St. Thomas University (Fla.) Women’s Soccer alumna Melony Poviones ’14 begins play this week as a member of Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the emerging sport of Footvolley. The Olympic demonstration event will be held August 24-29 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Footvolley is a sport that combines elements of beach volleyball and soccer. The sport was approved to be a demonstration sport in the 2016 Olympics. The Footvolley competition, featuring 24 nations, will be played at the 12,000 seat Olympic Beach Stadium on Brazil’s famous Copacabana Beach.
Poviones and her teammate Leah Morales make up the Team USA Women’s Footvolley team. Team USA will also send a Men’s team comprised of Sergio Menezes and Lucas Roque. Team USA’s coaching staff is led by Head Coach Ben Astorga and Assistant Coach Betto Lima.
A native of Miami Lakes, Poviones qualified for the national team through a two-stage qualification process that culminated with the USA Footvolley National Team Qualifier this past June in Seaside, Oregon. Poviones and Morales won the two spots on the women’s team via a round-robin qualifier.
Poviones discovered the sport serendipitously on a trip to the beach with friends including Miranda Goransson ’14, a fellow St. Thomas University alumna and former teammate on the STU soccer team. Goransson was familiar with the sport, however Footvolley was new to Poviones. The friends began playing the sport and before long were noticed by the USA Footvolley coaches. In short time, Poviones emerged as one of the top women’s players in the United States.
“I believe Footvolley is harder than soccer,” said Poviones. “In soccer, I scored mainly with my foot. In Footvolley, the way you score is with your head and shoulder. After playing it, I fell in love with Footvolley and began playing every day. I fell in love with it so much that sometimes we don’t even notice how long we are training for, sometimes seven hours a day.”
Making Poviones’ story even more remarkable is that she qualified for the Olympics coming off a major knee injury.
“After being cleared by the doctors, I was looking for something that would be less contact than soccer and I went back to focusing on Footvolley,” said Poviones. “Since then, I have been training and playing Footvolley ever since.”
Poviones continued her training this summer, working out with local Footvolley players on a daily basis. Her training partners have included STU alumni Goransson and Sarrah Granda ’16 as well as current Bobcat women’s soccer players Claudia Avila and Alexa Rivera with the training sessions taking place on Sunny Isles Beach as well as at the new Dominick Miniaci Beach Volleyball Courts on the St. Thomas University campus.
A native of Miami Lakes and a graduate of American Heritage High School, Poviones played three seasons for St. Thomas, scoring 46 goals and registering 20 assists. As a senior team captain, she helped lead the Bobcats to a Sun Conference Championship and a trip to the Round of 16 at the 2013 NAIA National Championships. She ranked third in the nation with 28 goals and fourth nationally with 66 points in her senior year. On two different occasions, she tied a school record with five goals and 11 points in a game (vs. Florida Memorial, Oct. 19, 2013; vs. Thomas Nov. 9, 2013). She also scored six game-winning goals as a senior which ranked sixth nationally. Following her collegiate career, she played two seasons for the Houston Aces of the WPSL.
Poviones, who graduated from St. Thomas University in December of 2015 with a degree in Psychology, cherishes her time as a student-athlete and credits STU for developing her into a “Leader for Life”.
“St. Thomas University helped me in so many ways,” said Poviones. “The leadership focus at St. Thomas and the small school environment was really beneficial. My Head Coach Michelle Smith challenged me in so many ways, culminating in giving me the captain and leadership role my senior year. I was lucky to have coaches like Michelle, Jan and Gabe (STU Assistant Coaches Jan Wiechmann and Gabriel Renteria) all who had different styles. My time at St. Thomas made me believe in myself more and teach me how to be a leader.”
“St. Thomas helped me so much and gave me so many opportunities,” the 2016 Olympian continued. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without St. Thomas. I am so grateful and want to thank all my coaches, my family and my teammates for making all this possible.”
Poviones, who is sponsored by Total Soy, has been featured by several media outlets, including NBC-6, Deco Drive, The Miami Herald and National Public Radio. To follow Poviones during the Rio Olympics competition, stay tuned to stubobcats.com.
The Sun Conference: http://thesunconference.com/news/2016/8/23/WSOC_0823163359.aspx