Editor’s note: What a great finish to the 2022 girls club volleyball season! There was so much information from USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Indianapolis that this week’s Dots, John Tawa’s last of the season, is in two parts. This is Part 2:
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. It has been my pleasure to bring you Dots every Tuesday during the 2022 club season. Look for Dots to resume in August with the start of the fall high school campaign.

If you read Tuesday’s report, you know there was some unlikely victories in 15s at USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Indianapolis. But …

• As unlikely as Alamo’s 15 Open win was, one could argue that Madfrog 16’s Green’s national championship in 16 Open was just as unlikely. Like Alamo, the Frogs were seeded 28th out of 36 teams.

Nicky Bramschreiber’s squad placed 13th at Triple Crown and third, fifth and 11th at three qualifiers, hardly the stuff to foreshadow a national title run.

MadFrog 16s

If you knew Madfrog’s history, however, you knew that this was one of the top 16s teams in the country when healthy. The team medaled in 15 Open a year ago as the No. 2 overall seed. The 2022 season held high expectations, but the team was plagued by injuries and beset by position changes. The team handled adversity with grace and poise and stayed focused even when team goals were not being met.

There was one thing that never wavered: Their belief that the talent was there for a deep run at Nationals.

Ranked 10th nationally by AES, Madfrog’s initial seed made the team highly motivated. It did not translate immediately to wins, however. The Frogs went 1-2 on the first day. Was the seeding committee right?

Facing must-win on Day 2, Madfrog improved in serve-receive and ran a much cleaner offense and went 2-0 to advance from its opening pool. Both matches in the Frogs’ Day 3 pool went to three before the Texas side prevailed. The Frogs overcame intense defense from Puerto Rican squad Capitanas 16-1 and outlasted AAU champion A5 16 Gabe to reach the Challenge phase, where it swept an AJV 16 Adidas team that had defeated it previously.

In the Gold Bracket on Monday, Madfrog overcame 1st Alliance 16 Gold’s near perfect serve receive and incredible defense, 17-15 in the third, then found a rhythm that helped the team sweep Premier Nebraska 16 Gold in the semifinals and win the rematch with A5 for the title, avenging, of sorts, a semifinal loss in last year’s 15 Open tournament.

OHs Lainee Pyles and Avery Jackson, S/RS Carson Eickenloff and MB Katherine Mansfield were All-Tournament selections, but, as with any championship run, contributions throughout the roster contributed to team success.

“I attribute our success in the finals to the versatility of our roster, the additional post-season conditioning and mental training that our players committed to over the last eight weeks,” Bramschreiber said.

***

A5’s second-place finish prevented head coach Gabe Aramian from doubling (AAUs and USAV Junior Nationals) for the second time in his career (2016). A5 went 20-3 between the two tournaments.

A5 had won AAUs despite a sprained wrist that prevented MB Mia Hood from blocking with both hands. That proved troublesome on Day 3, after a loss to the Frogs put Aramian’s team on the wrong path to the title. Aramian made a tactical move, putting Molly Kate Patten in the middle and Avery Daum on the right side to make up for Hood’s injury and it paid off in wins over TAV 16 Black, Colorado Juniors and Dynasty!

Setters Isabella Boyd and Cooper Abney were key performers throughout for A5, giving the team a solid foundation to feed OH Hannah Benjamin for big offense. MB Logan Wiley was instrumental in the middle and Gabriella Cornier was a rock at the libero position.

***

National No. 1 Dynasty 16 Black tied Premier Nebraska for third overall. As the No. 14 overall seed, Premier’s third-place finish surely exceeded expectations.

Dynasty was the No. 1 seed and top team nationally most of the year and probably expected to be atop the podium. Cassie Rockers’ team lost two, three-set matches on Day 1 to shake them. Dynasty then swept six tough teams in a row, including Colorado Juniors 16 SherriOT 16 T Jason, Metro 16 Travel and NKYVC 16 Tsunami, and was on a roll before falling to A5 in the semifinals.

***

Colorado Juniors 16Sherri was one of four teams to finish tied for fifth. A three-set win over Vision 16 Gold in a Challenge Match propelled Sherri Hawkins’ team to the Gold Bracket, where it fell in the quarterfinals to A5.

“Our season goal was to get top 10 at Nationals and, with that Vision win, we secured a spot in the Gold Bracket,” Hawkins explained.

Libero Ella Vogel was named to the All-Tournament team. She, along with Izzy Starck, Paityn Chapman and Avah Armour, all were nominated as, together, these four, along with the rest of their teammates, willed their way to a successful season end.

“This was our last tournament together and I couldn’t be more proud of the fight and the resiliency my girls showed throughout our two seasons together,” Hawkins said. “The team affectionately called me ‘SherBear’ and gave me something to remember them by. They will forever be in my hearts and I will remember them forever. I hope that I have affected their lives as much as they have affected mine. At the end of the day, the tears I shed were not because we lost, but because I will miss being their coach and will miss the opportunity I had to work with this incredible team.”

FC Elite 16 Navy captured the title in the 16 National division. The Wisconsin team went 10-1 overall and won as the 10th overall seed to start the tournament.

FC Elite 16

FC Elite hoped to be an Open team at Junior Nationals this year after placing third in 15 National a year ago, but it was not to be. Jeff Van Lannen’s team did not come close to qualifying at MEQ (14th) and Northern Lights (17th) and finished middle of the pack at Triple Crown. The team did defeat Open-qualifier Milwaukee Sting 16 Gold for the National bid in the Badger Region, so it knew the ability to compete for a podium finish was there heading to Indianapolis.

Not only did the players know they could, they kept saying they could.

“The girls kept saying they wanted to win it,” Van Lannen said. “They said, ‘We don’t want third again.’”

The coach did not attempt to silence those words. He told the players that to win, they’d have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. They would need great chemistry, train the right way and react positively when adversity crossed their paths.

“They committed to it,” Van Lannen said. “Their goals and expectations were achieved by holding themselves accountable for all the little things champions must do.”

As championship runs go, this was one of the most remarkable.

On Day 2, FCE fell to Houston Juniors 16 Elite, a bigger, more physical team seeded fifth overall. The match ended at 15-13 in the fifth.

The players left the court believing they would beat that more athletic team in a rematch.

“Let’s remember that,” Van Lannen guided them. “We may not see them again but we will see a team like them again.”

FC Elite did see a team like HJV again. It came in the Gold Bracket quarterfinals versus Absolute 16 Black. The Northern California team, seeded first overall to start, had played to its status through eight matches to that point. Absolute was 8-0 and had not dropped a set.

The match was incredible!

Absolute won Game 1, 32-30!

Absolute led 24-18 in the second, one point from a sweep, but could not close. FC Elite rallied behind a couple of aces from S/RS Emerson Van Lannen, a big block, impossible dig and some Absolute errors.

The lights went out at 6-6 in Game 3 to decide which team would medal. When play resumed, Absolute zoomed to a 14-9 lead, one point from the win, but could not close. After a side out, libero Olivia Baierl served FC Elite to a tie score. OH Payton Carlson took some big swings down the stretch as FC Elite rallied with seven straight to win, 16-14.

FC Elite was not done rallying. The Wisconsin team dropped the first set of both the semifinal and final before prevailing.

Van Lannen said that playing clean, high quality volleyball helped FCE overcome Six Pack 16s, led by twins Payton and Jayden Petersen, in the championship match.

Carlson was named MVP, Emerson Van Lannen and OH Annalise Patchett, who came up huge near the end of the championship match both blocking and hitting, made the All-Tournament team.

“The team learned not to be indecisive,” Coach Van Lannen said. “They committed and it paid off.”

***

AZ Epic 16-Elite Mike won 16 USA despite losing a match each of the first three days. AZ Epic upset then-undefeated Miami Hype 16 Emilio in the championship match.

AZ Epic 16s

Coach Mike Lussier said that his team, which came in as the 25th overall seed, had high expectations, as the majority of the team had been together for five years.

“Our team has amazing physical gifts … the best 1-2 punch on the outside and our ball control ultimately helped get it done,” Lussier said. “We train fundamentals to the absolute extreme.”

Losing its first match of the tournament, to TAV Houston 16 Adidas, was a “blessing in disguise,” Lussier said, because it helped the team understand that every team in the tournament was going to be good.

“After battling for 3 days, and never giving up, the girls persevered,” Lussier said. “This team won at the right time and suffered some hard defeats at the right time as well. As a coach, I was so proud of their tenacity, never give up attitudes. They were a very connected team … especially on the court!”

OHs Shelly Dykstra (MVP) and Emily Pruitt led the way, with libero Rylee Elias, who’s been in the club since the age of 10, dominating the back row with amazing reading abilities, a natural platform and defense that Lussier termed “second to none.” Setter Kenna Van Hofwegen, a newcomer along with Pruitt, set a 5-1 and used tremendous athletic ability to make up for being 5-6.

“It was truly a team effort … all girls on board,” said Lussier. “The parents were so positive all year and assistant coach Natalie Player was huge for us.”

***

Union 16-1 UA, from Kentucky, went 11-0 to win 16 American. The team won its first eight matches by sweep, then was extended to three in the quarterfinals and semifinals before returning to its sweeping ways in the final versus ROCKC 16-1 from Ohio.

Union 16-1

Head coach Stephanie Cantway said that the journey from the start of the season to 16 American champs was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

“We were always slowly improving the little things but not always finding ways to win,” she explained. “Our focus on individual skills paid off in the long run but it did take us awhile to find the team chemistry while getting better technically. Serving, defense, and always trying to find a swing (improving backrow and off system attacking) were big focal points for sure!”

Union thought it would be playing in the inaugural Freedom division until NKYVC 16-1 Tsunami qualified in Open. That bumped Union up to the American division.

“We focused our goals and expectations on doing the right things and making our own ‘luck’ to find ways to win on the scoreboard going into Nationals,” Cantway said.

Union was seeded second overall and played like it for four days. Winning 16 American was the team’s first truly big win of the season.

“We won with defense, blocking and serving!’ Cantway said. “We played six of the top 11 teams so it was no easy journey. Lots of teams we played were better off in three or four rotations but we were strong in all six. Having eight players for most of the event limited my coaching choices and they thrived in knowing they had to make little changes and get it done — it was on them!”

OH Lilly Tappel, the team’s workhorse; explosive lefty RS Makenzie Wagner and libero Allie Magre, who had a dream week as a leader and passer; made the All-Tournament team, but with only nine players (eight after the first day), it was truly a team effort.

Ellie Priddy, an outside who played middle all week; OH Lauren Thomas, who passed the entire event for the first time ever; and DS Lila Norris, who played sensational defense; impacted deeply. Soo, too, did MB Bella Nottger, who added offense to her usual strong defensive game at the net; and setter Leigh Carnes.

“I can’t say enough about our setter, Leigh Carnes,” Cantway said. “She is not a flashy player. She is a ‘run through a brick wall for her team’ type of player. Her grit, defense and never say die attitude set the tone for the team and she never looked back.”

***

Club Ignit Select 16 Blue won the 16 Freedom division with a 10-1 record.

A5 Mizuno 16-Stephen prevailed in 16 Liberty with a 9-1 mark.

Ozark Juniors 16 Elite went 10-1 to capture the 16 Patriot class.

• I LOVE 1st Alliance 17 Gold and wrote a ton about this team during the club season, but had you asked me who would win 17 Open in Indy, I would have said Circle City 17 Purple, which won two qualifiers and Bluegrass. Or Triple Crown winner A5 Mizuno 17 Jing. Or Triple Crown runner up Drive Nation 17 Red, with kingmaker Ping Cao at the helm. Or 2022 AAU 17 Open champion Legacy 17-1 Adidas.

1st Alliance

Despite being the No. 1 overall seed and winner of two qualifiers itself, 1st Alliance would only have been in my next five, along with Club V 17 Red ReedCoast 17-1, TAV 17 Black and WAVE 17-Juliana.

That’s no slight to Danielle Mikos’ team. Rather, it is a nod to all the INCREDIBLE 17s teams there were in 2022.

Indeed, 1st Alliance flew under the radar all season despite losing only three matches to 17s teams all season: two closes losses to Drive Nation in a T-3 at Triple Crown and one loss to A5 at the Sunshine Classic.

“We haven’t been a top pick all season,” Mikos said. “That was our thing.”

Which is why 1st Alliance was surprised when the pools were posted and the Chicago team was the No. 1 overall seed. It’s not that the players didn’t believe they deserved it; it’s just they hadn’t been “in that conversation” all year.

So, when AES took the pools down, for more than a day, the players joked that the tournament had “come to its senses” and would be re-seeding.

“They were laughing, but not doubting,” Mikos stressed. “They knew they could hang with everybody. They knew they could win. They needed to take every match one play at a time, one point at a time and then move on to the next one.”

1st Alliance lost a match on Day 1, 15-13 in the third, to OT J 17 John, which was hot after a strong showing at AAUs.

1st Alliance was not affected. The players knew it wasn’t their best effort. They realized that this was Junior Nationals. They were told, “Don’t think you can make those mistakes and not expect your opponent to take advantage.”

1st Alliance won its final two opening pool matches to come out second behind OT, then suffered another 15-13 loss, to an AZ Revolution 17 Premier team that played incredible, to open its Day 3 pool. Every match after that was do-or-die, starting with Legacy. Legacy at the time was in the driver’s seat in the pool, having defeated AZ Revolution, 15-11 in the third.

“Thankfully, my players know Legacy from all the years and are very confident about playing that team,” Mikos said. They were very hyped up and excited that Legacy was in our pool.”

1st Alliance had beaten Legacy at Triple Crown and needed to do so again.

Not just win. Because of tie breakers, 1st Alliance had to win convincingly to assure its advance.

When the match started, the players knew it was go time. “We know how to beat Legacy.”

1st Alliance took Game 1 by nine points. The coaches, doing the match in their heads, thought that might be enough so long as the team didn’t get killed in the second set. Instead, 1st Alliance won Game 2 to sweep to first place in the pool and to sweep Legacy, one of the favorites, from contention.

The team then swept MAVS KC 17-1 in a Challenge match to make the eight-team Gold Bracket. The energy the team generated as a result of the Legacy win continued never stopped throughout the rest of the tournament and OHs Grace Egan, Kam Chaney and Kennedy Wagner had a day against MAVS that Mikos called “necessary to remind them that they are just as good as the top pins out there.”

By the time the 17 Open division at Junior Nationals had gotten down to the eight-team Gold Bracket, many of the 17 Open titans were gone. A5. Gone. So, too, were Drive Nation, Legacy, TAV and WAVE.

TAV was knocked out of contention after going 1-4 in its first pool. A5, Drive Nation and Legacy all were eliminated in the three-team Day 3 pools. A5 and Drive Nation both went 0-2 in those pools!

WAVE lost to Coast, 15-13 in the third, in the Challenge phase.

Circle City, the only team in the entire field with just one loss, fell to Club V in the Gold Bracket quarterfinals.

Club V joined Coast, 1st Alliance and young MN Select 17-1 in the semifinals.

Club V 17s

1st Alliance made the semis by sweeping Premier Nebraska 17 Gold in the quarterfinals. 1st Alliance was 3-0 versus Premier going into the match, which made Mikos nervous, but pinpoint serving and great passing from Egan, Wagner, libero Gigi Navarette and DS Vanessa Del Real helped 1st Alliance control the match and prevail, 25-21, 25-14.

Big, physical Coast was next and Mikos was very worried. Coast was tall, ultra-physical and its energy in warm ups matched that of her team.

Coast opened a six-point lead in the first set, but 1st Alliance used its ball control to climb back in with a series of mini runs. Mikos’ team slowly pulled ahead and had enough juice and control to sweep.

Coast 171

MN Select, which looked good in defeating Club V in the other semifinal, was 1st Alliance’s final obstacle. Select passed well, but 1st Alliance passed just a bit better and served just a bit better. 1st Alliance also defended Select’s big weapons; not completely, but enough to sweep to capture the first USAV Open national title in club history.

The team was led by MVP Wagner, who hit .500 with 11 kills and no errors in the final. Egan and Chaney teamed for 11 more kills in an offense beautifully choreographed by setter Jordan Heatherly, who made the All-Tournament team.

“Jordan was not just a ball distributor to the pins,” Mikos said. “She was so intelligent and deliberate with her decision making.”

Navarette, who had her best tournament ever leading the back row, also made the All-Tournament team.

1st Alliance also got contributions from MB Annie Eschenbach, who had her best moments on Day 4 with big blocks against Coast and finding the deep corners when Heatherly would find her 1-on-1; and Swiss army knife middle Kamryn Lee-Caracci, who was huge from the service line and matched Chaney for the tournament with 19 blocks.

Mikos said that winning the title meant a lot in a very competitive market.

“We’re in an area where volleyball teams can get watered down,” she explained. “You just do the best you can and hope the better players stay with you because of culture and training. You then put your head down and go to work every day, which is what this team did.”

***

MN Select was the No. 15 overall seed in Indy but was playing better than that, thanks to a strong showing at AAU Nationals a couple of weeks before. Select tied for fifth down in Orlando, but it’s only two losses were by 15-13 scores in the third set.

Like 1st Alliance, Select had been a quiet team during qualifier season, a formidable squad but one that could be dangerous of they could just flip a couple of points per set.

Day 1 in Indy was key for George Padjen’s team. Select went 3-0 in Pool 3, defeating the teams that would finish 2-3-4 behind them in the pool, including Drive Nation, the No. 3 overall seed.

MN Select went 2-0 in its Day 3 pool versus tough KC squads KC Power 17-1 and Dynasty 17 Black.

“From there the team really began to hit its stride in our challenge match, the quarters, and semis before running into a great champion in 1st Alliance,” noted club director Scott Jackson.

Some of the keys to the team’s success were a strong serve and pass game, and a balanced, unpredictable offense run by sophomore Stella Swenson, a recent Minnesota commit. Select also leaned heavily on pin Sydney Schnichels in big spots, and played tenacious, balanced defense.

Others who stepped up included Avery Bolles, as a 6-rotation outside; Kate Thibault, who was her usual was extraordinarily competitive self from the libero position; middles Kaia Caffee and Kate Simington, OH Olivia Swenson and DS Sophia Johnson. All made significant contributions, especially in the Gold Bracket.

***

Coast tied for third thanks to a transcendental performance from its back row duo of Sydney Bold and Brooke Yelland.

In the days leading up to Nationals, Bold was feared to have suffered a concussion after being “lit up” by a ball in practice. She was cleared to play and neither whiplash nor a stiff neck prevented the Princeton-bound athlete from playing her best ball of the season.

“From start to finish, Syd brought an elite-level performance and raised the confidence of everyone around her,” said coach Ozhan Bahrambeygui. “There wasn’t a shot or crush that Syd did not get a hand on. On a team filled with breathtaking athletes like Noemie Glover, Claire Little and Brooklyn Briscoe, recognitions for defenders can be hard to come by. But Syd led the way for our squad and earned All-Tournament honors.”

Yelland’s “do it all” game contributed kills out of the backrow and stepped in to feed Coast’s hitters “dishy” long-distance sets for big points.”

Up front, Briscoe took her game to a new level at Junior Nationals. The UCLA recruit was absolutely dominant on the slide, and brought a net presence that had even “basketball only” dads saying “she’s goes hard in the paint,” Bahrambeygui recounted. Briscoe led the team in kills and hitting percentage and received All-Tournament honors for the effort.

The biggest moment for Coast came on Sunday night in the Challenge Match versus WAVE, the club’s biggest rival located just four miles down the road. Coast played without dominant outside Claire Little, the BYU recruit who does not play on Sundays, but managed to eke out the win thanks to great efforts from Cate SchnellMilan Bayless and Glover, the latter of whom played her best match of the season. The Oregon-bound RS put down show-stopping kills and blocks and set the stage for a Briscoe kill at 14-13 that was so powerful, Bahrambeygui said “it kept the younger COAST players that were watching from sleeping that night.”

***

Club V came to Indy hoping to fly home with a medal and that’s just what happened after the Utah squad took down Circle City in the quarterfinals.

“We won the right matches at the right times,” noted coach Reed Carlson. “We were down an opposite in Liv Ruy, who provides a big block and a bunch of offense, but others stepped up and our middles played incredibly well.”

OH Jordyn Harvey and MB Taylor Harvey both played very well to earn All-Tournament honors. Levani Key-Powell played huge on the outside and provided much needed ball control. Silina Dumuni stepped up big playing on the right and setting. Ireland Mcnees tweaked her ankle on Day 1 and Taliah Lee stepped in and did great. The team also got terrific back row efforts from its defense – Kambree Rodriguez and Brielle Miller – and Madi Standifird filled in admirably on the outside when needed.

• Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold went 10-1 and swept its final three matches to capture the 17 National division.

***

Dallas Skyline 17 Black overcame two opening pool losses, including a loss in its first match, to prevail in 17 USA.

It’s first-place showing matched its victory in USA at the Lone Star Qualifier.

Skyline 17 Black

“I thought we would do well and have a chance to medal if we played well,” said coach Whitney Sample. “We had several injuries during the month of May and beginning of June, so we were dealing with that and trying to manage bodies getting healthy. The team bonded so quickly this year, started off really strong then had some ups and downs before hitting its stride at Lone Star.”

Sample said that Skyline hit its stride on Day 3and peaked between that day and Day 4.

“They weren’t tired and they stayed loose and relaxed but focused,” Sample said.

Skyline defeated Sky High Elite 17 Adidas in two for the title.

“It was such a fun match to watch, seeing them pull together,” Sample said. “Everyone was on the same page and ready to do their part.”

OH Kenna Buchanan was the MVP, while libero Jenna McMichael and RS Kennedi Wright made the All-Tournament team. MB Ansley Denison and Hannah Redrow, OH Karly Wells, setters Morgan Howard and Emory Hinckley and right sides Leah Oweyole and Taylor Fogliani all contributed to the championship run.

***

Iowa Select 17 Mizuno went 11-0 to win the 17 American division. Starting as the No. 8 overall seed, Iowa Select defeated second-seeded NKYVC 17-1 Tsuunami in three sets for the title.

“The expectations going into Nationals were simple,” said coach Emily Thebeau. “Compete to our highest level and end this long season on a high note, playing well and having fun!”

Iowa Select had been competitive all season, but had never ended a tournament the way it new it could.

“We played in the USA division at qualifiers all season long and competed very tough in them, with our highest finish being 5th at the Northern Lights,” the coach explained. “Our bid came from regionals. We received a trickle-down bid to Freedom first, then the region received another reallocated bid, so we upgraded to the American division bid for Nationals.”

Each day in Indy, Iowa Select made, and conquered, small goals. The idea was to focus on the here and now, taking it point by point and match by match.

“The team’s mindset was so tough,” Thebeau marveled. “Nothing was going to stop them from getting to the Gold Bracket.”

In Gold, a quarterfinal win over Revolution PGH 17 White helped bolster the team’s confidence.

“Our semifinal match [against IowaPowerPlex 17U Black] motivated the team even more,” Thebeau said. “The team we faced was from our region, and we had lost to them in bracket play back in regionals! We knew it was going to be a massive task but having that tiny bit of motivation behind us pushed through the first set. Once the team could feel the finals, there was no slowing them down in the second set!”

Iowa Select adopted the mindset of, “What do we have to lose?” facing NKYVC for the Gold Ball.

The team split the first two sets before dominating the third from the start.

Asked who stood out for her team, Thebeau was quick and clear.

“We would NOT be National Champs if any of the women were missing from this roster! Every single athlete played a major role in this accomplishment! Our opposites, Ava Schubert (MVP) and Caylee Brandes, had dominating matches. Ava is a big leader for us; she really knows how to get the team fired up. Caylee had some amazing moments of scoring huge, TOUGH points to finish some matches! Our middles were lights out this weekend. Biggest weekend they have had combined. Delaney Graves (All-Tournament) has always been a consistent piece to our puzzle and the setters know she is reliable in any situation. Delaney also knows how to inspire her teammates as a leader and that helps in big situations. Izzy Van De Wiele is our biggest blocker, and she made her biggest mark this weekend. She showed up to play at Nationals, scored very effectively and blocked at all the right moments!

“Our outsides, Emily Goodpaster and Mckenna Blackwell, have been very consistent in passing, attacking and defense. They both know how to make big plays in crucial situations. Mckenna is a fiery energy that feeds the court and Emily is our calm and collected energy that helps the consistency of our flow.

“Our setters, Gigi Tertipes and Emma Schermerhorn, had such an amazing weekend. They both have learned and grown so much this year and, without their consistency, we wouldn’t be the team we are. They are great defenders, great servers, control the flow of the match, and give our attackers confidence!

“Lastly, our defensive specialists, Megan DePoorter (All-Tournament) and Karin Fowler, played their hearts out this weekend. We felt confident when balls were served to them and they both had major plays in multiple matches. Megan has consistently been our starting libero all season and her play in semis and finals showed that. Fowler, our DS, has embraced the middle back position and has really come confident and strong in all the moves she makes. Like I said, all 10 athletes were instrumental to this win!”

***

Wildfire Brian 17, from Florida, went 11-0 to win 17 Freedom.

Tx Legacy 17 Elite fashioned a 10-0 mark in taking the 17 Liberty division.

Finally, Empowered 17 Elite Black overcame three losses to prevail in 17 Patriot.

• Five1 athletics had their Black teams all place fifth in 15 Freedom, 16 Freedom and 17 Freedom. All three teams were seeded in the bottom third of their respective tournaments, making their strong finish that much more impressive.

“Well done, teams,” noted director Sandy Catalano. “It’s been a long, challenging season, but the results speak for themselves. Those who put in consistent work will reap the rewards.”

***

The Academy 14 HP Danielle, from Northern California, had a dream run to a silver medal in the 14 National division in Indy. This team had never finished top half in previous efforts at Junior Nationals and hadn’t made the top bracket at any qualifiers in 2022 before their magical run at the end of the season.

That team got to play on Stadium Court!

“It was so fun to watch them warming up on the biggest stage, laughing while the speakers blasted hype music, parents dancing in the stands, all the goodness leading up to the final,” noted a parent who was tasked by the coaches to summarize the team’s experience. “They got the full star treatment — Olympic song playing during the intro/walk-in ceremony, live emcee announcing each player’s name, play by play commentary throughout the match. It was all so special.”

Thanks, club volleyball!

Until next time, when it will be high school season …

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