This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag.com’s weekly look at 10 things in club volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots every Tuesday through Junior Nationals this summer.
• The JVA SummerFest in Columbus was the highest profile event among many contested the weekend after Memorial Day.
NKYVC 17 Tsunami, No. 1 nationally in my rankings as of the end of April, rallied from a disastrous Day 1 to win the 17 Open division against a competitive 36-team field that included two other top 25 teams, No. 16 Tri-State Elite 17 Blue and No. 22 Metro 17 Travel. Academy 17E Tsunami and Boilers Juniors 171E Gold, teams just outside the top 25, also competed.
NKYVC, playing competitively for the first time in six weeks, went 0-3 in its Day 1 power pool, losing to the Boilers, AVC CLE 17 Red and Top Select 17 Elite.
“Physically not playing terrible, they just seemed to not have a lot of rhythm to their game,” said director Jill Hunt.
Hunt said that the team that showed up on Day 2 was the team she’d seen all year. NKYVC, guaranteed a spot in the Gold Bracket despite its 0-3 Saturday, swept Circle City 17 Purple, Mintonette m.71 and Team Pineapple 17 Black to make the finals, where it came from a set down to defeat Metro for the title. The final set was a dominating 15-4 win.
“I am so proud of this team and the grit they showed throughout the weekend,” Hunt said. “It was an entire team effort with all nine players making major contributions at key times. The serving on Day 2 was exceptional, with the team recording 21 aces and taking teams out of system on a consistent basis. The heavy arms of Julia Hunt, Alivia Skidmore and Sydney Barrett were on full display as they were delivered great sets from Abby Yoder and Macy Lentz. Blocking was strong from Hunt, Barrett and Lilly Hamburg, The defense was exceptional from Elizabeth Tabeling, Kaleigh Frietch and Lilly Gillespie. Overall, their Day 2 performance and determination to come out champions definitely earned them the Gold ball!”
FaR Out 17 Black went 4-1 in the division, losing 29-27, 28-26 to Elevation 17 Ulland in the first round of the Gold Bracket. This is the same team that won the inaugural 18U Emperor’s Cup in Las Vegas late in April playing as an 18s team. That team had only three seniors, and they continue to practice with the team, but they are not travelling. The team is now a 17s team and enrolled in the 17 Open division for AAU Nationals later this month. They will miss their impact middles and setter Corrie Wisser, but should be very competitive in 17 Open with Abby Pickard setting Isabelle Swiercz, Kendall Hopewell and Avery Weslow, with Carley Piercefield holding down the back row.
• Legacy 16-1 Adidas won the 16 Open division with a 7-0 record, putting an exclamation mark on its selection as an At-Large participant in the 16 Open division in Chicago. The Michigan squad, ranked No. 25 nationally, edged national No. 9 Adidas KiVA 16 Red in the semifinals, 15-13, in the third; then defeated AVC CLE 16 Red in a straight set championship final.
• Legacy 15-1 Adidas, the No. 4 team nationally in the 15s age group, went 6-1 to prevail in a 35-team field that also boasted two other national top 5 teams, a total of seven teams in the national top 25 and two others in the next 10.
The Michigan team, coached by Jennifer Cottrill, lost out of the gate in power pool play to Team Pineapple 15 Black, 16-14 in the third, its first competition over the past five weeks. Cottrill called the loss “a good wake up call for us” and the team did not lose again.
Legacy earned a pool play win over No. 3 Mintonette m.51 and won in bracket play over No 5 Boiler Juniors 151E Gold, No. 23 Tri-State Elite 15 Blue and No. 13 NKYVC 15-1 Tsunami in the championship match.
OH Gabby DiVita was an “absolute beast” the entire weekend, Cottrill said. She had 92 kills and passed a 2.2. Libero Meredith Martin was a rock in the back row, passing a 2.4 and consistently coming up with spectacular digs. Setter Eva Long ran a fluid offense, middles Kayla Nwabueze and Ella Andrews were studs both hitting and blocking and Aubree Deshetsky showed her versatility on Sunday by playing six rotations with ease.
NKYVC played SummerFest with only eight of those in its 10-player roster healthy.
“Every single player stepped up this weekend and played the best volleyball they have all season,” Hunt said. Kirsten Kemper ran a successful 5-1 for the first time and was able to show her strength in the front row as another attacker in tight situations. Audrey Dyas, again, was a threat not only in the middle but on the pins as well. Wherever she was put in serve receive, she was getting the kill. She was a huge side out factor for us in tough matches against Mintonette and Legacy. Grace Portwood played her best volleyball yet and was a force to be reckoned with both in front row and backrow. With her heavy, fast arm swing, no blockers were able to shut her down. Our offense wouldn’t be possible without our defense led by Emma Frietch. Emma continues to outperform liberos in 15 Open. She is the most consistent serve receive passer and just makes incredible digs and touches to keep the ball alive for us. Every player on this team played with such heart and grit this weekend. We look forward to continuing this performance into Nationals with a healthy team!”
• At the West Coast Invitational in Utah, Idaho Crush 16 Bower showed its strength by winning the 17/18s division over Club V 18 Ren Reed. Athena VB 161 Gold prevailed in the 15/16 division.
Munciana 16 Blaze won the 18s division at the Munciana Classic.
1st Alliance 16 Gold defeated 1st Alliance 17 Gold for the 17 Premier title at the 1st Alliance Spring Classic. 1st Alliance 15 Gold won the 16 Premier division.
• Continuing our Open At-Large review, we heard this week from Emilio Rodriguez of Miami Hype 17 Emilio.
“We were beyond excited to get the At-Large bid,” Rodriguez said. “It was one of our team goals this year so our players and families were thrilled!”
Miami Hype doesn’t want to stop there, however. The team is determined to show that it was deserving of all the … well … hype.
“We’ve been talking about this amazing opportunity to really come in and shock a lot of teams,” Rodriguez said. “The exposure a lot of our uncommitted girls will get is also a huge plus for us while playing at the highest level.”
“I think we’ve proven we can beat just about anyone,” the coach added. “We’ve beaten some of the best teams in the country. For us it’s about stringing together a complete day of big wins. We can shock a lot of teams out there. I think people know enough about us to respect us. I feel we may have the best middle tandem in the country with thunder and lightning Jackie Taylor and Izabela Molina. Also our defense, led by Gabby Arroyo and Julia Lewkowitz. Our defense and serve receive has to be on point! And our big 6-3 right side Sarah Schnell has to be elite! She’s going to be getting 60% of the kills!”
• At the start of the year, I embarked on an ambitious project: to fairly identify and rank the top 100 players in each of the four high school classes. To accomplish this task by the March 1 deadline, I engaged some of the most fertile minds in club volleyball and beyond to help. I sent them the lists every time they were modified and asked that they share their thoughts every time they participated in an event where a top 100 candidate was playing.
The lists have not yet been published and may never be, at least not in full.
Here’s a tease to pique your interest. I’m going to release five ranked players in each of the four classes.
Which five? The ones the random number calculator spit out.
Congrats to those identified who made the list for their respective classes.
• Class of 2023 Top 100 recruits
8. Olivia Babcock, 6-5 RS, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California), Sunshine, Pittsburgh
16. Brooklyn DeLeye, 6-2 OH, Washburn Rural (Topeka, Kansas), Topeka Impact, Kentucky
18. Eloise Brandewie, 6-3 MB, Bishop Hartley (Columbus, Ohio), Mintonette, Ohio State
74. Ramsey Gary, 5-5 libero, Pendleton Heights (Indiana), Munciana, Indiana
86. Fatimah Hall, 5-9 S, Lakewood (California), Mizuno Long Beach, San Diego State
• Class of 2024 Top 100 recruits
11. Jaidyn Livings, 6-2 Jr. OH, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), TAV, USC
17. Kaia Caffee, 6-4 Jr. MB, Buffalo (Minnesota), MN Select, Ohio State
36. Brooklyn Tealer, 6-0 Jr. OH, Gainesville (Florida), Gainesville Juniors, USC
50. Alivia Skidmore, 5-10 Jr. OH, St. Henry (Erlander, Kentucky), NKYVC, Western Kentucky
91. Elina Mortensen, 6-1 Jr. OH, Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah), Club V, not committed
94. Ava Novak, 6-3 Jr. OH, Benet (Lisle, Illinois), Adversity, not committed
• Class of 2025 Top 100 recruits
17. Jaidyn Jager, 6-1 Soph. OH, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, California), Coast
18. Kelly Kinney, 6-2 Soph. OH, King’s Academy (West Palm Beach, Florida), Tribe
30. Kirra Musgrove, 6-2 Soph. S/RS, Lutheran South (Houston, Texas), Houston Skyline
59. Sophia Thornburg, 6-1 Soph. OH, Ursuline Academy (Dallas, Texas), Drive Nation
82. Chloe Elarton, 5-11 Soph. S, Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colorado), Colorado Juniors
• Class of 2026 Top 100 recruits
37. Brooke Harwood, 6-3 Fr. MB, Eastmark (Mesa, Arizona), Arizona Storm
53. Christa Wilburn, 6-1 Fr. OH, Austin (Texas), Austin Skyline
81. Morgan Holloman, 6-1 Fr. MB, Pine Creek (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Colorado Juniors
87. Layli Ostovar, 5-11 Fr. OH, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California), Mizuno Long Beach
99. Meredith Martin, 5-7 Fr. Libero, St. Mary’s Prep (Orchard Lake, Michigan), Legacy
Until next time …