By MARC RAIMONDI
Kiara Pierre was nervous and not just because it was the first league match of the season. Sitting up in the stands during her St. Francis Prep team’s opener against Fontbonne Hall last week were her mother, Pascale Lubin, and sister, Ariel Pierre.
It was only the second time Lubin was going to see Pierre play at SFP and her sister had never watched Kiara compete in a league match before Friday.
“She almost demanded that we stay home,” Lubin said with a laugh. “She was like, ‘You don’t have to come, you don’t have to come.’ I said we’re free, we’re coming.”
You could understand Kiara Pierre’s apprehension. She doesn’t have the typical family. Lubin was the longtime women’s volleyball coach at Queens College before not returning this season and Ariel Pierre was a four-year member of the rotation at Temple University, where she earned all-region team honors as a senior last year. Ariel also was an all-city player at St. Francis Prep.
“We need to play well,” Kiara said she felt when she saw the two walk in. “We need to impress.”
She ended up having a strong game. SFP Coach Kevin Colucci moved her around from outside hitter to the right side and she had five kills to help lead the Terriers to a 25-15, 25-23, 25-22 win over Fontbonne. Lubin, who can be a tough critic, was impressed.
“It’s hard to play in that environment when everyone is watching her,” her mother said.
It is, though, what the Pierre sisters grew up with. Kiara said she wanted to run track when she was younger, but jumped right in to the family sport at age 7. Her father, Karl Pierre, played volleyball at Rutgers and has coached in multiple places, including Queens College when it had a men’s program.
“Obviously it gives her a lot of experience,” Colucci said. “It’s always a good thing to have that kind of knowledge from early on. It gives you that upper hand to develop faster than other people.”
Kiara and Ariel Pierre both said it has been an advantage going to their parents about things. Kiara said she’ll tell Lubin about the things SFP worked on in practice and she’ll get tips and suggestions. But Ariel said that when it comes to specific things, their parents have always stayed out of coaches’ way — one of the reasons why Lubin is rarely at matches, along with her being busy with her teaching job. Being coaches themselves, they know their role with their own children.
“The people that we played for in high school and college, those were our coaches,” Ariel Pierre said. “They were more parents.”
Ariel thinks her sister will be a scholarship player much like she was. At 5-foot-8, Kiara is a few inches taller than her sister and is more polished as a hitter. The shorter Ariel played defensive specialist and libero at Temple. Kiara could be a setter at the next level, though Colucci says it depends on where she goes.
“She’s always composed,” Ariel said of Kiara. “I love that. That took me a long time to develop, but she’s always had it, since she was like 12 years old.”
Kiara developed the volleyball bug even earlier, although that wasn’t what she always wanted to do. Her parents never forced her — they would have been fine with track — but their affection for the sport of volleyball was clearly contagious.
“They exposed it to me, they got me into loving it,” Kiara Pierre said. “They always kept my playing. I play 24/7 — all summer, all year. It’s definitely them.”