Daily Dots (March 2, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)
• Yesterday afternoon, in my home state of Oregon, the first volleyball result of the current school year was posted in the Beaver State: Horizon Christian (Tualatin) 3, Riverdale 0. Oregon is one of 11 states by my count that deferred high school volleyball to the winter or spring months and the first, again by my count, to start back up again.
The match was in the 3A classification. Horizon Christian was paced by its outside hitters, Alyssa Smith and Reagan Anderson, who came out swinging and were scoring at will. The Hawks have three freshmen on varsity for the season, including setter Sam McDonald, who handed out a slew of assists and scored a ton of points on her serve.
“We had a blast at Riverdale,” HC head coach Jay Lazaro said. “The Riverdale coaching staff was very accommodating and welcoming. The players were working hard and competing for every point. It was a little different with all of the precautions in place.
Lazaro said that it was especially difficult trying to talk to his players while masked.
“I had to shout for them to hear me, so the other team would hear everything I would say,” he explained.
Jesuit, the best team in the state in recent memory, gets its season underway with a 6A clash versus Southridge on Wednesday.
• The next states to try their hand at interscholastic volleyball in March are Nevada (March 5), New York (March 7) and Virginia next week. Some other states, like Massachusetts and New Jersey, were already supposed to be underway, but had yet to hold matches.
• Illinois also is scheduled to start its five-week high school season next week. Because the state has nationally competitive club volleyball, there have been tensions between high school and club programs over “competition” for players during this five-week period.
VC United in Rockford is run by Eric Schulze, who also is a high school head coach. VCU is taking a full break for the season.
“I did not want to damage relationships with high school coaches,” he said.
Adversity director Kyle Masterson said his club gave families the option to do what they wanted.
“Ninety-nine percent of families said they wanted to do both,” he explained.
To make things go more smoothly, Adversity is moving all practices to weekends only so the players are free to do high school during the week and not worry about over training.
“About a month ago we sent our plan out to every high school coach, and they were very happy and eager to help,” he said. “Most high school coaches said they will just go during the week so kids have weekends to do club with us.”
Sue Keck at 1st Alliance said the club is not shutting down, but it is not making the players, choose either.
“Most of our teams have at least one qualifier scheduled during the high school season,” she said. “We plan to have a reduced practice schedule during the high school season. Fingers crossed we all survive.”
• Continuing the mock draft top 30 countdown we started on Wednesday — college coaches 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 — here are picks numbered 10-6:
10. Averi Carlson, 5-11 S, ’22, Dallas Skyline – Baylor
9. Mari Singletary, 6-5 MB, ’23, A5 – Texas
8. Jordan Middleton, 6-2 OH, ’22, AZ Storm – USC
7. Mckenna Wucherer, 6-1 OH, ’22, Milwaukee Sting – Minnesota
6. Adonia Faumuina, 6-1 S/RS, ’22, Mizuno Long Beach – USC
• A few Dots ago, we mentioned the trend of more and more players wearing tights rather than spandex shorts when they play. Last weekend, watching Athletes Unlimited pro ball, we noticed that about 50 percent of the athletes were going the tights route, so we asked our favorite human, setter/outside hitter Cassidy Lichtman, was she went tights.
“I haven’t really worn spandex to practice in at all since college,” she said. “I normally wear shorts or sometimes leggings if it’s colder. Part of it is based on the gear itself. So like with the Nike stuff we have I don’t really like how the spandex fit that much but I really like the leggings. If it were another brand/slightly different style I could see myself choosing the spandex potentially.
“I would say a lot of players post-college go away from spandex in general though. At least when I was on the national team a low percentage of players practiced in them and overseas even fewer. I think most of it’s just a feel thing. I don’t think there’s a performance advantage either way that I can tell.”
• There are two big tournaments in the USA this weekend, both taking place in the south or south adjacent (where is Kentucky?). In Florida, the first weekend of the Sunshine National Qualifier in Orlando gets underway, with teams ages 11-14 plus 15 American. In Louisville, it’s time for the older kids (15s-18s) to do battle at Bluegrass, which annually is the most competitive two-day tournament in the country.
Top seeds this year? A5 in 15 Open and 16 Open, Circle City in 17 Open and Munciana in 18 Open.
Want to gauge just how good the fields are? Ten teams in 18 Open are in VolleyballMag.com’s current top 25. The field’s not quite as strong in California and Texas-centric 17s, with only three top 25 teams playing; but gets better in 16 Open, with five top 25 teams, and seven others that just missed, in the field. (I can’t comment on 15 Open, because our rankings won’t be out until Thursday, but it appears the No. 1 team nationally may be in the field…).
• Choosing the top 25 nationally in the 16s age group proved very difficult because of the number of very strong teams vying for the final five spots in the rankings. The two teams that I pulled out at the last second (and are in the field at Bluegrass) were Milwaukee Sting 16 Gold and Elevation 16 Butcher. Because I’ve already written their blurbs, here they are:
Milwaukee Sting 16 Gold (Wisconsin) — Two years ago, when Dave Bayer had OH Mckenna Wucherer on his 16s team, he was super bullish about his team’s prospects. That team went on to finish 15th nationally. About this year’s team he says this: “I think this team can be better than the squad I had with Wucherer two years ago. It all depends on how gritty they want to be this season.” So far on the young season, Sting has a pair of T-5 finishes at Central Zones and St. Louis. The team is led by 5-11 setter Zoe Behrendt, heavy hitting outside Sylvie Zgonic, who helped Hamilton to the Division 1 title; and a quartet of bigs who go 6-2 or taller. Middle Maddie McGrath, who stands 6-3 and is a powerful slide hitter; and Kyla Dunaway, a menacing 6-4 presence on the right; are two who bear watching closely.
Elevation 16 Butcher (Ohio) — Many players on this Elevation team contributed mightily to their high school teams in the fall. As a result, they came into the club season with more skill and greater confidence and it has shown in strong finishes both at Central Zones and President’s Day in St. Loo. Head coach Ali Butcher says that Elevation is a talented group with offensive balance, big arms, setters that run the court well and back row players with tremendous defensive range. The players to watch include setters Lindsey Green and Audrey Armbruster, defenders Sydney Breissinger and Ava Wolfer and freshman pin Mya White.
• I heard yesterday from the good folks at Triple Crown NIT. The most prestigious tournament of the year other than Junior Nationals or AAU Nationals, Triple Crown had to push its dates off of President’s Day Weekend into late May In Kansas City. Jared Rudiger, the tournament director and Director of Volleyball at Triple Crown Sports, said the tournament is a go!
“Our expectation is it is going to be a phenomenal event that we have waited 14 months to produce,” he said. “The field of teams may look a little different, due to many scheduling conflicts, but our traditional power pools and brackets will be the same. We also have partnered with MVPCast to provide streaming options and college coach viewing. We are currently at over 450 teams, with the bulk of the top clubs in the country attending in the 15u through 17u age divisions.”
• On Friday, I put out a call to club coaches to share players on their team – not stars – who have most impressed them early in the season. We received several responses from club coaches around the country. Premier Nebraska 16 Gold head coach Elise Fulcher said the player for her is 6-1 sophomore Alanna Bankston. “
She is a kid who went from MB to six-rotation outside hitter in a mere four months,” Fulcher said. “She is turning a lot of college coach’s heads and impressing us coaches as well. She has many moments where it looks like she has been playing six rotations her whole life, when really her bread and butter is in the middle.”
• On this day in 2013, I wrote a eulogy, on behalf of myself and my two sisters, for my mother, Dolly, who passed away two days earlier at age 83.
You gave your whole self, never demanding anything in return
You found joy in our joy
Your love of reading became our love of reading
You were not afraid to laugh at yourself
You were always selfless and humble and kind
Your house was always open, your table full of food. No one ever left without feeling welcome. No one ever left with an empty stomach
You granted us the freedom to find our own way
Your interest in our lives was genuine and heartfelt
You were forever our advocate and fiercely loyal
You were smart and interesting and always ready for an intense conversation
You never judged us for our foibles but rather understood that they meant we were human
You were thoughtful, often profound, and always understanding
You were made for motherhood; you provided the foundation for our lives
Your life was your family. We felt your love every day.
Your physical presence will be missed but your spirit will endure