Hannah Zuege may have a little trouble hearing you if you don’t speak up, but her volleyball game speaks volumes.
The sophomore outside hitter is one of the top players for the Euless Trinity Lady Trojans. This despite having 40 percent hearing loss since birth.
“Honestly, the adjustment in my game is just making sure my coaches and teammates know that I may need them to speak louder or repeat some things, but that’s not too hard,” Zuege said. “The hardest part is when it’s midplay and they’re trying to say something to me without time to repeat it or think to be louder than usual, and I can’t hear them, so not everything goes the way we wanted it to.
“Visuals definitely play a huge role because if I can’t hear someone, I instantly resort to reading their lips, and although that’s pretty common, it’s a little harder when you’re across a court and the other person isn’t helping you out.”
Zuege has been a big factor in the Lady Trojans getting off to a 20-6 start before last Friday. She also helped them win their own Trinity Double-T Tournament recently, going 6-0 in the prestigious event.
“The first time I met Zuege, I had no idea she had a hearing disability, just the way she comes off on people, like how welcoming and happy she is as a person and knowing her now as a friend and teammate,” teammate Hika Uhatafe said.
“She doesn’t let that get in her way. She’s one of the most consistent hitters we have and the most uplifting person I know.”
Zuege is not only a solid outside hitter, she can also play well as a middle blocker and even does some setting. She also made the varsity as a freshman.
Zuege has been around volleyball her entire life. In fact, she was around it even before officially finding her way into the world.
“My mom played in a women’s tournament with me in her stomach. Both of my parents played, and my dad still does,” she said. “I started playing for myself around 8 years old.”
Volleyball is a big part of the Zuege family. Her mother played until a couple years ago; her dad still plays coed and regularly at men’s nationals; and her sister plays.
Along with the hearing loss, Zuege was born with hip dysplasia.
“My hips could pop out of joint, causing me to wear a brace that held my hips up into my joint for two months,” she said.
The physical challenges, however, have never dampened Zuege’s spirit. Along with being a talented volleyball athlete, Zuege is simply a fun, positive person to be around, her teammates say.
“Hannah is honestly the most positive person I know. She’s the one you would look for on the court when we are struggling,” Telysha Vaenuku said. “I didn’t even know about her disability until last year. You would never even know because she is so high-spirited. I’m so lucky to have her as a teammate.”
Savanah Johnson echoed those thoughts.
“What stands out to me about Zuege is her positivity, even with a hearing disability. She’s always smiling and always finding a way to better the team and herself,” Johnson said. “There are times when she doesn’t understand what we’ll tell her, but she’s not afraid to ask us what was said, and we are always willing to repeat things to her with respect. Although she might suffer from a hearing disability, her willingness to listen to what we tell her and what the coaches correct her on is very inspiring.”
Trinity coach Amelia Langi said Zuege, though just a sophomore, has already become a role model. She also credited her family for influencing Zuege’s consistently positive nature.
“Zuege is a selfless player who has matured since her freshman year on the court. She has the fire to help the team be successful. She is a wonderful example of an all-around great player but an even better young lady,” Langi said. “Zuege is respectful, hardworking and always willing to serve others.
“She has a great support system, not only from her volleyball sisters, but from her supportive parents and siblings. I thank her parents for teaching her how to be a young lady of strength, happy spirit and a coach’s player.”
Zuege loves to stay busy. She runs track in the spring, the 200-meter dash. She has also played soccer, basketball and participated in dance. And this fall she planned to add theater to her repertoire.
“The only problem I have to worry about is hearing the gun go off telling me to go,” she said of running track.
“Hannah is the definition of hard work and effort. When she told me she was half deaf, I couldn’t believe it at first because she never seemed to have a problem with it, and she didn’t let it affect the way she plays,” teammate Alana Rada said. “She’s an exceptional player and she’s one of those teammates you can trust in pressuring situations or any situation, not only on the court, but off the court.
“She’s definitely an asset to the team and the whole volleyball program.”
She is also very involved in her church at First Euless.
“I’ve been going there for almost a year now, and the relationships I’ve built are so great, and my faith has grown a ton,” Zuege said.
Zuege traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., this summer to improve her game. She worked with the USA High Performance A2 Training program.
“It was so much fun. I met so many fantastic people and got to learn from some awesome coaches, and the experience overall was amazing,” she said. “I would love to go back next summer.”
Zuege is already thinking past high school, and her college plans include playing volleyball, she said.
“I would love the opportunity to play in college. It’s definitely a goal of mine, and I definitely see it in my future,” Zuege said.
“Being disabled does not mean you’re unable. Sure, it’s a bump in the road, but it’s not anything too big to handle. I hope everyone can understand this in their own way.”