BRADENTON -- When they moved to the United States from Honduras, Manuel Panchome Pavon and his brother, Moises, planned to play volleyball.
That's what they did in their home country, where they were good enough to get picked for Honduras' national teams.
But upon hitting American shores with their family in October, the Pavon brothers, who live in Ellenton, were shocked that not one high school in Manatee County fielded a boys volleyball team while the girls got to wear school colors and play for state championships every fall.
"It's the United States. I was expecting to find volleyball on every single corner and played at every school," said Moises, 16, an outside hitter who will be a junior at Manatee School For the Arts. "It was kind hard to not find it at all. Nothing at all. ... We played beach (volleyball) in our country, and we really don't like it."
So the boys, who attended a bilingual school in Honduras and speak fluent English, took to Google
and found some local volleyball at a Sarasota YMCA. That's where someone told them Manatee Area Volleyball's U18 team had a pair of roster openings.
"It was really nice," said Manuel, who graduated high school in Honduras and has received a scholarship offer to play volleyball at Warner University in Lake Wales. "We were very excited to find a team where we could actually play in tournaments."
Another team wound up finding them, too.
Moises and Manuel have been selected to play with the 2014 Team Florida HP (High Performance) All-Star Delegation at the USA HP Volleyball Championships in Tulsa, Okla. The tournament runs from July 21 through 26.
Manuel will play on the international team for boys born in 1996, '97 or '98. Moises was picked for the national team for boys born in 1997 or after.
Their new goal is fundraising. The cost of the trip is $1,400, half of which is being paid by the Florida Region of USA Volleyball, and the boys are doing community service hours to help pay for the other half. Their club coach, Bill Britt, plans to connect the boys with some local charities.
"We want to try to raise the money," Manuel said, "so we can both go and have the same experience."
The brothers were introduced to volleyball by their sister, whose career was cut short by knee injuries. Manuel acknowledged that it took some time for him to get comfortable.
"At first I was like, 'That's a girls sport -- I don't want to play,'" he said. "But my parents kept saying, 'Try it, try it, try it.' Now I'm all about volleyball."
Getting acclimated to the American game wasn't as tough. The only tweaks Manuel and Moises had to get used to was that American liberos are allowed to serve, and points aren't automatically awarded if the ball hits the ceiling.
"It's volleyball, so you kind of understand it right away," Manuel said. "It's fun."
Manuel and Moises, along with Garret Mumford, Christian Kinlaw, Nathan Bower, Connor Flaherty and Austin Savage competed with their Manatee Area Volleyball team during last week's regional championships in Fort Lauderdale. Manuel wants to play in college, so volleyball isn't a fly-by-night activity for the brothers.
That's why they were so happy to find MAV.
"We didn't know if they were good or bad, or be good competition or not," Moises said. "But they're actually really nice people ... and we actually have really athletic people."
To donate to fund Manuel's and Moises' trip to Oklahoma, contact Nancy Cothron, the director at Manatee Area Volleyball, at 941-915-3097 or email@example.com.