By Rubin E. Grant
As a young girl growing up in Lima, Peru, Alejandra Loo would look out the window of her family’s apartment at the volleyball players practicing on the court outside.
She was fixated.
“It looked like so much fun and when I saw the players mash the ball, I told myself I wanted to be able to do that,” Loo said.
Loo told her mother she wanted to play, especially since the court was so nearby. Her mother, Veronica Guerrero de Luna, signed her up and Loo began playing volleyball when she was 8 years old and in the second grade.
She could serve and pass the ball immediately, but it wasn’t until the sixth grade she was able to “mash” – better known as spike – the ball.
“It made me happy and that’s when I realized I really wanted to be a volleyball player,” Loo said.
Coming to America
A few years later, Loo, her mother and her older brother Sebastian moved to the United States to be closer to her mother’s family, who had made the move several years earlier.
“When my grandma came, my mother was already 18 and was considered an adult,” Loo said. “She wasn’t able to come with my grandma and my mother’s sisters. I wasn’t born yet.”
After Loo was born, her parents eventually divorced and, other than her dad’s side of the family, it was just her mom and her two brothers, Sebastian and Christian, still in Peru. Her mother decided to come to America too.
“She thought the process would be quicker, but it took 10 years,” Loo said.
Though Sebastian made the trip, Christian was 19 and had to remain in Peru.
Loo and her family settled in Homewood during the middle of her seventh-grade year. She spoke only Spanish.
“All I could say was ‘Hi, my name is Alejandra.’” Her given name actually is Maria Guerrero de Luna, but it was easier to go by Alejandra. “I prefer short and simple,” she said.
Loo quickly learned English, thanks to her Homewood Middle School ESL teacher, Georgia Miller, whom Loo said was an “amazing teacher,” members of her family who already were living in Birmingham and her brother.
“We studied English in our school in Peru and Sebastian paid attention,” Loo said. “I did not pay attention,” she added with a laugh, “because I said, ‘what for, I was not going to use it.’ It’s not like I was going to go to the United States, and the next thing you know, I’m in the United States.”
Volleyball Smooths Transition
Once she started attending Homewood Middle School, Loo joined the volleyball team. It helped ease her transition to a new country.
“I was able to make friends,” she said. “The thing I like about Homewood is the way they integrate you into the school and community. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Now a senior on the Homewood High volleyball team, the 5-foot-8-inch Loo is counted on for leadership on and off the court.
“I want to set a good example for my teammates,” Loo said. “I don’t want to say I want them to look up to me, but I want them to follow my example. The coach relies on me a lot.”
“She’s definitely a player you want on your side,” Homewood coach Krimson Revis said. “She’s tenacious and athletic, and she’s very vocal. The only problem is she wants to do it all by herself. As good as she is … we want her to be more concerned about her teammates and depend more on them. But she is the glue that makes the team stick together.”
This will be Loo’s second season at middle hitter after being an outside hitter since she was in middle school.
“They put me in the middle because they expected me to be a good athlete,” Loo said. “I’m used to playing everything.”
The Patriots will open their 2018 season Aug. 28 at Vestavia Hills. They advanced to the North Super Regional in 2017 and finished with a 19-22 record.
Loo said the Patriots have high expectations.
“I think we can go far this season,” she said. “Our goal is to get to regional and then go to state.”
Loo plans to continue her volleyball career in college.
“I definitely want to get a scholarship,” she said.
“We have a couple of colleges interested in her,” Revis said. “Alejandra is a high-achieving kid academically and athletically. We’re concerned that she goes somewhere that challenges her academically as well as athletically because we’re all about the student-athlete.”
One option is Birmingham-Southern.
“I want to play close to home,” Loo said, “but if I get good offers far away I’ll have to consider those.”
Wherever she attends college, Loo plans to study nursing.
“Sebastian is a sophomore at Alabama and he’s studying engineering,” Loo said. “I thought about engineering since I like math and numbers and all that stuff. But I like helping people, so I think I’ll study nursing.”
Loo also hopes to become a U.S. citizen one day.
“I think I’ll try to do that in five or six years, about the time I’ll be done with college,” she said.