When playing the same sport as your older brother might sound pressuring given his athletic success, women’s volleyball player Juliana Van Loo, embraces the opportunity instead. Someone once said “siblings” is the definition that comprises love, strife, competition and forever friends. Siblings often challenge themselves, compete and even fight, but also complement and give each other unconditional support no matter what 一and the Van Loo’s are not the exception.
The youngest of three, Van Loo comes from a well-rounded family of volleyball enthusiasts. Her dad has been a coach for a long time and both of her older brothers, Nick and Ryan, who are five and three years older, respectively, played since their early years. Nonetheless, she was not very invested in the sport until she got to middle school.
“I honestly don’t know what was the exact reason I started playing,” said Van Loo. “I actually played soccer for like 8 years and did tennis, basketball, tee ball, track and swimming growing up, but then I guess just watching my brothers at their practices and games made me want to try it and I ended up liking it.”
As time went by, Van Loo found joy in the game and decided to quit from the other sports in high school so she could focus solely on volleyball. It wasn’t until her sophomore year that the idea of playing in college sounded like a true possibility.
“During my sophomore year I was like, if I wanna go to college I either need to put more time and effort into academics and other extracurricular stuff or I really need to go into this volleyball thing,” shared Van Loo. “So I decided to go for volleyball and then just started my recruiting process around mid junior year.”
While Van Loo was just beginning to explore her college options, her siblings were already settled at their universities. They both had played through high school, but then in college Nick pursued a music career at the University of Southern California playing club volleyball on the side, and Ryan went on to becoming a Flyer in the fall of 2016.
A business administration graduate and current Director of Operations for Los Angeles Volleyball Academy, Ryan Van Loo was a stellar setter for the team as he was part of the 2019 and 2021 squads that made it to the NCAA DI semifinals games. According to Juliana, Ryan had been a very skillful player since he was younger and someone who she always looked up to in terms of the sport. She never saw him as a competition though, but simply as a role model and mentor who even when times were tough and didn’t go his way, always approached them with the best attitude possible.
“I’ll always admire the way he presented himself and his mentality at games… he didn’t really get the play time he wanted during college but he took on different roles that the team needed and became this utility player that would go make the biggest difference in anything,” explained Juliana.
Although there is a small age difference and they never played for the same teams, Juliana confirms that there was a small rivalry between the two back at their hometown high school. Yet, once they were both at Lewis territory, it was fully gone.
“He was the best of his class [on the team], always winning awards and well-known around the community,” said Van Loo. Sometimes she would get comments from people that would put some pressure on her to perform as good as him. “But then I came here and it didn’t matter at all, which was very nice.”
Juliana has since paved her own way as a top Flyer athlete in the last four years, including her most recent accomplishment of winning the GLVC title this past season. Individually, she has been awarded All-GLVC First Team and Academic All-District honors, as well as All-Midwest Region by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) honors.
Van Loo plans on coming back next season for her fifth and last collegiate volleyball season with the Flyers, and upon the completion of her degrees, looks forward to attending graduate school for physical therapy.