Quiet force: Lone Peak’s Naia Tanuvasa honored as 2022 Daily Herald Valley Girls Soccer Player of the Year
When the Lone Peak girls soccer team held its banquet after the conclusion of the 2022 season, one of the awards that was announced was the team MVP that had been selected by the players.
On a squad that featured tremendous talent and ability there were certainly a number of worthy candidates. That was why Knight junior midfielder Naia Tanuvasa was stunned when she found out she was the award recipient.
“I was super-shocked — but also grateful,” Tanuvasa said. “I thought it was cool that they would vote for me but I was really shocked.”
Lone Peak head coach Shantel Jolley, however, wasn’t nearly as surprised.
“I never wanted to take her off the field,” Jolley said. “If she did come off the field for a few minutes, the flow of the game and our ability to control the ball was drastically affected. She’s so great in the air, great at winning drop kicks. She also has a really high soccer IQ. When she gets the ball, she always seems to make the right pass. Defensively she would kill a lot of team’s attack before it even got to our back line. That was a big reason why we only had 13 goals scored against us. She was like the nucleus of our team.”
She didn’t score the most goals or have the most saves, but there is little doubt that she played an enormous role in helping the Knights to an amazing season, which is why she also earned the recognition of being named the 2022 Daily Herald Valley Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“I’m just grateful,” Tanuvasa said when she learned the honor. “I don’t even know what to say. It was a really good season and crazy that we went undefeated as long as we did. Losing in the semifinals was a bummer but it was still a great year. Everyone was close and we did really well.”
Jolley said that Tanuvasa wasn’t the loudest player on the field but had such a presence that earned everyone’s respect.
“She’s like a silent killer,” Jolley said. “She’s not a big voice but if she speaks, the girls listen to her. She is probably one of the most consistent players anywhere. It’s almost like she never has a bad game. She just always plays well.”
That didn’t change when the Knights were facing tough challenges. Both Jolley and Tanuvasa pointed to an early deficit against rival American Fork as a memorable moment in the 2022 season.
“One of my favorite games was when we were down 2-0 against American Fork,” Tanuvasa said. “We just slowly came back and the bench was going crazy. Coach had said if we won that there would be no conditioning the next day and then they’re like going more crazy. Everyone was tired that was playing but we were just able to feed off their energy and then we got the win.”
Jolley said that game stood out to her because she saw no difference with how Tanuvasa approached the game, despite the deficit.
“You can’t see if she is frustrated or excited,” Jolley said. “That’s kind of her personality. I never had to worry if she was going to show up. Nothing fazes her. She’s ready for anything. She always stepped up in big moments when we needed her in big games.”
Tanuvasa said she felt like that would be a key part of her role coming into the season.
“I think my job was mainly to win when the ball was in the air and then just distribute it,” Tanuvasa said. “I feel like my personality is kinda calm and relaxed, so in back I was able to set that tone. I feel like I can read the ball well and also see the field well.”
Tanuvasa said she feels like even though she has been playing soccer since she was 5-years-old, she can still get better with her touch on the ball.
As a coach, Jolley is looking for Tanuvasa to step into a more visible leadership role heading into her senior season.
“She goes and does her job,” Jolley said. “But if we got her realizing she is this good, then I want to see her demand the respect because she deserves it. Then she can kind of step up and be a little bit more of a vocal leader because she’s naturally just a leader by example. But she’s every coach’s dream. She will take any sort of feedback. She realizes there’s always room for improvement.”
The Knight junior also has another challenge, since she is a key player on both the Lone Peak girls soccer and girls basketball teams, which can put a lot of demands on her time.
“It’s a lot,” Tanuvasa said. “Athletes get trainers and sometimes I feel like I fall behind when I switch sports while they keep working. That’s hard but I can’t bring myself to quit either one.”
Her advice to multi-sport athletes is to not be too hard on themselves, to enjoy it.
“You do what you are doing because you love it so have fun,” Tanuvasa said.
Tanuvasa helped the Knights win the 6A girls basketball title earlier this year but the girls soccer team hasn’t been able to quite get to that pinnacle yet. She’s looking forward to getting one more shot next year.
“I feel like we should’ve won each of the last two years, but we have good players and our junior varsity team was really good, so I’m excited,” Tanuvasa said. “With this being my last year, I really hope we do it.”