch the ball once in a while,” says Rileigh. “I like having one partner and being responsible for more of the court. Plus, it’s also much softer when you dive!”
Rileigh says she prefers the versatility of beach volleyball in that she can pass, set, block, and hit.
“I have never been really great at one thing but pretty good at everything, so it sets up well for the beach game,” she explains. “Most indoor players have one or two responsibilities, and they are good at that. In beach, you have to do everything, and I love that.”
Overall, Rileigh is thankful for the opportunities the sport has afforded her.
“I’ve made a lot of friendships through the game – some of my best friends are from volleyball – and I’ve had the opportunity to see many cool places as a result of playing volleyball,” she says.
Rileigh has traveled to play in 11 states so far, including California and Colorado. She has also experienced the thrill of winning a national tournament.
“Winning AAU Nationals is something I will remember forever,” Rileigh says.
And beach volleyball might just pay for her college education, too. Rileigh is currently being scouted by nearly a dozen schools, from the Sunshine State to Arizona, and her goals are lofty.
“My goal for beach while in high school is to make it to the final draw of the AVP [the Association of Volleyball Professionals, the country’s premier beach volleyball tour] by the time I’m a senior,” Rileigh says.
Her plan is to play beach volleyball in college and to go pro after school. Her dad is excited for what the future may hold.
“There is nothing better than watching Rileigh enjoy competing at what she loves,” Brad says.
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