Thunder Mountain High School seniors gather for a picture prior to their last home game of the season against Juneau-Douglas on Friday night at TMHS. (Left to right): Kellie James, Tara Dymock, Leilani Eshnaur, Hannah Harvey, Kyra Jenkins Hayes, Sydney Lee, Alex Murray, Kiley Stevens, Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale, Audrey Welling, Coach Julie Herman. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors gather for a picture prior to their last home game of the season against Juneau-Douglas on Friday night at TMHS. (Left to right): Kellie James, Tara Dymock, Leilani Eshnaur, Hannah Harvey, Kyra Jenkins Hayes, Sydney Lee, Alex Murray, Kiley Stevens, Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale, Audrey Welling, Coach Julie Herman. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Seniors share spotlight with sisters, younger teammates

There’s a certain connection sisters Marissa and Mariah Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale share on the court.

Whether its Marissa setting the ball to Mariah, or Mariah bumping the ball to Marissa, the Thunder Mountain duo has been an electrifying pairing this season. It could be from their time playing at church, or at a volleyball camp in their native home of Hawaii. Or it may be — and this seems like the most plausible answer — it comes from being naturally-gifted and passionate volleyball players.

“We’ve just been playing together at church activities and so we know what we need to work on,” older sister Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale, 17, said. “We just look at each other and we know what we have to do. We know what we’re doing wrong, and we help each other even without talking.”

Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale was one of 10 seniors recognized on Friday night before the Falcons game against Juneau-Douglas. The other Falcons seniors include Audrey Welling, Leilani Eshnaur, Kyra Jenkins Hayes, Hannah Harvey, Alex Murray, Kiley Stevens, Tara Dymock, Kellie James and Sydney Lee.

The Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale sisters have been one key to Thunder Mountain’s success this season, but not the only one. TMHS coach Julie Herman said the seniors’ team-first mentality has been perhaps the biggest boon.

“We’ve been really fortunate this season to have really good leadership — whether they are sisters or not,” said Herman, who also coaches sisters Hannah and Sophia Harvey on the varsity team. “It’s pretty amazing to have these older girls that welcome anybody that wants to play at a high level. That’s been a precedent that’s been set in our program. It doesn’t matter your age.”

Sophomore Sophia Harvey played at a high level during the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza, and was rewarded with more playing time.

“This year, you can see our team dynamic, it’s so close. You can see that in our playing,” she said. “Last year, we kind of played for ourselves and not so much for the team. But then this year, it’s always like, ‘Oh man, Audrey, that was a killer hit, do it again!’ and, ‘Man, Marissa, that was an amazing save, thanks for doing that for the team!’”

Seniors like Murray, a strong outside hitter, have played important roles on the team. Murray moved to town from Arizona the summer before her freshman year and barely knew anyone when she came out for the team. It didn’t take long to make friends on the court, which helped her rise to the varsity team.

“My first day, I actually didn’t want to come because I thought I was going to be cut (from the team),” Murray said. “Everywhere I lived before, you cut in sports, especially volleyball. I got here and (former coach) Arnold (Ibias) was like, ‘No we don’t cut anyone.’ So he paired me with Mary Landes … and Mary definitely helped the transition and always helped me when I had questions about volleyball.”

Time will tell whether the seniors will carry the team to their first state tournament. They’ve endured season-ending losses to JDHS two years running at the Region V Championships.

“The rivalry, it’s really not mean, it’s a very friendly rivalry I would say,” Welling said. “When they won regions last year I was disappointed and I wished that we would’ve won. But I was still able to smile and congratulate them because they are a team from Southeast and I was proud of them.”

JDHS honors four seniors

JDHS celebrated its senior night on Saturday. The JDHS seniors include Riley Stadt, Shaylin Cesar, Skylar Hickok and Miranda Mitchell. Read about their story in the Friday Empire.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


More in Sports

Senior assistant captain Anna Dale attempts to stuff the net during a home game between Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears Varsity hockey team and the Kenai Central Kardinals at the Treadwell Arena Saturday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Crimson Bears topple Kardinals on home ice

The team won with a score of 4-2

This combination photo shows all five division-winning teams from the recent 3v3 Pre-Season Tournament at Thunder Mountain High School. (Upper left) Team 7, (upper right) Hoopsters, (lower left) 3 Amigos; (lower center) Lucky Ladies and (lower right) 3 of a Kind. (Courtesy Photos)
3v3 Tournament crowns division winners

Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball and Hooprats recently hosted the 13th… Continue reading

Matthew Wendel, Mike Kreis, Kasey Watts, Courtney Kreis, Tami Wahto and Todd Schur wore costumes during the 2021 Turkey Trot. Why’d they wear costumes? “Why not?” asked Schur. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strut your speed at upcoming annual Turkey Trot

Stuff the starting line Thanksgiving morning

Bree Lee Lo, June Enele, Lemoe Eneliko and Moira Anemia pose for a photo taken by Alexandra and Barron Anemia. All were on hand to celebrate Samoa's Rugby League World Cup run. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Local rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s World Cup run

“Win our lose, we’re still proud.”

Glacier Swim Club finds success in Petersburg

Twenty Juneau students competed in the November swim meet hosted in Petersburg over the weekend.

The 2022-23 Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team poses for a group photo during 2022 3A/4A Volleyball State Championships in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 10 and 11. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Herman)
TMHS volleyball wraps up stellar season

Falcons fall short of finals at State tournament

TMHS stands for team photo after state tournament at Bartlett High School in Anchorage on Saturday, Nov. 5. (Courtesy Photo / Josiah Loseby)
Juneau swim teams make a splash at state championship

“We all performed well and we all had a good time.”

Juneau Skating Club Forget-Me-Not team featured in last year’s spring event. The team is traveling to Irvine, California to compete in the Glacier Falls Classic on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Courtesy Photo / Kim Hort)
Forget-Me-Not skaters return to California

Juneau Skating Club team competes in Glacier Fall Classic.

Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team celebrating their championship victory against JDHS on Saturday, Nov. 5. TMHS now heads to the state tournament in Anchorage to face Colony in the first round on Thursday, Nov. 10. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
TMHS volleyball team advances to state tournament

Falcons will take on Colony in Anchorage Nov. 11

Large crowds turned out to support high school swimmers through Alaska at the Region V meet on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28, 29 at in Juneau at Dimond Park Aquatic Center. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Prep swim teams score big at Region V meet

TMHS and JDHS swim teams score big at Region V meet

JDHS junior Mila Hargrave winds up to spike the ball while TMHS junior Ashlyn Gates attempts to deflect it. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Volleyball wraps up regular season

Region tournament set for Nov. 4 and Nov. 5