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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.

• One week from Wednesday, in Orlando, the 49th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championship will begin. The first session will include 10-14 year olds plus the 18s. On June 19, the 15s and 17s storm the court. The 16s start on June 23.

Three Open champions from 2021 will be back to defend their age groups: Munciana 15 Lorax (14 Open champs a year ago), VCNebraska 16 Elite and Legacy 17-1 AdidasOT 18 T Chad, which won 17 Open last year as OT 17 T Jason, will not compete. That team finished its 2022 season at USAV’s Junior National Championships late in April, where it placed 13th out of 48 teams.

AAUs was a fun, sleepy tournament that grew into a behemoth when the Junior Volleyball Association decreed, more than a decade ago now, that it would be the JVA’s season-ending tournament of choice. It now is a must-attend event for college recruiters and one of, if not the, biggest girls volleyball events in the nation.

• Munciana is a solid choice to win the 15 Open division. Sarah Roush’s Lorax are 52-12 on the year and won the Mideast Power League.

VCNebraska 16 Elite heads to Orlando with a 36-8 record. It built momentum to defend in Orlando with a May win at the Midwest JVA Challenge.

Legacy fashioned a 52-10 record during the regular year, but didn’t quite show the dominance of a year ago. Jennifer Cottrill’s team had finishes outside the top 10 at both Triple Crown and the Sunshine Volleyball Classic national qualifier in Orlando and won only one major event in 2022.

• Fortunately for Legacy, its one big win came last weekend at the JVA Summerfest in Columbus. The team overcame a Power Pool loss to Top Select 17 Elite Blue, the At-Large entrant into 17 Open at Junior Nationals; to win out. Legacy too down AVC CLE Rox 17 Red in a three-set semifinal, then swept Adidas KiVA 17 Red in the championship match.

AVC 17s

Cottrill attributed Legacy’s slow start to not playing with a full roster since mid-April.

“We had steady improvement throughout the entire tournament with a dominating performance in the finals versus a much-improved KIVA 17 Red team,” she said. “I loved the power pools as we got seven extremely competitive matches over two days. It was great preparation moving forward for Nationals.”

OH Harper Murray, one of the nation’s elite attackers, showed off her pedigree by recording 115 kills (hitting .375) over 16 sets. Cottrill described her as  was “an absolute BEAST” and added that she also led Legacy with a 2.24 serve-receive average.

Other standouts included middle Laurece Abraham , who was really efficient with 64 kills (hitting .401), with 17 blocks); and 6-1 RS Olivia Gardner, who produced 36 kills and 21 blocks.

KiVA was off for a month before Summerfest, so it’s no surprise that the Power Pool to start was a challenge. Anne Kordes’ team battled to a 1-2 record on Day 1 then won three straight to get to the finals before losing for a second time to Legacy.

“We benefited by having our weaknesses exposed early in the tournament,” Kordes remarked. “I am proud of the entire team for the competitiveness they showed on Sunday. I love the Summerfest tournament as it’s a great warm up for AAUs.”

Academy Cleveland went 5-1 over the weekend with just three dropped sets, its best showing of 2022.

“My team is the perpetual underdog this year,” noted coach Mer Gromala. “We aren’t as physical or as flashy as others in this class. But the team is resilient and eager and continues to overachieve and get better, even this late in the season!”

Gromala said that strong defense, both at the net and in the back row; tempo in transition and strong service pressure were keys to AVC’s success.

Setter Lauren Yacobucci, libero Laney Klika, MB Alli Bedrick and OH Kira Holland led the way.

Gromala also stressed her team doesn’t succeed without all 13 players on the roster.

“We are the kind of team that usually utilizes every single player we have to win, unlike our opponents who have one or two big arms,” she explained. “This weekend we were able to get contributions from everyone on the team (all 13).”

NKYVC 17s

NKYVC 17-1 Tsunami matched Academy Cleveland in third place and was the only team outside of the two, four-team power pools to medal. Mike Bryant’s team earned the final spot into the Day 2 Gold Bracket, as the highest finishing second-place team behind East Coast Power KOP; then got two of its best wins of the season, over Top Select and Mintonette m.71, to reach the semis.

“We had big contributions from all athletes at different times, we saw a big return on some of the things we have been working on in practice, and we played with resilience and good composure to overcome big deficits and late-game pressure,” Bryant said. “It was a complete team effort as we found good balance in our pins and with service pressure and defense, but we ran out of steam against a big and physical KIVA team.

Among the standouts for NKYVC were libero Kayla Hosteter, whose service put constant pressure on opponents and who was incredible defensively; and pins Sydney Nolan, Ava Siefke and Peyton Mast. Mast, playing on the right, took big-time swings and hit .329 for the event. Nolan played big at the net defensively from the outside, while Siefke played consistently in six rotations, passed well, served well and took the most swings.

• FaR Out 18 Black went 5-0 (10-1) to win what coach Joe Steenhuysen said was an 18s division field at Summerfest that wasn’t as strong as hoped.

Maradith O’Gorman led the charge on the outside, both passing and attacking, and scored at key points in the semis and finals. Kennedy Louisell, the team’s L2, was solid on serve receive and defense all weekend, leading the team in passing with a 2.1 efficiency over the weekend. Junior middle Kennedy Arp along with senior libero Carlina Bender played solid as well all weekend.

FaR Out 18s

“The team is headed to AAUs in eight days and looks forward to competing and finishing out the year,” said Steenhuysen. “The seniors have put in a lot of work this season and the previous years and I feel they are ready to compete at their highest level during AAUs. It’s been a fun group to coach and they have worked hard all year with the intent to get better each day they come into the gym.”

• Metro 16 Travel continued its dominance this year (77-4 overall record) with a 7-0 showing against a tough 16 Open Summerfest field. Metro won the event despite four times being taken the distance, including in the semifinals over Rockwood Thunder 16 Elite and in the championship match against NKYVC 16-1 Tsunami.

“It was a wild ride in Columbus,” coach Sam Danai said.  “I’m very proud of the team.  We had a last-minute injury to a major starter and had to reconfigure the entire lineup.  The team responded well.”

Danai said that Metro several times had to overcome early deficits to motivated teams.

“After we picked ourselves up off of the canvas, we were able to collectively respond and fight back with some success,” he added.

Freshman OH Cari Spears averaged five kills per set (hitting .380) and passed 2.13. Fellow OH Emmi Sellman averaged 4.6 kills per set (hitting .300) and passed a 2.1.

“Both pins took big time swings in pressure moments and helped guide us to victory,” Danai said.  “Credit to the team for its fast adaptation to a completely new lineup and system.  We literally didn’t practice any of it one time.”

Danai also took time to celebrate the entire team and the experience he’s had coaching them this season, saying, “This has been a fun season and I’m sad that things are coming to an end in the next couple of weeks.”

Coach Tyler Collins was happy with NKYVC’s effort in taking second.

“This weekend was a major showing of the team’s grit and ability to execute during high pressure times,” he explained. “Each player stepped up in many different ways, which all contributed to the success we had.”

Solid blocking up front by Lily Hamburg and Julia Hunt gave the defense in the back row room to work. Elizabeth Tabeling, Kaleigh Frietch and Macy Lentz all contributed difficult digs and hustle plays, which allowed setter Abby Yoder to run the offense and have her choice of matchups. Hunt, Alivia Skidmore, Lilly Gillespie and Sydney Barrett all put the ball away in critical situation.

“The high energy of these plays truly contributed to our success in the tournament,” Collins said.

Rockwood and Tri-State Elite 16 Blue both lost in the semifinals to tie for third.

For Rockwood, the theme of the weekend was ball control.

“A solid first contact and strong blocking at the net from right sides Emma Parker and Jordyn Smith allowed us to control the dominant outsides we came across during weekend play,” noted coach Shane Weber.

Blocking has been a point of emphasis for this group and hard work in that area paid off this past weekend.

“Being a smaller team that relies on ball control and tempo, our improved block has only added to our success,” Weber said. “Setters Alyssa Nelson and Morgan Dumm were very good keeping teams off balance, while defensive players Olivia Hasbrook and Mia Moser kept the ball off the floor and in our setter’s hands consistently.”

• Legacy 15-1 Adidas won 15 Open at Summerfest, with Mintonette m.51 second and Adidas KiVA 15 Red and Eastside Cleveland Juniors 15-1 tying for third.

Mintonette was 6-1 and hadn’t dropped a set before falling to Legacy, 22 and 20, in the championship match.

“I’m proud of the progress these girls are making in May,” said coach Stephanie Grieshop. “Legacy is such a strong team and we continue to give them a fight. The girls are focused on being the best for Indy, so they took Summerfest as an opportunity to prepare.”

OHs Presley Stokes and Teagan Ng led the way for Mintonette. Stokes was very good both offensively and controlling the ball. Ng, the team’s leader, was a strong offensive weapon.

MB Taylor Bahnub, a go-to attacker in and out of system; and libero Keira Steininger, who served and dug with distinction, were other standouts.

• Gabby DiVita is a 6-1 outside for the Legacy team that prevailed at Summerfest. She also is an eighth grader and future star to get to know.

Gabby DiVita

DiVita, who will attend Grosse Pointe South HS in Michigan in the fall, is a six-rotation outside hitter with a lethal arm who can terminate from anywhere on the court. She also had advanced ball control for someone so young and long.

’26

We asked coaches this week to tell us about rising HS freshman (Class of 2026) expected to make immediate impacts on their varsity teams during the fall season. DiVita was mentioned most often, but she wasn’t the only one. In this Dot and the next three, we take a look at some eighth graders who could be household names on the high school scene as early as this season.

Other pin hitters

Joy Udoye, 6-1 OH, Texas Fury 17-1 – Udoye, who plays up several age groups, will attend Cedar Park HS.

Joy Udoye

A college coach described her as a “smooth mover” with a “fluid arm,” and added, “She is physically mature for her age. which allows her to play up a few age groups.” She should be a primary passer and offensive weapon in six rotations for coach Lori McLaughlin at Cedar Park.

Calista Foster, 5-8 OH, The Academy Boiler Juniors 141 E Gold – Foster is a two-time AAU MVP, a six-rotation player with power and a competitive drive that in part of everything she does on the court.  She will play for Benton Central in Indiana.

Cara Richter, 6-0 OH, Elevation 14-1 – A good jumper with a fast arm swing, Richter terminates with the best of them in this class. She should be a force for Ohio power Mount Notre Dame.

Riley Malloy

Riley Malloy, 6-3 OH, Austin Skyline 14 Royal – Malloy will attend Austin HS. She is a six-rotation pin with the ability to pass with range and attack at a high level.

Josie Imes, 5-9 OH, Team Indiana 14.1 – Imes is an explosive athlete who gets off the ground easily and has a heavy arm. She’s a gym rat with a high motor who consistently wants to work on all aspects of her game. Look for Imes to be a difference maker for Zionsville HS in the fall.

Ella Andrews, 6-2 OH, Legacy 15-1 Adidas – Andrews plays middle for Legacy but will play outside for Grosse Pointe South, the same school that DiVita will attend. Andrews is a great athlete with superior ball control. She plays high above the net with a wicked arm swing. With Andrews and DiVita on the pin, Grosse Pointe South will have one elite front row terminator in every rotation for the next four years.

Elena Hoecke, a 6-2 middle for MN Select 15-1, played varsity as an eighth grader last year at Centennial HS and was Honorable Mention All-Conference. She is long and explosive and has a massive presence already, both offensively and defensively.

Other middle blockers

Nadi’ya Shelby, 6-0 MB, AVA Texas 14 Adidas – Shelby, who touches 10-6, will play for Friendswood this fall, an could be the missing piece that propels the Mustangs deep into the 5A playoffs. Shelby is a physical blocker and elite athlete with massive upside.

Reese Resmer, 5-10 MB, The Academy Boiler Juniors 141 E Gold – A multi-sport athlete with leaping ability and great explosiveness, Resmer can close a block in a flash and hits the ball straight down on offense, which makes her unstoppable. She will attend Noblesville HS.

Lynne Tarnow, 6-4 MB, Lions 14-1 – A huge block in the middle, Tarnow also runs a slide like a 16U player. She can serve and is not afraid to take a swing from the back row. Benet HS will benefit hugely by her presence.

Britni Silver, 5-10 MB/OH, East Carolina Junior Volleyball Club 14 National – Silver touches 10-1 at age 14 and has the athleticism to play six rotations with her solid defense and serve receive ability. She has a very quick arm swing and great blocking footwork. Look for her to impact traditional power DH Conley HS in very short order.

Kayla Nwabueze, 6-2 MB, Legacy 14-1 Adidas – Nwabueze is a very athletic and physical middle who moves laterally at lightning speed and plays waaay above the net. She will be a dominant terminator and blocker for Bloomfield Hills HS.

Elli Strecker, 6-2 MB, Team Indiana Elite 14.1 – Strecker is a long, quick-twitch athlete who only started playing club last year. She’s a natural blocker with a smooth approach and high reach. A natural competitor, Strecker should be an impact performer for Zionsville HS.

Niki Bulotavic, 5-10 S, Lions 14-1 – Bulotavic is athletic and runs all over the court saving balls and putting up great sets. She attacks from the front row aggressively and puts up a mean block. Bulotovic should star for Elmwood Park in the fall.

Other setters

Sydney Lund, 5-11 S/RS, Austin Skyline 14 Royal — Lund should step in and help Dripping Springs HS immediately. She has the ability to set and attack at a high level and probably isn’t done growing. Her sister, Madi Lund, is a 6-3 MB at West Virginia.

Makenna Kirlin, 5-7 S, Elevation 14-1 — Kirlin runs a 5-1 offense like a seasoned veteran. She has beautiful hands and is strong enough to set pin to pin in a tempo offense.  Kirlin will attend Loveland HS.

Lexi Shondell, 5-6 S, The Academy Boiler Juniors 141 E Gold — Another future star for state champion McCutcheon HS, Shondell has been taught well – she is a Shondell after all – but, more importantly, she has put the teaching into action. An amazing setter, Shondell runs a good offense and also plays terrific defense. She is a leader and team-first type player.

Reagan Turk, 5-5 libero, Team Indiana 14.1 — Turk is a lockdown defender with smooth technique in serve reception. Her quick feet and relentless attitude make her a huge asset to any defense. She should be the backbone to Roncalli’s back row for the next four years.

Other defenders

Ella Grimes, 5-9 libero, Elevation 14-1 – Grimes will likely play six rotations at Ursuline Academy, but she loves being a club libero. She reads as well as most varsity liberos and has the ball control you’d expect her to have as she’s a beach stud too!

Ellie Hepler

Ellie Hepler, 5-5 libero, The Academy Boiler Juniors 141 E Gold – Warsaw Community is getting a great one in Hepler, an AAU All-American and team captain good in all phases in the back row.

Alain Burns, 5-7 libero, MN Select 15-1 – Burns started on the outside for Watertown-Mayer as an eighth grader. She is an outstanding all-around talent, and puts her skills to good use as a club libero playing up one year.

Note: If you are a coach or director and wanting to contribute, I seek input every Monday for these Dots and tomorrow’s Dream Team via bulk email. You can get on the email lists by subscribing (for free) at these links:
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Until next time …

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