Daily Dots (March 10, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)
• While epic battles were raging last weekend at Bluegrass and Tour of Texas, the 15s and 16s in Southern California were waging their own battles through the nascent SCVA-sanctioned Premier Volleyball League, which is branded as “Junior Volleyball Redefined.”
The PVL was conceived with the idea of helping Southern California teams stay relevant in a national club landscape that has seen the rest of the country catch up to the once dominant region. Once a month in each age group, teams come together and test themselves against teams at their level in a format that is designed for efficiency.
• If the 15s and 16s finals are any indication, the PVL seems to be working. The 15s title in Tournament #3 was decided in a championship match that went 27-25, 28-26. The 16s title in Tournament #3 was decided in a 32-30, 28-26 final!
• For two days, at a beautiful wood-court facility in Lake Forest, the top 14 teams competed in two seven-team power pools to determine who would make the final. National No. 3 WAVE 16 Alfee went 6-0 in Power Pool 1, including a sweep of No. 10 Coast 16-1, to finds its way to the championship. Tstreet 16-Curtis reached the final from Power Pool 2, but had a much tougher time. The No. 7 team in the country lost to a Viper 16-Jo team that only beat Tstreet and was extended to three two other times.
• The championship match was intense and could have gone either way. WAVE libero Katerina Lutz was a catalyst with strong serves that took Tstreet out of system and digs that defied explanation. Watching the video stream, others from WAVE who really shined included setter Nicole Quinn, MB Eva Rohrbach and OH Julia Blyashov. It was a little harder to see Tstreet’s side of the court, but MB Madyson Smith’s blocking and the left side attacking of Maia Niemen and Julia Waugh stood out.
• WAVE earned the first set point in Game 1 on a power swing from the 6-3 Blyashov, one of the nation’s top recruits in this class. Niemen tooled the block for Tstreet to send the match to overtime and what an overtime it was! Tstreet would have four set points and WAVE three more before WAVE would prevail on successive Blyashov kills. The point of the set, however, came with Tstreet leading 30-29 after a Sidney Shaffer kill. Quinn had to go horizontal to keep a shanked first contact off the floor and ended when Blyashov and Cayla Payne got together on a game-saving double block.
In Game 2, Blyashov again earned set point for WAVE with a shot from the left. The game didn’t last as long as the first but it was bound for extras after a net call on WAVE negated a notable Lutz dig, one of many for her in the match. With WAVE leading 27-26 after a Payne kill, Quinn dished to lefty OH Tehya Maeva, who slammed a southpaw swing through the block for the clincher.
• “It’s always an emotional battle every time we face TStreet,” noted Kevin Hodge, one of WAVE’s coaches. “They are extremely well coached and those athletes can bring it. Everyone seems to step up, which is great to see late in a tournament. It felt like a heavyweight fight where we were both swinging at each other the entire time. Neither team let down as we went into extra points in the first set. Both groups wanted to win and the fight was tight. Both teams were grinding and the ball didn’t find the ground easily on either side.
“It really could’ve gone either way. A couple of block touches and defensive pickups put us in control and got us those extra few points. I’m sure future battles will be an entertaining back and forth again and this group looks forward to that. Collective team effort and a balanced offense is what I believe pushed us through in the end.”
• The 15s final also pitted WAVE against Tstreet. National No. 3 WAVE 15 Juliana made the championship by going 6-0 in Power Pool 1, including wins over No. 10 Coast 15-1 and No. 12 Mizuno Long Beach 15 Rockstar C. No. 4 Tstreet 15-Chris won Power Pool 2 with a 5-1 record, just ahead of 4-2 teams Viper 15-1 Mauro and City Volleyball 15-Stef.
• City Volleyball was the lone team to defeat Tstreet 15-Chris and it did so in sweeping fashion, a tremendous result for a second-year club. City standouts included OHs Danica Rach and Mila Mijailovic, middle Madeline Way and setter Althea Morris.
Stefanie Wigfall, the head coach at Sierra Canyon and a longtime Sunshine VBC coach, started City in July, 2019, to serve the San Fernando Valley. Her goal was as much about female empowerment and inclusion as it was about playing competitive volleyball, and she’s managed to do both in a very short time. City’s 12s, 14s and 15s are all among the top teams in the region.
“It is my hope to be the top club in the Valley, where I feel like high-level volleyball has been missing as compared to LA and the South Bay,” Wigfall said.
• The 15s final, like the 16s, saw both sets go to extra points. Tstreet OH Sofia Williams was a rock star at the end of the first set. She helped Tstreet turn around a 21-17 deficit and had three kills late, one to help Chris Sisson’s team stave off set point and two others to create set points for Tstreet, which won, 27-25, on an ace from setter Victoria Turner.
Tstreet had two match points in regulation of Game 2 before WAVE’S 6-2 middle, Jenna Hanes, made her presence felt, first going cross body on an Amanda Saeger set and then teaming with RS Ayva Moi for a tying block. Tstreet kept the pressure on and earned three more match points in extras, thanks to kills from Julia Kakkis and Gabriella Gubbins. The first two were denied by WAVE kills from Hanes and Ivanna Rivera-Vargas but WAVE couldn’t save the third, as a left side swing ticked the net before going wide to give Tstreet the win.
• “This weekend was the third time we had met WAVE in the championship match of the four PVL tournaments we’ve participated in this season,” Sisson noted. “WAVE got us in the first two, but we were able to come out on top this time.
“We were led by the play of Sofia Williams, who had an attack percentage of .428 from the outside to go along with 15 digs. The team played great defense all match long, getting great block touches from everyone at the net and strong ground defense and passing from our libero, Annah Legaspi, in the second layer.”