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Student athlete finds success on and off court

Late starter Leena Vo weighs her options to play basketball at the university level.

By Nicholas Orozco, Sports Editor

Monarchs sophomore guard Leena Vo focuses and about to attempt a free throw as monarchs teammates Jordyn Jiron and Jacqueline Privado anticipate the next moment the twenty-fifth game of the season of the Western state conference at Valley College in Los Angeles Calif. on Wednesday February 8, 2023.

By most standards, Leena Vo started playing basketball late in life. Her first time playing organized basketball was in the eighth grade, but the late starter became a quick bloomer as the Valley College guard was recently named first-team All-Western State Conference.

Vo, along with sophomore guards Jordyn Jiron and Jacqueline Privado, spearheaded the Lady Monarchs’ attack this year. They led the team to a 21-9 record with a second-round playoff appearance.

In Vo’s first year at Granada Hills Charter, she made the junior varsity team. One year later, she was on varsity and helped her team win a CIF championship. It was Vo’s third year playing the sport.

“It was a really big thing for me,” Vo said. “It was a goal to win the next year and the next year.”

The 20 year old convinced her parents to let her play college basketball. They were more focused on academics. However, once they gave in, they became her biggest fans, showing up and cheering at most of her games.

Vo found out about the program at Valley through former assistant coach Natalie Gutierrez, who scouted Vo during her high school games. Gutierrez convinced Vo to join the program.

“The coaches, the environment and everyone here were really welcoming,” Vo said. “They really care about making you better.”

Vo averaged 8.9 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game in her freshman campaign. In her second year, she scored 9.1 points per game and collected 5.1 rebounds a game. Even though Vo’s averages were not dramatically different from her freshman and sophomore years, she gained valuable experience.

“I’ve grown more confident in myself because I feel [community college basketball] is really underrated,” said Vo, who also earned All-State academic honors from the California Community College Athletic Association. “The fact that I can compete at this level proves to me that I can do it.”

Head Coach Monica Hang said that her star guard is a great example of what she wants for the women's basketball program. Hang added that the Lady Monarchs take pride in the student-athlete, something that Vo models. Vo will graduate with an AA-T degree in kinesiology in the fall.

“What's amazing about her accomplishing these awards, she did it while working a part-time job,” Hang said. “She is a leader and role model to her peers. Leena Vo is a great example of what we want for our women’s basketball program.”

Vo plans to play basketball at the university level and is considering Cal Lutheran University or UC Santa Cruz, which are both Division III.

Before she leaves, Vo plans on participating in spring workouts with the Lady Monarchs, lending some of her leadership skills to the new recruits.

“I told them at the end of the day it’s about just improving,” said Vo. “They have time. It’s spring workouts now, so use every day to get better.”

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