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Tawa’s Daily Dots: FCA Upstate in SC, franchise players, 2016 rankings, nicknames

Daily Dots (February 24, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

FCA Upstate is a new club in South Carolina looking to make an impact in a state where Upward Stars and Carolina Rogue have been top dogs in recent years. The head coach of the 17-1 team is Jen Calloway, who has been the head coach at USC Upstate for 23 years. Calloway says that her team has a gem in 5-9 junior OH Lauren Mims. Mims plays high school for state power Dorman and played on Rogue last season.

Lauren Mims

“Lauren is athletic, can play six rotations well, and has played in pressure matches and come through,” Calloway noted. “She is dynamic at the net and has finesse shots. She has a quiet confidence and is not a showboat while crushing it. This kid has it all. She is a gem that has yet to find her home for college. She is a program changer for someone.”

• In April and May this year, some college coaching friends helped me with a 30-player mock draft of what they considered “franchise players.” They could pick ANY PLAYER in the HS Class of 2021 or younger to start a team with, based on how good the player was projected to be as a college freshman. Note: this wasn’t a pure ranking, as different college coaches preferred different players, but a draft of some of the best and brightest in our game. Let’s count down those 30, five at a time, starting with Nos. 30-26:

30. Starr Williams, 6-3 OH, ’21, Mizuno Long Beach – Long Beach State
29. Tyrah Airial, 6-0 MB, ’21, TAV – USC
28. Cheridyn Leverette, 6-0 OH, ’22, A5 – UCLA
27. Chloe Chicoine, 5-9 L/OH, ’23, Circle City
26. Riley Buckley, 6-0 S/RS, ’22, NC Volleyball Academy — Missouri is working on its national top 25 rankings in the 17s age group, to be published on Thursday. If you’re a club coach and think you have a top 25 team and have yet to complete our form — — please get ‘er done! I know it’s a big ask, because you’ve already filled out forms for everybody else and it’s a pain. If you want to just email me ( the template you used before, I’ll take it! Anything that enhances my ability to know more about your team and its prospects for the season.

• On this date in 2016, I put out 17s club rankings for The top five teams were:

1. Encore
2. Mintonette
3. KC Power
4. San Gabriel Elite
5. Texas Advantage

On July 2, those teams were part of the 17 Open field at Junior Nationals in Indy. How did they finish up? TAV, coached by Ping Cao, won it all (of course). None of the other four teams medaled. Power tied for fifth, Mintonette got a T-11, Encore tied for 13th and San Gabriel tied for 18th.

The results beg the question: did I let everyone down by poor ranking in February or did these teams let me down by subpar performances in July? I’ll leave it to you to determine what I think…

• Before 1972, there were more men’s collegiate volleyball teams than women’s. In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act passed Congress and equalized collegiate athletic opportunity for all genders. Women’s volleyball exploded in popularity. Today, women have ten times more intercollegiate teams than men.

Elena Delle Donne has been in the WNBA for eight seasons and twice was league MVP, including in 2019. She starred in basketball as a prep player and was the nation’s No. 1 recruit as a senior and a UConn commit.

But did you know she played volleyball, too?

Four weeks into her senior year at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, Delle Donne told Raider head coach Susan Heiss that she wanted to give volleyball a try. Ursuline had a need due to an injury to its top middle and welcomed the 6-5 Delle Donne to the team.

“She was very good almost immediately,” Heiss said.

Ursuline lost only one match with Delle Donne in the middle and won the 2007 Delaware single-class state title. Delle Donne had 16 kills and six blocks in the four-set win over St. Mark’s.

Delle Donne ended up going to UConn for just two weeks before transferring to Delaware. She played volleyball (not basketball) as a collegiate freshman and was an impact player. She returned to the basketball court exclusively for the Blue Hens in her sophomore year.

• Here’s another volleyball pet peeve of mine: Any decision by a tournament director or arbitrator that punishes kids for adult decisions, like when a team has to forfeit because the chaperone doesn’t show up for the pre-tournament meeting.

JJVA 18N Daniel

JJVA 18N Daniel qualified for the USA division at Junior Nationals in Columbus by placing second at the Florida 18 Qualifier in January. This marks the 34th team to qualify from JJVA since 2012.

• Five ways that parents can help their volleyball daughters:

1. Encourage her to chase HER dream.

2. Let her drive the recruiting process.

3. Be a cheerleader for her.

4. Don’t put “full Division I scholarship or bust” pressure on her.

5. Don’t be THAT parent!

• Finally, I love bestowing nicknames on players. Ronika Stone (Encore; Oregon) was “The Blockinator.” I called Lauren Bledsoe (Mizuno Long Beach; Florida) “Big Game.” I’m going to pick a submitted club form at random now and give the entire team nicknames. The randomizer chose Aspire 17 Black. Here goes (they won’t all be gems):

Miya “Con Dios” Alvarado
Madison “Milton” Bratlie
Erin “The Balloon” Clark
Sophie “Funny” Drollinger
“Laurian” Encinas
Mahrielle “Andretti” Kaczmarek
“Sanity” Kelker
“Nyera” Kunert
“Sunshine” Neimeier
“Catcher in the” Ryan
“Lose the R” Trowers
“Just Another Brick In The” Wallace

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