Daily Dots (March 18, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• The USA Volleyball Junior Nationals Championships for 18-year-olds is slated to take place April 23-25 in Columbus, Ohio. That’s only five weeks away; yet fewer than half the teams that will populate the Open and USA fields have been identified. USAV prefers more lead time before a national championship event but, with COVID-19, you have to be nimble.

I spotlight 18 Open and 18 USA here, because each of those 48-team fields is chosen almost exclusively from National Qualifiers. The 48-team 18 National field is drawn exclusively from the 40 volleyball regions and the 64-team 18 American field will also come almost exclusively from regional picks (Approximately 14 will earn American bids at National Qualifiers).

• A total of 21 teams thus far have punched their 18 Open tickets to Columbus. Here they are, with their current ranking by VolleyballMag.com:

No. 1 TAV 18 Black
No. 3 A5 18 Scott
No. 5 Houston Skyline 18 Royal
No. 8 MAVS KC 18-1
No. 9 Premier Nebraska 18 Gold
No. 10 AZ Storm 18 Thunder
No. 11 FC Elite 18 Elite
No. 17 Milwaukee Sting 18 Gold
No. 18 Michigan Elite 18 Mizuno
No. 19 Elevation 18 Goller
No. 20 Mintonette m. 81
No. 22 OTVA 18 O Felix
No. 24 SA Juniors 18 Adidas
Bubble Circle City 18 Purple
Bubble Metro 18 Travel
A5 18 Boba
AVC CLE Rox 18 Red

AZ EVJ 18N1-Tempe
CUVC 18 Premier
OT 18 T Dexter
Top Select 18 Elite Blue

Of the highest-ranked teams thus far not qualified for Columbus, two, No. 2 Munciana 18 Samurai and No. 4 SPVB 18 Elite, do not participate in the USA Volleyball qualifier system. They are expected to compete at AAU Nationals June 18-21 in Orlando. Another eight are competing this weekend, split between Crossroads in Northern Colorado and MEQ in Louisville.

At Crossroads:
No. 6 Coast 18-1
No. 7 Tstreet 18-Kasia
No. 14 Northern Lights 18-1
No. 16 Colorado Juniors 18-Kevin
No. 12 Union 18-1 UA
No. 13 Adversity G18 Adidas
No. 15 WAVE 18 Kevin
No. 21 Tri-State Elite 18 Blue

• Because every qualification story deserves to be told, we will, from time to time, share one with you that were not able to get to before. Today, we tell you a little about how Carolina Union 18 Premier got it done in 18 Open at the “Boston VB Festival” in late February. I put Boston VB Festival in quotation marks because COVID didn’t allow the event to get anywhere near Massachusetts. Instead, it was held in Tampa, in conjunction with the Molten Florida Pre-Qualifier.

A total of 16 teams participated. Three previously-qualified teams, TAV 18 Black, OTVA 18 Felix and San Antonio Juniors 18 Adidas finished 1-2-4. SA Juniors managed fourth place despite a 3-6 overall record, which is very hard to do. The team won just one match on Day 1 but won the 1-2 tiebreaker. SA Juniors scored two wins on the second day before losing all three of its Sunday matches.

Two of SA Juniors’ defeats came at the hands of Carolina Union, one on the first day and one on the last.

Playing shorthanded, CUVC had finished one spot outside of a bid at both the Ohio Valley Qualifier and Beast of the Southeast. Coach John Brannon was set to compete in Tampa with his full roster, a team he described as among the most physical in the country.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Brannon said. “I knew there were going to be some growing pains because it was the first tournament all year in which we had our whole roster.”

It didn’t help CUVC that “Boston” started just five days after Beast and that the team’s opening pool was difficult. The team swept High Voltage and SA Juniors, but needed a 7-0 rally from down 24-19 in Game 2 versus Siesta Key Juniors to force a third set, which it also won, to sweep the pool.

“It’s actually the second time this year this team has done that!” Brannon exclaimed.

“Based on the layout the second day, we knew that if we won our first two matches, there was a very good chance we would have a bid,” Brannon continued.”

The team did just that, knocking off Top Select in three before playing its best match of our year against A5 18-Boba.  Both of those teams ended up qualifying as well.

“It was a really gratifying feeling for all of us, having been so close, and then to get our bid without having to back our way into it!” Brannon said.

“The biggest challenge now is resetting our sights to the next set of goals,” Brannon added. “This is only the second year our club has secured an Open Bid (our first was last year), and the first time for most of these girls. So it was a very, very big step!  This team has some moxie, which I like, and they are starting to believe they can compete with anyone.  That belief was never more important than in Tampa.  We are hoping to carry it forward!”

OVA 18s

• A total of 21 teams also have thus far have punched their 18 USA tickets to Columbus. Here they are:

417 Juniors 18-1
1st Alliance 18 Black
AVA TX 18 Adidas

CNVBC Mizuno 18 lb
Dynasty 18 Black
Houston Skyline 18 Black
HP Illinois 18 Elite
JJVA 18N Daniel
Miami Elite 18N1 Julie
Miami Hype 18U JC
Michio Chicago 18 National
Northern Lights 18-2
OPU 18 Adidas
OVA 18 Black
Rage-Westside 18-Jen
Revolution PGH 18 White
Rio 18 Spider
Southwest 18N TR
TAV 18 Blue
Tsunami S181E Dun
VA Juniors 18 Elite

• Because every qualification story deserves to be told, we will, from time to time, share one with you that were not able to get to before. Today, we tell you a little about how Oviedo Volleyball Academy 18 Black got it done in 18 USA at the Boston VB Festival in late February.

Head coach Jen Darty said that her 18s team set high goals and is using a combination of work ethic and team chemistry to realize them. Having strong team chemistry has been very helpful for OVA, a second-year club, because it’s experienced some tough moments in 2021. At the Florida National Qualifier, the team placed fourth. At the Florida Region Qualifier, OVA found itself in fifth.

“We were approaching the same fate (at Boston/Tampa), as we lost in the first round of bracket play,” Darty said. “We found ourselves having a similar conversation to the last few tournaments about how we need to overcome adversity and support each other in the tough moments to accomplish our goal.”

Many qualifying stories involve a little good fortune and OVA’s is no different. Two teams with bids won their first-round bracket matches, giving OVA a chance for a trickle down bid in a four-team playoff.

“The way we came together and focused on the opportunity in front of us was incredibly special,” Darty said. “I am so proud of the way they responded and worked for what they wanted. Outside hitter Cambry Pope stepped up in a big way for us along with setters Kyla Mullen and Alice Montebugnoli.

“We are headed to the Mideast Qualifier in Louisville this weekend, followed by the Northeast Qualifier. Our goal is to keep our foot on the gas pedal and continue to improve. We are looking forward to competing in Columbus!”

• There are nine National Qualifiers remaining for the 18s. Crossroads and MEQ are this weekend. Lone Star and PNQ (March 26-28) and Red Rock and NEQ (March 27-29) are next weekend. Music City at Big South (April 2-4), KC MLK at Show Me (April 3-5) and Sierra National (April 9-11) complete the schedule.

In the Open divisions, if 16 or more teams sign up for each of the nine qualifiers, up to three bids will be awarded at each. Nine times three is 27; add 27 to the teams that already have bids and that completes the 48-team field.

HOWEVER, there are two circumstances in which three bids might not be awarded at a qualifier:

1. If fewer than eight teams enroll for a qualifier, there will be no bids; 8-11 teams yield just one bid; 9-15 teams produce two.
2. If already-qualified teams hog all the top finishing spots. This is rare, as USAV rules allow for bids to “trickle down” to the top eight places or 50 percent of the field, whichever is smaller.

The rules are essentially the same for the USA division, except for field size. There must be 24 or more teams in a qualifier for three teams to receive bids.

• The 18 Open field at Crossroads consists of 21 teams. You can follow results here.

In addition to the four teams mentioned in the second Dot, above, the only other ranked team in the field is No. 9 Premier Nebraska, a second-place finisher at the Northern Lights qualifier in last January. That means a trickle no further than fourth place.

Should I make predictions? I know you want me to.

Coast, coming off of last weekend’s win at the Premier Volleyball League, is an easy pick to qualify, but they won’t win. Instead, I’ll take Tstreet to win it all. Tstreet lost twice in PVL play last week, but both were by two points in third sets. One of those losses came to Coast, so I like the revenge ploy here.

I think Premier Nebraska will finish third, leaving the fourth-place team also excited to clinch travel to Columbus. That should be Northern Lights. I REALLY like Colorado Juniors’ team, but do not think they’ve played enough to contend here.

Sleeper? Club V 18 Ren Reed, which is a very athletic, high-flying group.

• The 18 Open field at MEQ in Louisville consists of 46 teams. You can follow results here.

In addition to the four teams mentioned in the second Dot, above, other ranked teams in the field include No. 11 FC Elite, No. 17 Milwaukee Sting, No. 18 Michigan Elite, No. 19 Elevation, No. 20 m.81 and No. 22 OT Felix. In addition, AVC, Circle City and Metro, unranked teams that have already qualified in Open, PLUS Academy 18 E Rage and CVC 18 Black, both high finishers at Bluegrass, are also in the field. In other words, this field is LOADED!

With nine teams with bids playing in Louisville, there is a distinct possibility that fewer than three bids get awarded in 18 Open.

The field will be cut essentially in half so that, on Sunday, there will be four, three-team pools in Gold pool play. With so many teams already qualified, it is a virtually certainty that winning your Gold pool will clinch a bid. It is almost probable that coming in second in your Gold pool will be good enough. It’s going to be VERY exciting to see how it all plays out!

Now, understanding that I have virtually no chance of being right, it’s time to pick! I like Adversity to win it all and score one of the three bids. The win comes over the 11th overall seed, Metro, which has been playing great ball of late.

The other pool winners are Union and FC Elite, meaning Union gets the second bid. Gold second-place finishers include WAVE, Academy Rage and CVC, teams all hunting for a bid.  The team that emerges with the golden ticket is…CVC! Troy Dixon’s team is experienced and balanced and finds a way.

• The only non-18s National Qualifier this weekend is also in Louisville at MEQ. The 17 Open division there is a full field of 48, and includes seven nationally-ranked teams. Two, No. 6 Adversity G17 Adidas and No. 8 Drive Nation 17 Red, already have bids in hand. The other ranked teams include No. 2 A5, No. 9 Circle City, No. 11 TAV, No. 15 AVC and No. 20 Nebraska Elite.

Who am I picking? I like A5 over Drive Nation for the title. Adversity finishes top four, meaning the bids trickle to fifth. Academy Volleyball Cleveland takes third to snag the second bid. Circle City gets by Nebraska Elite for the final bid.

What about TAV and “king maker” coach Ping Cao? His team will have to wait for its opportunity later in the season…

Charity Bradley, Shawn’s daughter, is now a junior outside hitter at Washington State

Shawn Bradley always stood out. That happens when you’re 7-foot-6. He was tall as an All-America basketball center at BYU. He was tall during a 12-year NBA career with the Sixers, Nets and Mavericks. And he was tall watching his daughters, Chelsea and Charity, playing club volleyball. Bradley was so tall, in fact, that sitting courtside at National Qualifiers, his legs inevitably reached all the way onto the court. There was nothing he could do about it. Moreover, in convention centers filled with tall people, no one stood taller.

The Dallas Mavericks announced yesterday that Bradley, 48, was on his bicycle near his home on January 20 when he was struck from behind by a vehicle. The injuries sustained will leave him paralyzed. Bradley said that he plans to use his accident “as a platform to bring greater public awareness to the importance of bicycle safety.”

We wish Bradley and his entire family well during this difficult time and the arduous recover that awaits him.

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