Justin Wong Orientes didn’t know what to do.
She sat in her hotel room in Rimini, Italy, after learning that she had made 2021 US Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team. Tears of joy were streaming down her face.
She called both her mother, Winnie Wong, and her boyfriend, Andrew Pham, but neither responded. The only female player assigned to the team couldn’t even share the news with her teammates, because some of them may not have heard from the coach yet Karish Kiraly.
What seemed like an eternity, her mother called again.
Remembering her mother’s reaction, Wong Orantes said, “She was so excited she was screaming over the phone, and I was laughing at her. I still gave her a hard time for not answering my call.”
Finally, little girl Wong Orantes, who played on the beach and was indoors through club and high school before becoming a freestyler in Nebraska, can share that she was an Olympian.
She won a national championship in Nebraska in 2015 and has played professionally ever since, but nothing compares, obviously, to becoming an Olympian.
Back to June 7, when she met king. Players had the option to learn by email and face to face with the coach. Or so the shortest player on the team thinks at 5ft 6.
“I decided to meet in person, so I went to this hotel room, and thought I was going to meet only Karsh, then opened the door, they are all the staff,” Wong Orantes said.
“I was a little shocked, and then he broke the news that I was in, and I immediately started crying. Karch shared the ups and downs I experienced inside the quads, and I was thinking about it in my head, I guess that’s why I started tearing up because I was thinking and staying All the years we worked.”
“We found out about 9:30 p.m., which is about 12:30 California time. I had warned my mother, who was on a girls’ trip, that we would have the news at that time.
“She was lounging in the pool on her AirBNB, and she wasn’t available for Facetime. So I tried calling my friend, and he didn’t answer the phone. So I called my mom again, and she still didn’t answer.
“Finally, after 10 minutes, my tears have dried, and I can’t call anyone on the team, because some of them may not have the news yet, and I’m alone in my room waiting for someone to answer my call, and my mom finally calls me.”
After that fateful day, the USA women continued their dominance of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, the last major international competition before the tournament. Tokyo Olympics which begins on July 24th. Not only did the Americans win? gold medalWong-Orantes was named the tournament’s best freeman.
Now the team is back in Anaheim, California, and preparing to leave for Japan on July 17. The team trains Monday through Friday, with weights on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Wednesday and Friday are usually more specific for volleyball, with Friday brawls.
He is very far from learning volleyball at the age of six. Her parents, Robbie Orantis and Winnie Wong, played mixed volleyball at Thompson Park in Bellflower, and little Justin fed with any adult she might need.
Robbie Orientes has worked as a coach at Hope International and Long Beach City College. Winnie takes over for the weekend. Her younger brother Anthony plays and coaches. So it was only natural that Justin, now 25, would play volleyball.
The competition started at eight, both on the beach under the tutelage of the late legendary coach Bill Lovelace And indoors for Mizuno Long Beach.
“Having those touches was so helpful at such a young age,” said Winnie Wong.
But there was more than that. He was her first partner Sarah Hughes, whose beach career includes national titles for USC prominent professional career. Winnie recalls that together they won a bronze medal.
“But then they started winning gold medals. They trained all summer at Huntington Beach, it was really fun. They learned a lot from Bill, he was a good coach.”
In 2011, Wong-Orantes and Hughes finished ninth in the FIVB World Junior Championships. Then, at the age of 12, she and Summer Ross became the youngest duo to earn the coveted CBVA AAA rating.
“We compared ourselves to them,” Wong Orantes said. “I was fuzzy and it was Kerry. I think we wanted to follow in their footsteps. We were young and excited about beach volleyball. We were ‘OK, maybe we can do it.'”
“I went a different path, but it was always great to watch the Olympics, whether it was beach volleyball or volleyball or even gymnastics. I am a huge fan of gymnastics, even in Nebraska.”
Wong-Orantes, then setter, led Mizuno Long Beach Hughes to 16sec gold at the USA Junior Volleyball Championships.
“We got to know each other on the beach side first, then we convinced Sarah and her mother to come play at Mizuno Long Beach,” Wong Orantes said. “We were together non-stop, playing club volleyball during the fall and spring, and then continued during the summer to play on the beach. We were inseparable, Sarah and I are one of my biggest supporters and one of my best friends to this day.”
“Justin is great,” Hughes said. “She is one of my best friends and I am so happy for her because she made the Olympic team. We grew up together and volleyball is her passion and making the Olympic team means everything. I can’t wait to watch her come home with a gold medal.”
At Los Alamitos High School, Wong-Orantes was a rookie for four years with the Griffins in 2009-2012, leading the Griffins to a record 130-22, winning the CIF Southern Section 1AA title in 2011, and placing second in the CIF State Championship. .
Wong-Orantes stopped playing beach in her last year of high school.
“I really enjoyed the beach, but a lot more inside,” she said. “I like the indoor aspect of the team, where having six or 12 players contributes to the success of the tournament or the team. I like the atmosphere of the team and the presence of a coaching staff.”
From Los Alamitos, Wong-Orantes moved to Nebraska, where she switched from setter to Libero.
“Justin to me is a great story. It’s funny how things happen. Lara Dykstra was our libero. Right before spring semester ends, she walks in and says, ‘I’m going to Pepperdine, they started the beach.'” She was on the little beach team at the time.
“Very cool, we don’t have a freeman that year. So I went to the JOs and found Justine’s beach prep. Everyone was recruiting her as a reserve or follow-up…I had a home visit. She didn’t even know where Nebraska was but we got her out there and she commits, she gets a ride Complete, and what a great story.”
Not only did Nebraska win it all, but the Wong-Orantes left Lincoln as the program’s all-time fossil leader. She earned a degree in Child, Youth and Family Studies, and eventually hopes to train at the university level. She actually worked as a volunteer assistant for Long Beach State women in 2017 as well as at Mizuno Long Beach.
Wong Orantes, who has been with the national team since 2016, played professionally in the Bundesliga for Schweiner in 2020 and last season in Wiesbaden, where the pro season runs from October to April.
“I’ve only had good experiences in Germany, so I’m excited to be back after the Olympics.”
Wong Orantes, who lives with her parents in Cypress, California upon her return to the United States, is Chinese on her mother’s side and Mexican on her father’s side. That translates to food, and she said that when she’s at home, she’s sure to hit Nick’s Burritos for breakfast burritos and Moon Lunasia for dim sum.
Now, however, all the focus is on the upcoming Olympics, even though the games won’t be normal.
“I’m really disappointed that they don’t allow American viewers,” Wong Orantes said.
“Of all the Olympic venues, I think I really wanted my friends and family to experience Tokyo. I think they would have loved it. It would have been a great experience for them to experience Japanese culture.”
In VNL, the United States went 14-1 in the league table and then beat Turkey and Brazil to win the gold medal. The Americans will go to Tokyo as candidates, albeit a year later.
“In 2020 alone, many people’s dreams have been shattered,” Wong Orantes said. “He pushed everything back for a year, there were some people in the team who were planning to retire, and that definitely puts things on hold, puts everything in perspective.
“We’ve done a lot of work during the 2020 season, including almost through Zoom. We’ve done a really good job staying in touch, and I think that’s a great testament to the programme, the girls, the coaching staff that the team put a lot of work on the court to build those relations.
“When we all got the news, whether I made the team or not, we all felt very close to each other, and that’s what sets this team apart.”