Skip to content
p1440: Tani Stephens, Tina Toghiyani

p1440 Developmental Program: Tina Toghiyani, Tani Stephens

If one is in search of any evidence that you begin to adopt the personality, habits and idiosyncrasies of those with whom you spend the most time, look no further than Tani Stephens and Tina Toghiyani.

Listen to their interview with your eyes closed and you’ll be hard-pressed to identify who is who. Most every answer either begins or ends in laughter. They both carry a contagious and endearing zest for life. It’s not so much that you can hear their happiness so much as you can feel it.

“Obviously laughing,” Stephens said when elaborating on how she spends her 1,400 minutes in a day. “Both of us like to smile all the time.”

“Volleyball,” Toghiyani added, “is so fun.”

Don’t let it fool you, those light, fun, effervescent demeanors. They’re accomplished athletes both, Stephens a four-year starter as a libero for Washington State before playing her graduate year on the beach for Portland, Toghiyani a conference champ at North Florida before finishing her career at Florida International.

Their smiles might be ubiquitous, sure, but so has been their success. As a senior at West Albany High, Stephens was named the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Oregon, helping the Bulldogs to a 5A State Championship a year after falling short in the finals. By her senior year at Washington State, she was elected captain. In her first year at Portland, she went straight to court one.

Toghiyani’s path hasn’t been all that different. After being named MVP of the Oak Hall High team and the Florida Daily Farmer Class 1A Volleyball Player of the Year, she led North Florida to a conference championship and then put together winning campaigns in each of her seasons with FIU.

In her senior season alone, she knocked off pairs from some of the best programs in the country – LSU, Florida State, Florida Atlantic, South Carolina, Pepperdine, Stanford and Stetson.

So maybe that’s the secret sauce to their happiness. Winning is fun, and Stephens and Toghiyani do an awful lot of it.

“I think it’s a developmental year for both of us since were both new to California and we’ve already grown a lot as individuals and as players since we’ve been here,” Stephens said of their partnership in the p1440 Developmental Program. “Really just taking every opportunity that we can to get better.”

Thus far, they’ve improved from one Developmental Tournament to the next, jumping from fifth to third, with the next upcoming on March 8 in Huntington Beach.

“Our ball control is something we’ve been working on and communication, two things we can control,” Toghiyani said. “We’ve built a lot of chemistry these past couple months and we just see more to improve.”

Their chemistry is the type that seems to exist both on and off the sand. Asked what she likes to do when she’s not playing beach volleyball, Stephens listed hiking as a favorite. When Toghiyani was asked the same question, she looked at Stephens and said, sheepishly, “I love to hike!”

And then they burst into laughter. Two teammates, same luster for life. And laughter.

Other Developmental Program teams:

Steven Irvin and Hagen Smith: The partners who trash talk each other

Sasha Karelov and Lauren DeTurk: Timing is everything with beach volleyball partnerships

Kacey Losik and Logan Webber: When simply making main draw isn’t enough

Heather Friesen and Kristen Petrasic: No bad days

Chris Austin and Kris Johnson: The indoor powers with limitless upside

Lacey Fuller, Jessica McGuire: The Penn State libero meets the UCLA rower

Jay Panther, Cody Caldwell: The near-Olympic skier and the National Champ

Chloe Crappell, Carissa Whalen: Discovering community through beach volleyball

Travis Mewhirter, Myles Muagututia: The smoothest athlete on the beach

Madison Willis, McKenna Thibodeau: Let your personality shine

Victoria Dennis, Nora Darrhar: A partnership grounded in gratitude

John Schwengel, Aidan Brown: The youngsters looking to make the leap

Tomas Salava, Martin Mach: Giving this beach thing a shot