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Making his own way on the court

Posted: May 3, 2014 8:27 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2014 8:27 p.m.

From left to right, Cory, Max, Jenny, Barry and Colleen Nua have all had success in volleyball. Now all eyes are on Max to uphold the tradition.

 

For so long, Max Nua was the anonymous little kid wandering around the gym and doing his best to kill time until practice was over.

His parents were always coaching volleyball and his brothers and sisters played it.

All Nua could do was watch.

But now all eyes are on the baby of the family. Nua, a 17-year-old senior outside hitter at Saugus High School, is the youngest of six athletically inclined siblings.

He’s the heir apparent to a long line of top-notch volleyball players and athletes in general.

“As a kid I remember running around the gym and doing anything I could to get on the court with (my brothers and sisters),” Nua says.

His older sister Kristy and his brother Tanner both played volleyball at the NCAA Division I college level at Cal State Northridge.

Tanner won two gold medals and a bronze at the Junior Olympics while playing at Palmdale High School.

Max’s mother and father, Colleen and Barry, also both played college sports at Fresno State. Colleen played volleyball and Barry football while playing club volleyball.

Barry is now the head varsity coach at Saugus and Colleen heads up the junior varsity team.

Two of Max’s sisters, Jenny and Cory, also help coach various levels of the Saugus boys volleyball program.

“There’s that expectation because we’re a volleyball family and there’s that expectation that Max should be that level of player,” Barry says.

And that’s just his immediate family.

His cousin Isaac plays soccer at Saugus and another cousin, Samantha, is a junior on the girls varsity volleyball team.

And another member of the extended family, Amber Nua, teaches special education at the school.

This is all without even mentioning all the alumni.

The Nuas have put a strong fingerprint at Saugus High School, particularly in volleyball.

And for the time being, Max is the face of the family on campus.

“The Nuas are very prominant at Saugus and for volleyball it’s just Max. ... He makes his presence felt on the court and you know who he is,” says Max’s teammate, Zech Lee. “Everybody in the league knows who he is and he’s the main guy that they try to shut down. But quite frankly, you just can’t do it. You can only hope to contain him.”

In 22 matches this season, Max has reached 247 kills, 55 digs and 30 blocks. He’s well on his way to eclipsing a career high in kills.

He was an All-Santa Clarita Valley first-teamer last year and was a second-teamer as a sophomore. He’s been remarkably consistent with 228 kills his sophomore year and 223 as a junior.

On top of that, his game continues to improve.

“I would say that he has the chance to play in college like I did and be a better player than I was,” Tanner says.

But even a 6-foot-6 player with a powerful swing, strong backcourt skills and a GPA above 3.5 believes he still has a lot to live up to given his lineage.

“At times I feel like I work a lot harder to try to compete with what my siblings have done in their volleyball careers and try to do better than what they did, but I look up to them a lot and try to match that or do better,” Max says.

This isn’t a case of one-upsmanship on the part of Max. He looked up to Tanner, now 24, and remembers marveling at that way he played.

When Tanner was younger, he also played soccer and briefly tried to play football.

Max did too.

Older siblings Toma, Jennie, Tanner and Kristy were all star volleyball players at Palmdale High, where their mom and dad both coached at the time.

And Max wants to follow suit.

He decided early that he wanted to follow in his brothers’ path.

“He was probably age 6 when he was first, ‘Here’s my jump serve.’ No ball. He would just run down the hall and pretend he was doing a jump serve,” Colleen says.

In 2007, the family moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, which gave the two youngest kids, Cory and Max, the chance to start a fresh legacy at a new school.

Max has done so, establishing himself as one of the top hitters in the area over the course of three years.

“I think it was nice for him to come to a high school that his brothers hadn’t gone to because we all went to Palmdale. We grew up there,” Jennie says. “So there weren’t people at the school who really knew anything about him. So he came in and he got to own it himself and do whatever he wanted to do.”

Some of the older kids tease Max and say he’s the spoiled one.

He gets his own room and his own car, which is unlike the others in the family.

Now he gets his own school.

“He’s the final one in the family to finish out his high school career and then we’ll see where it goes from there,” Tanner says.

Soon, Max will graduate and put an end to his family’s lengthy run of prep volleyball prowess.

In a way, it will mark the end of an era.

Then again, there’s always grandkids.

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