Hopewell volleyball coach Rhonda Auman was just going about her business on a November day last fall when David Allison, her fellow physical education teacher and Titans’ assistant baseball coach, told her she needed to come to the gym immediately.Before Auman even got to the Hopewell gym, she heard the crack of a volleyball hitting someone’s hand and then the floor, and it echoed in her mind that is must be one of the boys crushing the ball.Instead, Auman saw then-Hopewell junior Anyla Kryeziu for the first time. Kryeziu was not only dominating her competition but had many of the boys on the court running for cover when she spiked it.“I couldn’t believe what I saw at first, and I was immediately like, ‘I need to talk to her, because we have to have this girl on our team,’” Auman said. “You don’t get a gift like (Kryeziu) often. She was the whole package – she can pass, she can serve and she could really hit the ball. I knew we had something special right then.”Kryeziu – who pronounces her name An-U-la Cray-zeel – moved to Charlotte from Kosovo last September, as did her entire family, including her father Milot; her mom, Vjollca; her brother Ermal, and her sister Era,to pursue bigger and better opportunities.Kryeziu – known affectionately to her teammates as “A.K.” or just “K” – remembers her first meeting with Auman like it was yesterday.“I’ll never forget the look on her face, her mouth was wide open,” Kryeziu said. “She told me immediately, ‘You’re going to play; come play for us.’”While Kryeziu didn’t make it in time to play for the Titans last year, she began working out with the team last spring and displayed the same talents that she had before. A.K. also had great leadership skills and chemistry with her new teammates immediately.“Anyla goes all-out on every play, and she expects everyone else to the same thing,” Auman said. “Off the floor, she is very quiet and doesn’t say a whole lot. But on the court, she transforms into another person. She is like a coach on the floor, always encouraging, helping her teammates. It’s automatic for her, she couldn’t turn it off if she tried.”Kryeziu actually first moved to Charlotte in 1999 when she was 3 years old; her family came here mainly to get away from the fighting between her country’s Albanian and Serbian populations.But the Kryeziu family returned to their native country for Anyla’s middle school and early high school years, and she started playing volleyball in seventh grade.A.K. quickly took to the game, even earning a spot on the Kosovo under-21 national volleyball team last summer, when the then-15-year-old traveled to countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia and Serbia to compete.“I really learned a lot playing with all those great players and in so many different countries,” Kryeziu said. “I think that helped my game a lot to be able to play that much.”Kryeziu, who turned 17 on Oct. 2, has fit into the Hopewell volleyball team perfectly, adding the finisher and outside hitter that the Auman needed.So far, this season, A.K. leads her team in kills (162) and aces (450) and is third on the team in blocks and digs. At 5-foot-11, she can not only dominate from the outside but also can help both the offense and defense in the middle at times.Kryeziu bonded particularly well with Titans’ junior setter Ada Thompson, who regularly sets her up for kills.“Ada and Anyla are already like a package deal,” Auman said. “Ada knows she just has to get the ball near A.K., and she will make a big hit.”Kryeziu and Thompson have the Titans playing well – they are 11-5 overall and 7-2 MECKA 4A, second to Hough in the conference standings.While the Titans have been swept twice by Hough, A.K. is hoping Hopewell can make a run that includes knocking off the Huskies.“We are really excited about how well we’ve played, but we want to be even better,” Kryeziu said. “We want to make a run and, our goal is to try to beat Hough.”Kryeziu also hopes she can impress some college coaches along the way. She wants to earn a scholarship and opportunity to play volleyball at the next level, like her sister Era, who is playing at St. Andrews in Laurinburg.“I really want to play volleyball in college, and I’m doing everything I can to get there,” said Kryeziu, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average. “Her goal is to play volleyball in college, and I think coaches are just finding out who she is,” Auman said. “She definitely has the talent to play somewhere, we are just looking for the right place.”While Kryeziu is a long way away from home and says she misses Kosovo every day, she feels comfortable on the volleyball court.“This court is my home,” Kryeziu said. “This team is my family right now. We came here for better opportunities, and that is what I hope to do.”
Monday, Sep. 30, 2013
‘A.K.’ becoming a big hit for Titans
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for the Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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