The hustle and bustle of qualifying hits like no other this weekend. There’s no less than five tournaments taking place.
The 18s continue to dominate the headlines when it comes to punching Open bids. That’s about to change before too long though as the younger age groups get under way this weekend as well in Florida and Colorado. As for the 18s, their schedule features four qualifiers, Northeast Qualifier, Sunshine Classic, Sierra National Qualifier, and the Boston Festival.
Where the 18s stand
This past weekend was a light one, with just the Lone Star Classic in Austin. Houston Skyline 18 Royal is no longer among the best teams in the nation without a bid after taking home the title with a 10-0 showing.
After its 19th-place showing at the Triple Crown Sports NIT last month in Kansas City, Houston Skyline kicked off its qualifying schedule in style. Houston Skyline is in action again this weekend at the Sunshine Classic and then travels at the end of the month to Las Vegas for the SCVA Red Rock Rave.
Houston Skyline’s run at Triple Crown was stopped by Rockwood Thunder 18 Elite in the Round of 32. Lone Star, with six previously-qualified clubs in the field, was a great opportunity for Houston Skyline to get back on track. The first day saw Houston Skyline sweep KC Power 18-1 25-20, 26-24. That was a tough showdown on the first day considering KC Power went on to qualifying by tying for fifth. Houston Skyline swept Triple Crown champion Legacy 18-Adidas 25-19, 25-12 on the second day and then beat the other eventual qualifier in San Gabriel Elite 18 Roshambo 25-17, 25-19 to end the day. The final day was an impressive run through three qualified opponents in Skyline 18 Royal, TAV 18 Black and MAVS KC 18-1, which Houston Skyline swept 25-23, 27-25 in the final.
San Gabriel wound up in third place after downing Houston Juniors 18 Elite 29-27, 25-18. KC Power and Skyline didn’t play out the fifth-place match as KC Power took the final bid through trickle down.
Here’s where the 18 Open bid chase stands:
Bids awarded: 22
At-larges available: 2
Bids remaining: 24
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
The numbers are destined to change in a big way after the four qualifiers conclude this weekend. Here’s a glance at each of them:
Number of Teams — 23
Bids Available — 3
Qualified Clubs — (1) Apex1 18 Black
Note: Rockwood Thunder is the best team competing without a bid. Apex may create trickle down to fourth but it can’t go below that. After that, the field is wide open. It’s a perfect chance for some new clubs to breakthrough for a bid but some familiar names will still have to be dealt with along the way like Absolute Black 18-1, East Coast Power 18 Royal and CUVC 18 Premier.
Sunshine Classic (Orlando)
Number of Teams — 16
Bids Available — 3
Qualified Clubs — (6) Legacy 18-Adidas; Houston Jrs 18 Elite; Top Select 18 Blue; Austin Jrs 18 Mizuno; OT 18 Dexter; Houston Skyline 18 Royal
Note: Give Houston Skyline’s performance at Lone Star, it’s the team to watch in Orlando. It’s a deep field though, with six qualified teams out of the 16 in action. Trickle down can’t go past eighth place, so it’s possible only two bids go out. There’s going to be at least two teams to capitalize and it could be Tstreet 18 Mike and OT 18 Roberto or maybe a club like Academy 18 Diamond.
Northeast Qualifier (Baltimore)
Number of Teams — 14
Bids Available — 2
Qualified Clubs — (2) A5 Mizuno 18 Scott; Metro 18 Travel
Note: One more at-large bid becomes available after this weekend with only two being awarded here. With only two qualified teams trickle down can’t extend past fourth place, so there’s going to be teams clawing to get there. Six Pack 18 and AVC Cle Rox 18 Red are among the top contenders to qualify. Rancho Valley 18 Premier starts off as the No. 9 seed but could make a push toward a bid.
NCVA Sierra Qualifier (Reno)
Number of Teams — 15
Bids Available — 3
Qualified Clubs — 0
Note: The teams caught a break having three bids available. Since 17 clubs were originally registered before two dropped out three bids can still be awarded even though less than 16 are in the field like in Baltimore. Considering no one has qualified yet, that’s great news but teams must still climb into the top three to secure one. Rage Westside 18 Jen opens as the top seed. Rage 18 Greg and A4 Volley 18 Purple Joaco follow. A4 took second in 18 Open Elite at the SCVA Las Vegas Classic, where Rage 18 Greg finished tied for third. A team to watch for is Wave 18 Kevin, which is in the same Day 1 pool as A4 but finished ninth at Triple Crown.
When the chaos of the coming weekend is over four qualifiers will remain – Colorado Crossroads; Mideast Qualifier; Pacific Northwest Qualifier; and SCVA Red Rock Rave. Crossroads is next weekend, with the Red Rock Rave at the end of the month. In between, MEQ and PNQ take place the same weekend. As of now, no teams with an Open bid are at Crossroads. Compare that to MEQ, where at least 12 clubs hold Open bids. The Red Rock Rave has five qualified teams, a number expected to grow by two or three by the time the event starts. Meanwhile, PNQ has two clubs so far – San Gabriel and North Pacific Jrs – with bids but could very well change in number too. All four qualifiers are set to award three bids each.
The main qualifying season begins
The 18s have been chasing bids since January. Everybody else begins this weekend, with the exception of the 17s which had one qualifier already. In years past, Crossroads is the official start of qualifying season but is sharing opening weekend with the Sunshine Classic. The difference is Crossroads features 15s-and-under age groups this weekend and 16s and older next while Sunshine hosts every age this weekend.
The 17s had a tweak to the schedule that placed its first event at the end of January. Northern Lights 17-1, OT 17 Felix and Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold captured the available Open bids. That matters because OT Felix is playing in the Sunshine Classic and could help create a trickle-down situation to fourth place there. The 17 Open field featuring 40 clubs is highlighted by Triple Crown champion A5 Mizuno 17 Jing, as well as Houston Skyline 17 Royal, TAV 17 Black and Houston Jrs 17 Elite, all which finished in the Top 10 at Triple Crown.
The 16 Open field is also healthy with 32 participants, including Triple Crown bronze medalist Madfrog 16 Green. Also competing in the division is OT 16 Roberto, OT 16 Jason, Houston Skyline 16 Royal, Houston Jrs 16 Elite and Legacy 16-Adidas. They all finished in the Top 20 at Triple Crown. In 15 Open, Triple Crown champion Legacy 15-Adidas earned the No. 1 seed in the 32-team field. A5 Mizuno 15 Bob and OT 15 Will finished in the Top 10 at Triple Crown and join Legacy in Florida.
In Denver, there are 32 teams going for three bids in 15 Open. The top seed is Triple Crown runner-up Alamo 15 Premier. Also in the field are Northern Lights 15-1, Dynasty 15 Black, Topeka Impact 15-1 and Aspire 15 UA Premier, all of which ended in the top 15 at Triple Crown.