By RICHIE HALL
Reporter Sports Editor
College seniors are always happy to know that they have a job lined up after graduation.
For Brooke Kranda, her first job out of college will allow her to continue to play the sport she loves – and see a new part of the world.
Kranda, a star for Westfield High School, has signed to play for the Foton Tornadoes of the Philippine SuperLiga, a professional volleyball league in the Philippines. Kranda signed the contract to play for the Tornadoes just a week or two after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in zoology, and helping the Spartans to an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“I am really excited to be able to pursue volleyball professionally,” said Kranda. “I am grateful to all of my coaches at Westfield High School, Munciana Volleyball and Michigan State who are the ones who got me this far. I can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes me.”
Kranda, a 6-foot-6 outside hitter, graduated from Westfield in 2013, where she earned school record for blocks per season, hitting percentage and career hitting percentage. After red-shirting her first year at MSU, she went on to play all four years. Kranda holds the record for most service aces in a four-set match, serving up nine aces against Purdue in 2016.
Not less than a month before signing a contract with the Tornadoes, Kranda was blasting her way through the NCAA tournament. On Dec. 8, the Spartans made their way into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1996 by beating Illinois in four sets, 25-23, 18-25, 25-17, 29-27. Kranda hit 16 kills and two aces in the match. Michigan State fell to Penn State, the overall top seed, in three sets the next evening, 25-23, 25-17, 28-26.
“It was really cool,” said Kranda of the experience. “Just nerve-wracking because at that point you’re playing to go to the Final Four. It was just really exciting.”
Around the same time, Kranda signed with an agent who put her name out for teams that needed players. If a team had a spot that Kranda could fill, she would be offered a contract.
“She enters the league mid-season,” said Beth Kranda, Brooke’s mother. “They have a draft in the mid-season so right now it’s mid-season, so she goes to a team that has an opening or injury.
The Tornadoes took interest, and Brooke’s agent told her a couple days after Christmas that the team was looking to send her a contact. Kranda got the contract on Jan. 4.
“It’s a really quick turnaround,” said Kranda.
Speaking of quick, Kranda was soon trying to find out about her new team. The Foton Tornadoes are indeed a new team, having come into existence in 2014.
The Tornadoes were successful right away, winning the PSL’s Grand Prix Cup in 2015 and 2016, then finishing third in 2017. The team was also the runner-up for two years (2015-16) in the Beach Challenge Cup, as well as in the 2016 All-Filipino Conference.
“They’re one of the top two or three teams in the Philippines,” said Kranda.
The name Foton comes from a Chinese motor vehicle company; the Tornadoes’ owner, United Asia Automotive Group, distributes Foton cars in the Philippines. The team is based in Manila, the Philippine capital.
“Women’s volleyball in the Philippines is huge,” said Beth Kranda. She noted that 3,000-5,000 fans are in attendance at every regular season game. In addition, all of the Tornadoes’ games are broadcast on ESPN5, the main sports channel for the country.
“We were watching some games streamed online,” said Beth Kranda. “I couldn’t believe how packed the stadiums were for women’s volleyball. It was amazing.”
Brooke Kranda arrived in the Philippines in the third week of January. It was a 22-hour journey: Indianapolis to Detroit, then a 13-hour flight from Detroit to Tokyo, then a four-hour flight from Tokyo to Manila.
“They take care of my housing and everything and I believe I will be with a teammate,” said Kranda a few days before departing to Manila. “Each team is only allowed so many what they call imports. There’s a girl from Canada coming, so that’s who I will probably be living with.”
The Tornadoes will resume play in the PSL league on Feb. 17.
By RICHIE HALL