Briana Lanktree (center) celebrates with teammates Katie Rotondo, Norene Losia and Abril Bustamante after Redondo defeated Corona del Mar to reach the 2012 CIF Division 1AA championship match. Photo by Ray Vidal
Whether it’s on or off the volleyball court, learning is a major part of Briana Lanktree’s game.
The Redondo Union High School senior recently completed her fourth year as a starter on the varsity team — only the fourth player to accomplish that feat in Coach Tommy Chaffins’ perennial powerhouse program.
Lanktree joined Lara and Skylar Dykstra and Tiffany Morales as four-year starters for the Sea Hawks and served as a team captain this season.
“Tommy Chaffins doesn’t just teach volleyball, he teaches life lessons,” Lanktree said. “He taught me how to stay focused. I’ll always remember his phrase, ‘Next play focus.’”
Lanktree led the Sea Hawks to a 30-6 record this season, recording a team-high 173 kills and 23 blocks. The 5-foot-10 outside hitter also was second on the team with 124 digs and was named tournament MVP of the Redondo Power Classic. She shared the Bay League’s Most Outstanding Player award with Mira Costa’s Sammy Furlan.
Although the second-seeded Sea Hawks were eliminated from the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs in a hard-fought, five-set loss to Great Oak in the quarterfinals, Lanktree counted her blessings when she looked back on her prep career.
Redondo Union senior outside hitter Briana Lanktree plays much taller than her five-foot-10, as her Mira Costa opponents learned this year. Photo by Ray Vidal
“I was fortunate to play in two CIF finals in my four years at Redondo,” Lanktree said. “Those matches were among the top three highlights of my high school career, along with taking third at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas in 2012. That tournament is one of the toughest in the country. It was fun playing against so many good teams, like Assumption of Kentucky and teams from Hawaii.”
Chaffins said he knew he had something special in Lanktree when she first played in Sea Hawk Pavilion four years ago.
“Even as a freshman, what stood out most about her was her poise,” Chaffins said. “Bri has the ultimate poker face in the most intense moments. She never looked nervous and always played at a high level throughout her entire high school career.
“I thought Bri was a great captain this year. She has always given her best effort at practices, a necessity for leadership. She tried to pick up the team with encouraging words if we were down, and always celebrated others’ successes with great enthusiasm.”
Lanktree gives a lot of credit to the Dykstra sisters.
“It was a great opportunity to mature and play with girls like Lara and Skylar Dykstra,” Lanktree said. “They were great role models and taught me a lot about the game and how to be a team player, which helped me become a captain this year.”
Like the Dykstras, Lanktree is passing her experiences on to the next potential four-year varsity starter – sophomore setter Norene Iosia.
“Norene is smart beyond her years,” Lanktree explained. “She has the same type of personality as me – a little shy. I talk to her about stepping up and getting outside her shell to become a leader.”
Lanktree also received valuable advice from older players outside of the Redondo program, including Destinee Hooker, an Olympic Silver medalist at the 2012 London Games.
“I teamed with Destinee once,” Lanktree said. “She was so humble. She told me to dream big. She said to look at every challenge as an opportunity and always give 100 percent in practice. Only practice will make you the player you want to become.”
Lanktree credits Ashley Ivy, her coach in the Southern California Volleyball Club, for driving her to success.
“She was really hard on me,” Lanktree recalled. “I told her I couldn’t handle it and didn’t want to play volleyball anymore. But she believed in me and said that toughness would make me a better player.”
In 2012, Lanktree was a member of the Club Troy 16 team that placed third in the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships, where she earned all-tournament honors.
In the fall, Lanktree will be taking her talents to Virginia Tech where she will learn to live on her own while majoring in Human Development.
“I also looked at San Diego State but wanted to get out of California,” Lanktree said. “Virginia Tech is a strong academic school and its volleyball program is usually in the top 10.”
Virginia Tech head coach Chris Riley is anxious to get Lanktree involved in his program.
“Briana is a hitter who is going to add some depth to the position that we are needing,” Riley stated on the team’s website. “She’s a big jumper and will definitely be able to score at the Division I level. We are looking forward to the prospect of what Briana will look like in a few years playing here.”
Chaffins is known for following and supporting his former players and expects big things for Lanktree.
“Virginia Tech is not a just getting a great player, they are getting a “team enhancer” who will always add to teach chemistry because of her work ethic and her kindness,” Chaffins said.