When Kaia Kanan started attending Methodist Preschool on Via de la Paz in 2007, she became well known around the Palisadian-Post office, just down the street. Her grandmother, Cheryel Kanan, the Post’s business manager, would pick her up from school every day and walk her back to the office. Kaia’s parents, Jim and Christine, lived in town but both worked.
Back then, the Post was a place where sons and daughters, granddaughters and grandsons would hang out in the kitchen, doing homework and getting to know the writers, advertising staff and graphics personnel. Kaia was even pressed into service as the model on the cover of one of the special supplements the Post used to publish.
Bill Bruns, now the CTN adviser, was managing editor of the Post and his staff included reporter Sue Pascoe and sports editor Steve Galluzzo.
Skip ahead 14 years to Monday this week, when Galluzzo’s freelance article for the L.A. Times appeared with a headline that read, “Palisades Digs Out of All Doubt,” and a subhead: “Dolphins overcame season uncertainty and played on grass courts on way to latest girls’ volleyball title.”
An adjoining photo showed PaliHi players Kaia Kanan, Alexa Hogan and Maddie Neilson encouraging one another before the third set of the City Section Open Division championship match against Granada Hills last Saturday. The Dolphins won all three sets to capture the school’s 31st City title.
“Kaia played an incredible game on Saturday,” said grandmother Cheryel. “I’m very proud of her and Dan would also have been proud.” (Kaia’s late grandfather was a dedicated beach volleyball player at Will Rogers. )
The girls volleyball season usually ends in November, but didn’t start this year until early April because of Covid-19 shutdowns. Initially, although high school volleyball is an indoor sport, practices and games were outside on grass.
In his story, Galluzzo quoted Kanan, a junior whose position is setter. “Overall, outside it’s a whole different game. It’s harder to jump, harder to move, the ball’s lighter and you have to deal with the sun and wind. A lot of us play beach, but it’s still way different than the grass.
“There were so many difficulties,” Kanan said. “When are we going back to the gym? What days do we have to get tested? What days the boys [volleyball] get to use the gym, what days basketball gets to use it. There was a lot being thrown at us that we had no control of — lots of things messing with our season, but we didn’t let any of it shut us down.
The turning point came when teams were allowed to start playing indoors. “We’re a really good team indoors and we’re a young team but we also have some older players and with a younger team it was a lot harder to mesh outside,” Kanan said. “I’ve played this sport a long time, but never experienced playing indoor volleyball outdoors. So, when we finally went back inside, we were all used to the environment and we pushed ourselves to make the most of the time we had.”
The Pali girls, who are coached by Carlos Gray, proceeded to close the season by winning 42 or their last 43 sets.
Kanan, a key player for the Dolphins, will turn 17 in July and is hoping to get accepted at a Division I school to play volleyball. Her senior teammate, middle blocker Alexa Hogan, will receive a full scholarship at UC Davis.
After taking up volleyball in the sixth grade at Paul Revere, Kanan played on several club teams over the years and now plays up on the 18-year-old team at Actyve in Santa Monica.
Her grandmother Cheryel told CTN, “Jim (Kaia’s dad) was an outside hitter for Pali and a setter at Santa Monica College. Her brothers (who also came to the Post after preschool and kindergarten) also played for the Dolphins. Jake (23) graduated last month from the University of Hawaii and Kobe (21) is a junior at UCLA.