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Hermosa’s Zana Muno becomes first AAU beach volleyball Triple Crown winner

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Hermosa Beach’s Zana Muno, right, proudly displays her award with partner Gianna Guinasso of Huntington Beach after the duo won the AAU Best of the Beach 16U title in Santa Monica. Photo by Ciena Lennon

When Zana Muno hits the sands for a beach volleyball tournament, she doesn’t care who the opposition is. She even isn’t extremely particular who her partner is. She just wants to win.

The 16-year-old from Hermosa Beach, (who has previously gone by her given name Susannah), placed her name in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) records recently becoming the first player to win the organization’s “triple crown” of beach volleyball. And she did it in four weeks.

“It was very special for me to win the triple crown but I didn’t realize how big a thing it was until after the tournament was over,” Muno said. “It shows how much potential I have and what I can do with my athletic ability.”

While other junior beach volleyball players have won the AAU National Championship, the AAU Junior Olympics and the Best of the Beach tournaments, Muno became the first to win all three in one season. More impressive was that she accomplished the feat with three different partners.

Equally impressive was that the first ever “triple crown” came in the 16-and-Under division, the highest enrolled and most competitive division offered. The three events featured the top teams from twelve states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Muno said her inspiration to play beach volleyball comes from Manhattan Beach native and Hall-of-Famer Mike Dodd.

“He accomplished so much in his career and is still such a great person,” Muno said. “How he lives his life is how I’d like to live mine.”

Muno, who is entering her sophomore year at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, said she hopes to play both indoor and sand volleyball in college.

“Right now I’m looking at Hawaii and Florida State,” Muno said. “But I’m also interested in Notre Dame and UCLA and hope they have sand volleyball programs by the time I start college.”

While the AAU Nationals is an Open event, the Junior Olympic Games and Best of the Beach require qualification by medaling in one of the 43 tournaments offered by the AAU nationally.

Muno began her quest for the “triple crown” with two wins in her hometown.

Partnering with Sydney Bast, of Upland, Muno captured the National Championships before joining forces with San Diego’s Raeanne Greisen to win gold at the AAU Junior Olympic Games two weeks later.

As any baseball or horse racing fan knows, winning a triple crown is extremely difficult and the journey was not an easy one for Muno when she competing at the Best of the Beach tournament, presented by Kauai Bikini, at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.

Zanu Muno scores a point during the AAU Olympic Games in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Ciena Lennon

Muno teamed with Gianna Guinasso, of Huntington Beach, but the duo lost a pool play game to a pair from Puerto Rico. The defeat forced the Southern Californian’s to win their next four matches to reach the championship match.

Facing Nicci Hinderaker (Long Beach) and Elise Zappia (Huntington Beach), Muno and Guinasso battled to a three-set victory for the gold.

The Best of the Beach championships, along with the 2012 AAU Beach National Championships, are available anytime on Time Warner’s Video On Demand Channel 1.

The AAU Beach Tour, which began in 1994, is not only the oldest, but also the most comprehensive and competitive junior beach volleyball program in the country.

The AAU will hold the first of it final two South Bay events Sunday at Hermosa Beach when the Tour Championships are held featuring competition in the girls 18U, 16U, 14U, 12U, 10U and boys 16U, 14U, 12U divisions. Cost is $68.50.

The AAU Coed Championships will take place Sunday, Aug. 26 at Dockweiler State Beach and includes competition in the18U, 16U, 14U and 12U divisions. Cost is $63.

For more information, contact Gino Grajeda, ggrajeda181@msn.com or visit aaubeach.org.