Every once in a while, this becomes a don’t-do-today-what-you-can-put-off-for-a-long-time job.
I was in Chicago the first week of July for USA Volleyball Girls Junior Nationals and the next week wrote this notebook:
And there was every intention of following up the next week with more. Well, here you go, better late than never. Most of these items are not about club volleyball, more about NCAA teams as we took time to visit with a ton of coaches.
But to catch up, if you missed it, here is John Tawa’s season-ending girls club volleyball Dots:
In the meantime, we’ve got the NBA/volleyball angle, a couple of updates, and what it’s like to recruit while in China.
In that last notebook, we started with all the LSU football tie-ins to top-level girls club volleyball. In this one, we’ll start with the Denver Nuggets.
Yes, the NBA champions loomed large inside the McCormick Place convention center in the form of head coach Mike Malone. He was watching his daughter, Bridget, play for her Colorado Juniors team that won 16s Open..
“You know, it’s not really fun,” Malone said. “I get more nervous watching my daughter play than coaching our games with the Denver Nuggets.
“I’m a proud father and I don’t get a chance to see her play enough. But now that the summer is here I just come here as a dad and support her and get really nervous watching them win every match.”
Almost. The Colorado Juniors 16Shannon went 10-1 (20-3 in sets). The team lost only to Dynasty 16 Black but came back to win its last five matches, including a 25-21, 25-21 victory over Austin Juniors 16 adidas in the final.
The Nuggets’ ties to Colorado Juniors also include general manager Calvin Booth. His 6-foot-7 daughter, Carter, played her freshman year at Minnesota and after last season transferred to Wisconsin.
And don’t forget that the Nuggets play-by-play announcer is 1984 men’s volleyball Olympic gold-medalist Chris Marlow.
“Great guy, been with him eight years now in Denver and we always talk about his volleyball experiences and also that he coached his daughters,” Malone said.
Malone married into volleyball, so to speak. His wife, the former Jocelyn Cole, played at Providence College, and their other daughter, Caitlin, also plays.
“My two daughters love the game and I’m glad they chose volleyball instead of basketball,” Malone admitted. “That would have been much harder to watch. This is a great atmosphere.”
Since nationals, Colorado Juniors announced that Bridget Malone, who was MVP of the national tournament, has committed to North Carolina.
Houston readies for Big 12
Few teams got everyone’s attention in 2022 like Houston, which lost in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 to Stanford. Before that, the Cougars battled through of the most exciting matches of the tournament, winning 25-14, 25-19, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11 over South Dakota and then 25-27, 25-15, 12-25, 25-23, 15-8 over Auburn.
Houston finished 30-4, 19-1 in the American Athletic Conference. Now the program is in the Big 12.
Coach Dave Rehr scheduled accordingly. In the pre-conference, Houston opens with visiting USC and and the slate includes Texas State, Kentucky, SMU or Purdue, and Texas A&M.
“We knew we had to prepare for the Big 12 so we have a schedule that will get us ready,” Rehr said.
If you didn’t follow Houston last year, well, the Cougars are loaded. Among the returners are graduate-student outside Abbie Jackson and libero Kate Georgiades, the senior who got so much social-media love for taking out an end-line table chasing down a ball against South Dakota.
THE EFFORT FROM @kate_george17!!! 💯💯💯
— Houston Volleyball (@UHCougarVB) December 2, 2022
The big additions are Kenna Sauer, the graduate-student outside who transferred from Texas Tech, and outside Nena Mbonu, a graduate-student from Louisville.
Houston opens Big 12 play at BYU on September 20.
Speaking of Auburn …
Auburn also got everyone’s attention last year.
The Tigers, who finished 22-9, opened 14-0 but most observers agreed that was against lower-tier competition. But that didn’t matter, because Auburn rolled to a 10-8 SEC finish and knocked out Creighton in five in the program’s first postseason victory since 2010.
And here’s the scary thing: “We lost nobody,” coach Brent Crouch said. “We added five and lost nobody.”
The Tigers are joined by five transfers, including senior middle Bella Bell from Kentucky and graduate-student middle Kyla Swanson from Illinois. Everyone on the roster made the Auburn trip to Europe this past spring.
Boston College won the NIVC last fall, “which was a great experience for our group,” coach Jason Kennedy said. “We return a majority of our first two contacts and I hope we’ll be a little ahead of schedule going into the fall than some teams that have more to replace.
“We lost some key pieces, so we’ll see.”
The Eagles have five freshmen, including Audrey Ross. The 6-3 product of San Ramon High School in Danville, California, and NorCal “is under the radar,” Kennedy said. “I’m excited to see what she can do.”
Recruiting from China
Notre Dame’s Salima Rockwell has continued her work for Volleyball World TV and this summer called Volleyball Nations League matches in Hong Kong.
“It was awesome,” said Rockwell, who became quite an accomplished TV analyst during her few years away from coaching. “I got to call matches with Türkiye and Poland and China. All the top teams. It was so fun and those are my people and it was cool because they remember me and coaches were awesome with the interviews (in between sets) even though they didn’t want to do them. But were they were great with me.”
But recruiting did not stop just because Rockwell was in China.
“June 15th was a challenge,” she said of the first day coaches could contact recruits.
She relied heavily on assistant Craig Dyer. If you’re in China, when it’s time to go to sleep people are waking up in America, and when you wake up there, people in America are preparing to call it a day — the day before.
“He put all of the kids I needed to contact, all of their time zones, my own time zone, the time difference, so it worked out. It was a bit of circus and I didn’t sleep for a few days, but it worked out.”
Notre Dame finished 10-18 last season, 5-13 in the ACC.
“Things are great,” the second-year coach said. “Our five freshmen are on campus doing summer school and I think the culture is super healthy. We’re in a good place right now and recruiting is going well.”