What the Sports Shack 18 ASICS team recently accomplished doesn’t happen every day in the realm of girls’ club volleyball.
Beverly Hills-based Sports Shack downed Pennsylvania-based Synergy 18 Orange in three sets to win the 18 Open title at the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships in Atlanta.
The win gave Sports Shack its second straight 18 Open title, making them the first team to repeat as 18 Open champion since Chicago-based Sports Performance won titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Sports Shack’s second title fell into the “really had to earn it” category. Sports Shack found itself in big trouble after a 1-2 showing in pool play the first day.
“We lost two matches that we shouldn’t have,” said co-coach Tim Jensen, who coaches the team along with The Net Live radio host Chris “Geeter” McGee.
“We had to play eight elimination matches in a row in order to get that gold medal. I think the team liked being in that situation with their backs up against the wall. They seemed to play better.”
Sports Shack returned only Jane Croson, Rebecca Strehlow and Christina Higgins from last year’s championship team, but nonetheless featured a stacked roster this time around. Croson, a University of Hawaii recruit, was named the 18 Open MVP.
“Everybody was committed to the team,” said Strehlow, now a two-time All-American. “This team was really close. That’s why we got along so well and really took it to the next level.”
While there was a sense of urgency because of a 1-2 record after the first day, there was no outright panic.
“We needed to regroup and refocus,” Cal recruit Higgins explained. “We knew we played bad and we knew what we had to do the next day of the tournament.”
With seven seniors headed to Division I colleges, including Camille Coffey (Fairfield), Tianna Woolridge (Princeton), Amanda Hall (Bucknell), Michele Boskovich (Pepperdine) and Tara Keil (Loyola Marymount), Jensen and McGee had no shortage of talent.
Winning two national titles in a row has put Sports Shack at a whole different level.
“It is definitely a big deal,” Higgins said. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to end the last two years. It’s very tough to repeat and it was even harder to do this year.”
Sports Shack went 70-13 this year and is 150-18 over the last two years. A total of 14 Sports Shack players from the last two teams have gone on to play Division I.
Originally published in September/October 2011