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.
• Dots returns after a short hiatus with some sad news. My friend, Carrie Yerty — everyone’s friend — passed away on January 24, seven years after first being diagnosed with colon cancer.
Carrie was most recently head coach at Briarcrest Christian in Tennessee. She led the Saints, along with assistant coach April Jauregui, to four titles since becoming head coach in 2018 and compiled an overall record of 134-11.
Carrie came to the high school ranks after long collegiate stints as head coach at both Memphis and Wyoming.
Carrie was involved in the Briarcrest Christian volleyball program until she retired at the end of the fall campaign.
“When Carrie took the helm, she took it to another level,” said Jauregui in an October statement after the most recent state title. “She created a dynasty. Carrie has been an incredible leader and mentor for the coaching staff and players. She sets a high standard of achievement, and the program has thrived under her direction.”
• Danny Tullis, who coached Pope John Paul II to seven Louisiana state titles in nine years, has resigned to take the head coaching job at Slidell. Tullis told a local newspaper that he left because he had to, not because he wanted to.
On November 11, Danny’s son, Christian, a 16-year-old junior at the school, died in a collision with a semi while returning home from the state volleyball tournament.
“To be honest with you, I can barely walk into (the PJP) gym now,” Tullis told the paper. “Everything there reminds me of my son, Christian, and that senior class is his senior class.”
• We are 11 days away from the start of the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City, the nation’s biggest recruiting event. Virtually all of the nation’s top teams will be there to determine the early-season favorites for national supremacy.
In that vein, here are my top five club teams currently in each of the high school age groups:
1. Sunshine 18 LA
2. Drive Nation 18 Red
3. WAVE 18-Juliana
4. Coast 18-1
5. Premier Nebraska 18 Gold
1. A5 17-Jing
2. Drive Nation 17 Red
3. Adidas Dynasty 17 Black
4. NKYVC 17 Tsunami
5. HJV 17 Elite
1. AZ Storm Elite 16 Thunder
2. 1st Alliance 16 Gold
3. Surfside PV 16 Legends
4. HJV 16 Elite
5. Circle City 16 Purple
1. Mintonette m. 51
2. WAVE 15-Brennan
3. Madfrog 15’s National Green
4. Dallas Skyline 15 Royal
5. Boilers Juniors 15 Gold
• The 18s ranking above is obviously the most eyebrow-raising, because neither Munciana Samurai nor A5 18-Marc is listed.
Samurai, the defending Triple Crown and AAU National champion, is still coached by Mike Lingenfelter, the magic maker. And the team is off to an 18-1 start, its lone loss coming in MEPL play in three to Tri-State Elite 18 Blue. The roster, however, looks more like last year than the powerhouse roster of the previous decade or so. My thought going into Triple Crown last year was that Samurai would have to prove it on the court, something it surely did. That’s the same feeling I have this year. Is the team veteran enough and does it have enough firepower to stand up to these loaded teams motivated to play extra hard to tame a bite out of Munciana? We shall see …
• The other team not listed is A5, which finished second at the 18s qualifier in Dallas and on Sunday won the 18s qualifier in Columbus. This is the same core group that won Triple Crown in the 17s division a year ago.
Had A5 had a clean pass at the Ohio Valley Qualifier, we might have seen fit to slot the team at No. 4. But Marc Jones’ squad suffered a shocking sweep at the hands of Rev 18-1 Avengers on Day 1 before regrouping.
“I told the girls that we need to come focused and prepared to play for each match,” Jones said. “We are going to get everyone’s best play and we need to make sure that we do the same. I told them to use the loss as a wakeup call and motivation for Day 2 which they did.”
After the loss, A5 won six straight matches to win the Gold, including edging surprising Paramount VBC 18s, from the Chesapeake Region, in a three-set final.
“It honestly was a team effort,” Jones said, noting that everyone on the roster played and contributed the last two days. “Our pins were more aggressive with their swings and blocking, the libero and DS played lights out defense, serve receive allowed us to be in system a majority of the time, middles were active and created 1-on-1 opportunities for our pins and the setters ran a solid offense off of serve receive and defensive transition.”
The team’s success started with defenders Arya Jue and Mary Neal going after everything with fire. Rebecca Watkins and Taylor Pecht both ran the offense well while in the back row and OH Jurnee Robinson was one of many swinging and blocking with intensity on the net.
• Paramount’s qualifying in Ohio brings the total number of teams qualifying for Open play at Junior Nationals to 19.
There are three 17 Open teams – A5 17-Jing, Dynasty 17 Black and Premier Nebraska 17-Gold, which qualified at the Northern Lights Qualifier at the end of January.
There are 16 18 Open teams, which have qualified at six 18s qualifiers so far – MAVS KC 18-1, Premier Nebraska 18 Gold, WAVE 18 Juliana, Sunshine 18 LA, Mintonette m. 81, Metro 18 Travel, 1st Alliance 18 Gold, Gainesville Juniors 18-1, Minnesota Select 18-1, Northern Lights 18-1, Drive Nation 18 Red, A5 18-Marc, Dallas Skyline 18 Royal, Paramount 18s, Triangle 18 Black and AVC Cleveland 18 Red.
There are two At-Large bids available thus far.
• Some SoCal experts in the pre-season suggested that Surfside 16 PV Legends might not only be the best team in the SCVA, but also in the nation. The team has done well to shut out that noise and focus its energies on the court. This past weekend, the team won its second SCVA Power League event in a row. The team was led by pin hitters Kaci Demaria and Simone Rolson and 6-4 MB Kalyssa Blackshear.
• Elevation VBC, out of Cincinnati, sent 20 teams to the Central Zone Invitational in Indianapolis in late January. Seven teams won their age divisions in the club’s first event of the season, including 11 Open, 12 Open, 13 Open and 14 Open. Five other teams placed third. Sixty percent of all Elevation teams finished third or better in one of the most prestigious early-season events in the country!
“There was a definite excitement in our complex the week of the event,” said club director John Paul Case. “Players were very vocal and the energy was obvious. We hadn’t played an event yet so I give our coaches and our girls a lot of credit for being able to channel that energy into good volleyball. It’s only one event so we will take it with a grain of salt but it was fun see hard work getting results.”
• A5 16 Stephen has won back-to-back tournaments in its age group, going undefeated in both. Stephen Sansing’s squad won Gold in 16 Premier Red at Central Zones, defeating Adidas KiVA 16 White in the finals.
This past weekend the team competed in its hometown at the Beast of the Southeast in Atlanta. Playing 16 Open (with A5 16 Gabe playing 18 Open and going 4-1), 16 Stephen went 7-0, dropping just one set in its first match of the tournament. Led by OH Ally Hamblin, who was named MVB – “Most Valuable Beast” – A5 defeated Carolina Rogue in the semis and CUVC 16 Open Beast in the championship match.
A5 16-Stephen will play USA at all national qualifiers, but this team has the size to play Open, with 6-4 MB Laney Daniell, 6-3 MB Kaia Easterbrook, 6-3 RS Kendall Newbold and 6-2 OH Duri Harden.
• Five: 1 18 Black, coming off of a second-place finish in 18 Premier at Central Zones, went undefeated this past weekend to capture the OVR’s bid in the 18 Liberty division. The team dropped just one set all weekend and defeated two teams with bids in hand. Nicole Sisk led the way with 63 kills and hit .417. Makayla Neelands had 64 kills and hit .205. Setter Jenna Sayles averaged 10.5 assist per set.
Colorado Juniors 15Sherri competed in the RMR Top Flight Invitational, which pitted the region’s top teams against one another regardless of age. The team went 3-1, with a loss only to Elevation 17 Peak and a sweep of Norco 18 Black!
The team prepared for the event with rigorous practices. Lauren Waggoner’s tenacity in practice helped her pass a 2.4 with 20 digs over seven sets and set the tone for a great passing day. Setter Tate Brandsma turned those passed into hittable sets, led by Morgan Holloman, who had 24 kills and hit .400.
Revolution PGH 18 White, out of Pittsburgh, finished second in Open out of 23 teams at the JVA Charm City Challenge in Baltimore.
Club director Dan LaBonte tells us that while the team competed well on the court, off the court the team was as focused on finding ghosts at their hotel. The Lord Baltimore is recognized as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. After each player downloaded ghost detector apps on their phones, the 18W & 16W players and coaches ventured throughout the hotel, including the paranormal 19th floor. Along the way, the teams crashed a dog wedding in the hotel. Gives me the sniff-les thinking about it!
MAVS KC 16-1 is the only still undefeated 16s team in the 16s division of the HOA Power League after a 5-0 (10-0) weekend, which included a nail biter over Dynasty 16 Black at the end of the day.
Dallas Skyline 18 Royal placed first at Texas Fest in the 18 Open division this past weekend. The team, coached by Ryan Mitchell, was down a player due to illness. It used multiple lineups and say players have success in different areas. The team also worked previously-injured pin hitter Ella Bussey back into the lineup for the first time this season.
The team got great work from both setters, Harley Kreck and Emma Henry. Kreck also was strong from behind the service line. MB Angie Lee, a superb athlete, showed off her lethal slide again and again.
Until next time …