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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.
• Well, the notification finally came for Alamo 15 Premier. The San Antonio squad heard midday last Wednesday that it would receive the 15 Open At-Large bid to Junior Nationals.
The team, led by outside Megan Fitch and Mya Allen and libero Allison Butrum, is very qualified. Alamo is 49-15 on the year and ranked 15th nationally by AES. Coached by Debbie Gonzalez, Alamo has seven wins against the qualified field and finishes in the top third or better in three national qualifiers.
• Now that the 15 Open field is complete, I’ve been refreshing the 17 Open qualified teams list every hour or so. That’s because there remains one open spot in the Junior Nationals field and USAV Director of Events Director Kristy Cox told me two days ago that the bid has gone out and is pending acceptance.
Who will it be?
Top Select 17 Elite Blue, as expected? Or someone else, perhaps AZ Storm Elite 17 Thunder, the group that had to turn it back in after qualifying with an ineligible player at Far Westerns?
We shall see…
[Just refreshed…nothing yet…]
• Last week, we took a look at possible contenders in the National division at Junior Nationals. This week, let’s review hopefuls in the 36-team USA divisions.
Considered the third tier in the USA Volleyball championship hierarchy after Open and National, the plan for the USA divisions was to have teams qualify exclusively at National Qualifiers. About 20 percent of the entrants, however, will come from the regions this year.
Scanning the teams lists, it is evident that the fields have some very good teams, as well as others that will struggle to keep up.
• The 17 USA field has 11 teams ranked inside the top 100 nationally by AES, which has this computer ranking system, which is fun, but only marginally accurate beyond the top tier.
Those 11 include No. 41 Skyline 17 Black, No. 55 OT 17 T. Aaron, No. 59 Mintonette m.72, No. 60 Ozark Juniors 17 Elite, No. 62 MAVS 816 17-1, No. 64 Madfrog 17’s N Black, No. 76 Drive Nation 17 Black, No. 79 Southwest 17N TJ, No. 81 A5 Mizuno 17-AngelG, No. 92 Tstreet IE 17-Asics and No. 94 Roots 17 UA Green.
Skyline 17 Black is 42-16 this year, won one USA qualifier and finished fifth in two others.
OT Aaron finished 10th in 17 Open at Big South and 20th in 17 Open at Sunshine after winning 17 USA at MEQ. This team might be the favorite.
No. 92 Tstreet Inland Empire is 37-22 on the year and took second in USA at the Red Rock Rave after finishing an impressive sixth in the Premier Volleyball League. The only teams finishing higher in the 17s division of the PVL are all Open teams.
Tstreet is led by 6-3 junior OH Ashley Li, a Cal-Berkeley recruit. Others to watch include 6-0 S/RS Sarah Ybarra and 6-0 OH Lauren Gott.
“We jump high, hit hard, and serve tough,” said coach Kassandra McInteer.
JJVA 17 Teal is 40-19 on the season and received its USA bid from the Florida Region after placing third in the national qualifier. Setter Veronica Sierzant, who is 6-1; 6-3 MB Anne Mansfield and 6-1 OH Jenna Otts hope to lead this quick tempo team to a top 10 finish.
• A total of 16 teams in 16 USA — almost half the field — are ranked among the top 100 according to AES.
No. 24 Miami Hype 16 Emilio and No. 29 Rocky Elite 16 National head the field, followed by No. 41 Southwest 16N Joe, No. 42 Arete 16 Navy Telos, No. 43 1st Alliance 16 Silver, No. 46 SA Juniors 16 Adidas, No. 52 Texas Legacy 16 Elite, No. 63 TAV Houston 16 Adidas, No. 67 NorCal Black 16-1, No. 74 Circle City Black, No. 75 AZ Epic 16-Elite Mike, No. 76 United VBA 16 Purple, No. 80 USA South 16 Premier Purple, No. 83 Livewire Volleyball 16 Adidas, No. 90 AJV 16 Molten and No. 100 Cape Coast 16 Titan.
Miami Hype has to be the favorite. The team went 5-3 in its only Open effort at Big South, won the 72-team USA field at Sunshine and went 6-2 in USA at MEQ. AES lists the squad at 63-13 on the year. OH Julia Lewkowitz is a freshman to watch. She attends the Ransom-Everglades School, my alma mater!
Circle City 16 Black is only ranked No. 74, but at 48-8 on the year, should probably be higher. Coached by Mollie Heidenreich, Circle qualified third at MEQ. This is a gritty team with physicality at the net, led by 6-0 RS Maddie Lynch, 6-1 MB Evie Dart and 5-9 six-rotation OH Makenna Ford.
“When our passing flows we are tough to stop,” the coach said.
• Another 16 teams ranked among the top 100 nationally by AES are part of the 15 USA field.
Three top-30 teams, No. 26 Adrenaline 15 Doug, No. 28 Tulsa Power 15-1 and No. 30 Woodlands Revolution 15 Premier lead the way. Revolution, 46-8 on the year and second in 15 USA at Lone Star, looks like a surefire medal contender.
Others to watch include No. 31 A5 Mizuno 15-Victor, No. 32 Texas Performance 15s, No. 33 Oklahoma Peak Performance 15-1, No. 35 Milwaukee Sting 15 Black, No. 39 AP 15 Adidas, No. 40 Gulfside 15U Prime, No. 41 Southwest 15N Ashley, No. 43 Houston Juniors 15 Premier, No. 53 Arete 15 Navy Telos, No. 58 Viper 15-1 Costa, No. 68 TAV 15 Blue, No. 94 501 Volley 15.1 National and No. 97 Dallas Premier 15 Nike Black.
Rockwood Thunder 15 Navy isn’t a name that pops out when scanning the team list, but the St. Louis squad plays a defensive oriented style that netted it a top 10 finish in 14 American last year, so it has the experience to contend. Players to watch include 6-2 MB Kennedy Draggs and 5-9ish outside Kyla Krimmel and Mallory Sell.
JJVA 15 Teal won USA at Big South and has fashioned a 37-20 mark. The team relies on its middles, 6-2 Paola Avilés Morales and 6-1 Olivia Ryno, as well as libero Avery Meide.
• Thinking about all those divisions below Open…there are five of them plus Patriot…made me curious to know about those players who went from just okay to amazing, because we all have those dreams, right?
At Legacy in Michigan, the club has a current sophomore, 5-10 OH Cayla Cogan, who went from playing on a Regional-level team at 13s to the 14-2 team in eighth grade to now being a top tier recruit in the Class of 2024, touching almost 10-4 as a six-rotation go-to hitter on Legacy’s top 16s team.
“She is and always has been athletic,” said director Jen Cottrill. “She only played for a few months her 14s season but committed to working hard with her dad in their basement on a pretty intense weight training and plyometric schedule that he developed. When we were allowed to come back in the gym in the summer of 2020, she was touching 9-7. She was still very raw but obviously had the athleticism and potential, so she made our 15-1 team for the 2021 season. She was always in the gym that year getting extra lessons and reps and committed to the process.
“By the end of her 15s year, she was playing at a really high level. She then went to her high school team as a sophomore and got lots of experience playing six rows. Now on our 16-1 team, she never leaves the court and is the go-to attacker, all the while continuing to work with her dad and continuing to improve her jump touch, strength, core, etc …”
• Inspired yet?
How about Class of 2017 HS graduate Olivia Lohmeier from Team Z/Tri-State Elite? Lohmeier started at Team Z on a 14-2 team.
“She always had great athleticism and physical tools,” noted Tri-State director Kelly Crowley. “She was ‘goofy footed’ early in her career and had to do three approaches off to the side of drills every time she finished backwards.”
Lohmeier, who stands 6-0, not only became a top level club middle,, she transitioned to the outside at Morehead State and became a two-time AVCA All-American!
• My point, and I do have one, is that you might never be able to reach the same heights as these two, but if you work — really work — you can be the absolute best version of yourself. There’s satisfaction in that. Tremendous satisfaction.
• There wasn’t much play last weekend — these are club volleyball’s dog days — but there was some …
Capital 17 Adidas won the 17/18 division at the Juniors Grand Slam in Milwaukee over the weekend.
“Our success this past weekend came from our team’s ability to apply consistent pressure in multiple phases of the game,” noted coach Quinn Lukens. “We have aggressive and accurate servers in all six rotations; we can control the ball well out of serve receive, which consistently puts great pressure on the opposing defense; and our offense can attack an opposing team in a variety of ways: out of the middle, with tempo to both pins and with combination plays that force teams to be really good with their eyes and communication if they want to get themselves in good defensive positions.
“The core of this group has been playing together for four years at this point and they truly enjoy competing with one another. They naturally celebrate and support one another both on and off the court. That kind of team chemistry is rare and a major contributor to our on-court success. Long story short, we had all phases of the game clicking for us this past weekend in Milwaukee.”
Look for Capital, which has finished third or better in eight events this season, at AAU Nationals next month in Orlando.
Sky High 17 Elite went 5-0 to win the Sky High 17/18s division at the Central Zone finals.
Setter Maggie Duyos, who stands 5-5, ran a quick 5-1 offense and had several setter dumps. She also won several jousts against much taller players (don’t setters ALWAYS seem to win jousts?). OH Chelsea Williams was the kills leader, going around, through and over the block. Tricia Kennedy, a 6-3 MB, was the blocks leader, and second in kills with a powerful swing. Finally, 6-5 OH Campbell Paris flashed her potential by consistently hitting over blocks. She even had an overpass kill to the two-foot line!!!
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Until next time …