At the very least, the final four 18s national qualifiers are going to create an intense debate for which clubs deserve the at-larges, which currently sit at three after the busiest weekend we’ve seen. No less than 11 more clubs punched tickets to the USA Volleyball 18s Girls Junior National Championship in Reno in May.
Wave 18 Kevin, Rage 18 Greg and A4 Volley 18 Purple Joaco qualified in Reno, while Six Pack 18-1 and VA Elite 18s did the same in Baltimore. In Florida, Academy 18 Diamond, OT 18 Roberto and Genesis Elite 18 Royalty picked up bids. EC Power KOP 18 Royal, Rockwood Thunder 18 Elite and CUVC 18 Premier rounded out the qualifiers playing in Boston.
Here’s where the 18 Open bid chase stands:
Bids awarded: 33
At-larges available: 3
Bids remaining: 12
Chicago — Circle City; Sky High; Legacy
MLK KC — MAVS
Music City — Mintonette; Union; North Pacific Jrs
Ohio Valley — Mintonette*; Legacy*; PNK; Top Select; Metro
Northern Lights — Coast; Houston Jrs; Apex1
Dallas — Skyline; TAV; Austin Jrs
Beast of the Southeast — A5; Seal Beach; OT Dexter
Lone Star Classic – Houston Skyline; MAVS*; San Gabriel Elite; Houston Jrs*; KC Power
Reno — Wave; Rage; A4
Boston — EC Power KOP; Apex1*; Rockwood Thunder; Carolina Union
Sunshine — Houston Skyline*; Academy Diamond; Houston Jrs*; OT Roberto; Genesis Elite
Baltimore — A5*; Six Pack; VA Elite
Left are the Crossroads, Mideast, Pacific Northwest and SCVA Red Rock qualifiers. Crossroads is up this weekend and all three bids are going to be handed out. In fact, what’s fascinating is no teams in the 18 Open field are qualified. That means a top-three finish to bid. Also, all three bids are going out at PNQ for sure, with four qualified teams in the field and trickle-down potentially reaching seventh place. But, nothing is guaranteed at MEQ or SCVA.
In Indy, a whopping 16 clubs arrive next weekend with bids. With trickle-down only able to extend to eighth place, it’s possible no bids go out. It’s more likely bids go out in Las Vegas, where nine clubs currently have bids and likely a 10th in Mizuno Long Beach 18 Rockstar, which is favored to qualify in Spokane the week before. Still, not all three could be awarded and more could wind up in the at-large pool. That’s a whole other story going on. There are at least three at-large spots available, so putting together the best results possible matters a lot to clubs that end up not qualifying outright.
Here’s a list of the top 18s teams without bids:
Ku’Ikahi 18 Wahine RSB (3rd Triple Crown)
Vision 18 Gold (7th Triple Crown; 4th Reno; 5th Chicago)
AZ EVJ 18 Tempe (11th Triple Crown)
Adversity 18 Adidas (13th Triple Crown; 4th Chicago)
Ka Ulukoa 18 Black (13th Triple Crown)
AZ Storm Elite 18 Thunder (18th at Triple Crown; 7th Northern Lights)
Excel 18 National Red (19th Triple Crown; 5th Dallas; 9th Austin; 4th Nashville)
MKE Sting 18 Gold (7th Chicago; 6th Northern Lights)
AVC Clev Rox 18 Red (9th Ohio; 5th Baltimore)
Premier Nebraska 18 Gold (3rd Kansas City)
Mizuno Long Beach 18 Rockstar (Won SCVA Las Vegas Classic)
MichioChicago 18 National (5th Chicago)
Elevation 18 Butcher (7th Ohio)
FRVBC 18 Black (4th Northern Lights)
Laguna Beach 18-1 (3rd SCVA Las Vegas Classic)
Austin Skyline 18 Royal (4th Dallas; 11th Austin)
Rage Westside 18 Jen (5th Dallas; 6th Reno)
Upward Stars 18 Corey (5th Atlanta)
Top teams without a bid playing this weekend at Crossroads includes Austin Skyline, AV EVJ, AZ Storm, Club V, Elevation, Front Range, Premier Nebraska and Vision.
It’s clear Houston Skyline 18 Royal wasn’t pleased with its 19th-place showing at Triple Crown last month. All Houston Skyline — which finished fifth in 17 Open a summer ago — has done in response is capture back-to-back qualifiers without losing a match. Two weekends ago, Houston Skyline officially qualified by winning in Austin and then did it again this past weekend in Orlando, going 9-0 and winning its second qualifier in as many tries. Of course, Houston Skyline already had its bid so it helped create trickle down, as did previously-qualified Houston Jrs 18 Elite which came in third. That allowed Academy 18 Diamond (2nd), OT 18 Roberto (4th) and Genesis Elite 18 Royalty (5th) to leave with bids. It was a tough field, with Top Select 18 Blue (6th), Legacy 18 Adidas (9th), OT 18 Dexter (10th) and Austin Jrs 18 Mizuno (11th) all coming in with bids.
Meanwhile, Houston Skyline dropped just one set. It came on the second second day, when Houston Skyline outlasted OT Roberto 20-25, 25-14, 15-9. Both were in the gold pool together along with Academy and HJV on the final day. With trickle-down in play, Academy and OT had bids clinched going to bed Saturday night. Houston Skyline won the gold pool at 3-0, with Academy going 2-1, HJV 1-2 and OT Roberto 0-3. The setback to Houston Skyline was the only defeat on the weekend for Academy, which has benefitted from the arrival of outside Jade Demps from Triangle. The real drama was saved for the silver bracket, where Tstreet 18 Mike, OVA 18 Black and Genesis Elite all were playing for the final bid. Top Select was the fourth team and eased some of the drama by beating OVA and making the silver final. That allowed Genesis to clinch its bid by clipping Tstreet in three 25-18, 18-25, 17-15. Genesis went on to down Top Select 25-18, 25-22 for fifth.
No teams were previously qualified in the smaller field of 15. However, since 17 clubs were originally registered, the event still awarded three bids and that was great news on the final day for A4 Volley 18 Purple Joaco. A4 was in a four-team gold pool with Rage 18 Greg, Wave 18 Kevin and Vision 18 Gold. It was straight forward, with one club knowing it was going to leave empty-handed. Once Wave swept A4 in the fourth match, the bids were clinched. Vision, at 0-2, was left out no matter what happened in its final outing against Wave. Even beating Wave, Vision would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against either Rage or A4. Wave went on to sweep Vision to win the qualifier, with Rage downing A4 for second place. A4 edged Vision 26-24, 18-25, 15-13 in their meeting and that was the difference for A4 qualifying and Vision not. For all three teams that qualified it was their first qualifying attempt.
Apex1 18 Black was the lone qualified team and that meant finishing no lower than fourth place should Apex create trickle down. Apex was alive in one of the two, three-team gold pools to begin the last day. Apex won its pool, reaching the final and assuring the fourth-place finisher would qualify. CUVC and Rockwood Thunder grabbed second in their respective pools to get the bids, with EC Power winning its pool and meeting Apex in the final. EC Power beat Apex 25-20, 21-25, 15-10 in the final after losing to Apex in three on Day 2. Rockwood Thunder beat CUVC 19-25, 25-10, 15-10 in the third-place contest. Coming up short by finishing in third place in their respective pools were AVC Clev Rox 18 Red and Madfrog 18 Green. For CUVC, it was the first time the club qualified a team in Open. Rockwood Thunder had already earned a National bid through the region but will move up to Open after qualifying. Rockwood Thunder is set to participate in the SCVA Red Rock Rave at the end of the month.
Two bids were on the line in Baltimore and they were decided before the final day started. With previously-qualified A5 Mizuno 18 Scott and Metro 18 Travel making the four-team gold pool it was a wrap. Six Pack 18 and VA Elite 18s joined A5 and Metro in the gold pool, earning the bids before serving a single ball on the third day. For A5, it continues a run that began with a silver-medal showing in 18 Elite at Triple Crown. A5 then qualified for Open by winning the Beast of the Southeast qualifier in Atlanta. In Baltimore, A5 went 9-0 to gain its second qualifier victory. Six Pack provided the toughest tests, twice taking A5 to three sets. A5 closed out the second day by clipping the Iowa club 15-25, 25-14, 15-13, then did it again on the third day by winning 26-24, 17-25, 15-11. Six Pack also lost to Metro on the final day but did down VA Elite 25-19, 17-25, 15-5. VA Elite was victorious in its first six matches, including upending Metro 19-25, 25-22, 15-9 to start day two. VA Elite also beat Metro 13-25, 25-21, 15-12 on the third day to go 1-2.