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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.
• The Open fields for USAV’s Junior National Championships are now complete. After what seemed like forever, 17 Open has one final entrant and it’s At-Large bid recipient Top Select 17 Elite Blue. Blake Rawlins’ team accepted the bid late last week.
Top Select’s resume includes a 40-12 overall record, a No. 23 national ranking according to Advanced Event Systems, two top 10 qualifier finishes, a top five finish at Bluegrass and a 5-3 showing at the Triple Crown NIT.
This is a squad that features setter Nayelis Cabello.
• The JVA West Coast Cup completed a three-day run in Long Beach yesterday. WAVE 17 Juliana won the 17 Open division. Coast 161 Rodrigo won the 16 Open division and Arizona Storm Elite 15 Thunder placed first in 15 Open.
• The top of 17 Open was most impressive and featured a Who’s Who of potential USAV Open medalists. WAVE 17 Julianna, which features setter Shanelle Puetz, OH Julia Blyashov, RS Auburn Tomkinson and MBs Lily Dwinell, Eva Rohrbach and Ryleigh Patterson, came in first place with a 9-0 record. WAVE defeated Club V 17 Ren Reed, with OH Jordyn Harvey and freshman middle Taylor Harvey; in the semis in three sets. The team then dispatched Sunshine 17 LA, with Pittsburgh-bound hitting stars Torrey Stafford (OH) and Olivia Babcock (RS) in a three-set final.
Sunshine, which went 8-1, defeated Coast 17-1, with pins Claire Little, Noemi Glover and Bella Rittenberg; in a three-set quarterfinal; and Drive Nation 17-Red, the Ping Cao-led squad featuring Bailey Miller, Leah Ford and Reese Robins; in a three-set semifinal.
Mark my words: all five of these teams will finish at least among the top 10 in Indy.
Sunshine, whose wins over three national top six teams were noteworthy, has moved to a 5-1 run by Sydney Floyd and is thriving. Stafford led the team offensively, hitting over .350. Sunshine’s win over Coast was its first this season and the win over Drive Nation was a first for this age group.
In addition to Floyd and Stafford, Drew Wright moved to libero for the final four matches and passed a 2.5! Grace Thrower moved to the outside and was really efficient. Babcock used her serve to blister opponents and Dior Charles blocked really well.
• Coast got by WAVE 16 Brennan, 18-16 in the third, in a semifinal win on the way to the 16 Open title. Rodrigo Suelotto’s team finished 9-0 and dispatched surprising Momentous 16-Dan in the final.
Coast is led by two strong lefts, freshman Jaidyn Jager and sophomore Tiana Owens.
• Storm, the No. 1 ranked team nationally by AES in the 15s age group, overcame a Day 2 loss to Seal Beach 15 Black to win 15 Open. Jami Rolfes’ team, which captured 14 Open last year at Junior Nationals, won its other eight matches in dominating fashion.
“I am so proud of this group of girls!” Rolfes exclaimed. “We had a few up and down moments and we definitely learned how to play through adversity. In Game 2 of our semifinal match, our setter, Avery Lim, went down with an ankle injury. Our other setter didn’t make the trip due to illness. The girls rallied together and won using several different players to set out of system balls! Avery Lim was a trooper and was able to tape her ankle for the finals. We made a few adjustments and played great together as a team! This is such a fun special group! Outside hitter Devyn Wiest and middle blocker Kenna Cogill both had an amazing weekend!”
• There were some other prominent tournaments over Memorial Day Weekend, among them East Coast Championships, Emerald City Classic and South Atlantic Championships.
OJVA 17-1 Gold won the 18 Open division at Emerald City, held in Seattle. Athena VB 16-1 Gold took 16 Open and WVBA 15 Adidas captured the 15 Open division.
OJs defeated NPJ Seattle 17 National (and Rachel Dunagan) in the 18 Open final behind pins Sophie Gregoire-Salagean and Lauren Dreves and setter Mia Starr. Dreves didn’t make the All-Tournament team, because she missed Saturday action to play in the Washington State Association tennis finals (she won a state title in doubles!).
OJVA 16-1 Gold also played in the 18s division and won the Bronze Division with a 5-3 record. Vastly improved setter Elizabeth Levick, amazing libero Halle Reiter, six-rotation freshman outside Sydney Dreves and MB Hailey Heytvelt, who had a huge presence at the net, all stood out.
WVBA coach Dave Morehouse called his team’s 15 Open win at Emerald City “truly a team effort, with solid/tough serving, some great setting and hitting; particularly good connections in the middle as well.”
Outside hitter Laura Eichert, an 8th grader, was the tournament MVP.
“She has a cannon for a right arm,” said Morehouse
Victoria Gao, the team’s libero, also was excellent until being hurt in the semis during a collision with a teammate.
“The team had to deal with some adversity losing our libero before the final match since she is such vital part of our team,” Morehouse said. “The rest of the team picked up the slack and filled in for her in the LB position. Kudos to Ravenna Coleman (MH) and Georgia Terrel (OH). Again, a total team effort. Very proud of the whole group.”
Richmond Volleyball Club featured prominently at the SAC. RVC 17 National beat RVC 18 National to win the 18 Girls division. RVC 16 National finished second to Open-qualified CHAVC 17 Black in the 17 Girls Division. RVC 15 National finished second behind VA Elite 15s in the 15 Girls division.
• The East Coast Championships in Pittsburgh saw Five: 1 16 Black, a Michigan team from a relatively-new club (founded by Eric Lazowski in 2018) , win its final six matches to take 16 Beast of the East honors. Top performers included OH Sydney Stonerock, setter Taylor Smith and libero Jen Lefler, but coach and club founder Eric Lazowski said singling anyone out was difficult “because this was truly a team effort. Everyone stepped up and made huge plays when the team needed it. I am proud of their growth and competitiveness this weekend.”
ECJ 17-1, from Cleveland, won the 17 Beast of the East honors at East Coast.
“This weekend was quite the adventure,” said ECJ head coach Jordan Kortowich.
The team went 6-0 to start but knew the competition would ratchet up in the Gold bracket.
“As the girls did all weekend, they followed the 3 C’s and stayed calm, cool, and collected,” the coach said. “My girls held their own and fought for their battle to take home the W. No team is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. What my girls did this weekend to succeed all came down to pure aggression and positivity after each point whether it was earned or lost. I couldn’t be prouder of these girls.”
The win made ECJ, which also won last year, back-to-back Beast of the East champs.
“I want to give all nine of my girls credit for the outcome of the weekend,” Kortowich said. “These girls have shown me true passion and desire to win each week we practice and each weekend we play. No matter what obstacles get in the way, they ALWAYS and I mean always, find a way to achieve the wanted outcome.”
Five:1 17 Black Sandy and Five:1 17 Black Kyle tied for third in the 17 BOE Division.
17 Black-Sandy, which was led this past weekend by OH Makayla Neelands, RS Nicole Sisk and libero Kendall White (great name for a libero!), has finished third three times this season.
17 Black-Kyle posted its best finish of 2022. OH Gabrielle Stafford, libero Abby Buttigeg and setter Sarah Hauck were among those shining.
• I have a players’ panel that I sometimes consult on issues of the day. This week, with summer quickly approaching, I wanted to know what TV shows they were binge watching. Here are some programs they are into. If you’re a player, maybe you’ll want to check them out!
New Girl (Netflix) – It’s always a hoot to find out what Jess and Schmidt are up to
1883 (Amazon Prime Video) — An amazing adventure on the Oregon Trail in 1883. The main character is a young, strong female who narrates her journey through life and the old American West.
Stranger Things (Netflix) — 1980s kids with lots of mystery and involved in adventures.
All American (Netflix) — When a high school from South L.A. is recruited to play for Beverly Hills High, worlds collide.
Attack on Titan (Hulu) – A Japanese cartoon series set in a world where humanity is forced to live in cities surrounded by three enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as “Titans”
The Blacklist (Netflix) – A crime thriller featuring a former U.S. Navy officer turned high-profile criminal who voluntarily surrenders to the FBI and begins working to help it catch the world’s most dangerous criminals.
• My wife, Lisa Dunne, is a voracious reader and an editor in real life. I asked her to develop a list of recommended summertime books for you and your teenaged daughters.
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
Okay for Now and The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech
Looking for Alaska, John Green
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy Kaling. [Followed by, Why Not Me?]
Bossypants, Tina Fey
The 5-Second Rule, Mel Robbins
• Five years ago this week, I reviewed “Live Like Line,” the book by Iowa high school volleyball coach Kathy Bresnahan that would become the major motion picture “The Miracle Season,” starring Helen Hunt.
“Live Like Line” Inspires
Caroline Found was 17 years old, the kind of kid who lit up every room, when she lost control of a moped she was riding, hit a tree and died instantly. “Line” was on her way to the hospital to visit her terminally-ill mother, who would also die just 12 days later.
Line’s sudden and tragic death and how her Iowa City West high school team carried on in her memory is at the heart of “Live Like Line,” a book, written by longtime West coach Kathy Bresnahan, scheduled for release this fall at the same time as the major motion film starring Helen Hunt and William Hurt.
Line’s death occurred after the fifth day of pre-season practices in August, 2011, just seven months after the rising senior setter had guided the Trojans to their first-ever volleyball state title. The team, with six starters back, was expected to repeat again, with Line set to earn All-State recognition and a college scholarship playing the game she loved.
The telephone call came at 12:43 a.m. on August 12. Bresnahan, nicknamed “Brez,” thought news of Line’s death was another one of her practical jokes. When she learned that it wasn’t, a wave of grief descended on her. It still lingers today.
In “Live Like Line,” Brez tells the story of an entire community coming to grips with the reality that one of its shining lights has been extinguished. The first-person narrative is compelling, always honest and helps the reader gain perspective of the struggles in their own lives. If the West volleyball team can go on, if the Found family can find a way to go on under these circumstances, you can, too.
Brez takes the reader through the season, which starts with trying to find a setter to take Line’s place. No one wants the job. No one is capable of doing the job. Line was the team’s leader, its spark and spirit. She’s gone and her heartbroken team has no way to go on without her.
“We are going to be horrible,” Brez thought to herself.
Brez turns to Kelley Fliehler, Line’s best friend since they were both age 3, to be the setter, even though she has never set before. The team’s journey through the season, its struggles and successes, is nourished with plenty of laughter and plenty of tears.
The ending, which I won’t spoil, is Hollywood-esque, so it is apropos that “Live Like Line” is bound for the big screen. But don’t just watch the movie. The book is always better!
Click here to find copies of “Live Like Line,” now published as “The Miracle Season,” on Amazon.
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Until next time …