Ali’a Matavao had already achieved a major goal for most high school athletes.
Before her senior year last August, the Liberty forward committed to play Division I college basketball at Brigham Young. But there was one thing still missing from her high school sports career: a state championship.
The Liberty High School three-sport athlete accomplished that in her final high school athletic event at the Class 5A state track and field meet last month. She won individual titles in the long jump and shot put, and helped the Patriots win the team title.
“That was the best feeling,” Matavao said of finishing her high school career with a state title. “It took four sports and four years to win a state championship. I was really excited and blessed to be coached under some phenomenal coaches.”
Matavao’s success across three sports her senior year — volleyball, basketball and track and field — landed her the honor as the Nevada Preps All-Southern Nevada Girls Athlete of the Year.
Along with her success in track, Matavao finished her senior season on the basketball court averaging 17.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.9 steals. She was named the Gatorade Nevada girls basketball player of the year and the Class 5A Southern Region player of the year for the second consecutive season.
Matavao was a soccer player at first growing up. She started playing for fun with her older brother and it wasn’t until she started her high school career that basketball became her favorite sport.
“I truly didn’t fall in love with basketball until I was about 14 or 15. That’s where I said, ‘I really liked this,’” Matavao said. “For me, I think I fell in love with the physicality and competition, and basketball has its own family.”
Family was also one of the main reasons Matavao decided to play volleyball during her senior year. She previously played soccer in the fall but stopped when basketball and track took up more of her time.
But after she committed to college, Matavao said she wanted to have fun during her senior year so she decided to join the volleyball team where she got to play with her younger sister who was a freshman.
As an outside hitter for the Patriots, they finished 15-8 and went undefeated in league play to win the Class 4A Lake League title.
“It was so fun, very competitive. I had a blast,” Matavao said. “Playing with my sister is one of those things I’ll never forget.”
Playing three sports in a senior season is a rarity, especially for already committed Division I athletes like Matavao, but the advice she gives to her younger siblings — and other athletes — is to play three sports if you can.
Matavao believes being versatile across multiple sports helped her continue to elevate her performance as a basketball player.
“I was able to do all of that and have fun,” Matavao said. “It kind of just benefited and all helped me out toward the end goal, which was to play college basketball.”
Matavao is already getting settled in at Brigham Young to begin the next chapter of her athletic career. She said the recruiting process was fun, but after visiting the school she knew it was the one.
“Once I took my visit, the culture, the whole environment, I really fell in love with it,” Matavao said. “I just loved the whole team, especially the coaches. It made it a no-brainer.”
In her high school sports career, Matavao said she’s learned many valuable lessons. One of them was learning to find a balance between a love of sports and being more than an athlete.
“Sports seems like your life, but it isn’t,” Matavao said. “For myself, I had to learn that and was taught that I’m more than just a basketball player, track athlete or athlete in general. Knowing that kind of pushes you to try different things and be more than just an athlete.”
The Review-Journal will announce its year-end awards throughout the week.
Tuesday: Girls Athlete of the Year
Wednesday: Boys Athlete of the Year
Thursday: Coach of the Year
Friday: Game of the Year
Saturday: Team of the Year