Daily Dots (March 29, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)
• As I sit down to write this, there are qualifiers in Philly (NEQ) and Vegas (Red Rock Rave) with Monday finishes. History has yet to be made. Stories remain to be told. It’s all so exciting! We’ll have all the deets later in the week.
• Lone Star, which hosted only 18s this week, did wrap up yesterday, as did MEQ, which completed its three-week run with the youngsters (whom we don’t cover) and those playing in the 15 USA and 15 American divisions, whom we do.
At Lone Star, Tstreet 18-Kasia, which took second at Crossroads last week, won 18 Open over SA Juniors 18 Adidas, which also had qualified previously at AVC-Dallas. Two other teams with bids, Houston Skyline 18 Royal and AZ Storm Elite 18 Thunder, placed third and fifth, respectively, meaning bids trickled to seventh place. Golden tickets eventually went to Club V 18 Ren Reed, TAV Houston 18 Black and Dallas Skyline 18 Royal.
In 18 USA, already-qualified teams Texas Pistols 18 Black and Texas Image 18 Asics Black, finished first and third, respectively. Thus, bids trickled to five places. Houston Juniors 18 Premier, AP 18 Adidas and Instinct 18 Wild Gold, all Texas clubs, came away with trips to Columbus in their futures.
CC Force 181 Crossfire went 10-0 to win 18 American. This is a strong squad folks, and could win American in Columbus if it stays in this division.
• I have already received reports back from the top three 15 USA finishers at MEQ, so let’s tell those stories now.
The 15 USA division had 61 teams in it. An amazing nine teams lost only one time. Only three scored bids to Las Vegas but the other six deserve recognition here:
KC Power 15 Red went 7-1 but lost out on a three-way tie for first on day 1 and finished T-33, its only loss to ninth-place finisher HP Illinois 15 National.
All four teams that finished T-5 lost their only match of the tournament in the quarterfinals. For Oklahoma Peak Performance 15-1, which lost to the eventual champions, those were the only two sets dropped over three days. MAVS KC 15-2, which already has a National bid through the Heart of America Region; Mizuno Club North 15-1 and Rockwood Thunder 15 Navy each lost a total of just three sets. Impressive work, ladies!
MAVS KC 15-1, coached by Kelley Kelley (yup, not only the same name twice but the same spelling!), also lost just once, going 8-1 in tying for third. The loss was in three sets in the semifinals to Dynasty 15 Blue. In case you’re wondering (I was wondering!) why there wasn’t a playoff to determine third place, MAVS 15-1 already has a National bid, which is higher in the higher-archy (my new spelling of the word; just makes sense to me) than USA according to the Qualifier Manual. Thus, bids to first place Momentum 15 Rachel, second to Dynasty Blue and T-3 A5 15-LA.
• Seeded 26th to start, Momentum, a club located just south of Denver, came to St. Louis with modest expectations: make it to the top half after the first day and hopefully finish in either the Gold, Silver or Bronze divisions.
“These girls are playing both high school and club at the same time in Colorado, making this year extremely difficult,” head coach Rachel Martinez said. “We were just thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to get back into qualifier season, travel, and to have spectators!”
Momentum went 3-0 on day 1. Martinez said the players went into Saturday talking to each other about how they think they could actually win the tournament. A three-set loss to NKYVC 15-2 Tide to open day 2 pool play set the team back a bit, but it won its final two matches to win the pool, then swept the first two rounds in the Gold bracket to clinch a bid.
“I think the biggest spark was the morning of day 3,” Martinez said. “Beating Skyline 15 Black, a top club in the nation and a team of this caliber, in two sets, was the confidence boost these girls needed. This match helped set us up to beat OP2 15-1 in two sets.”
With a guaranteed bid, Momentum played fearlessly in the semifinals against A5, a strong second team. The match went three and showed what Momentum was all about.
“All 10 players got in and played the best volleyball I’ve ever seen from them,” she said. “These girls exceeded my expectations and beyond. This year has been such a challenge for everyone — from remote learning, to not practicing due to COVID, moving to limited player practicing, and now playing both high school and club at the same time … these ladies did more than I could have imagined.”
Setter Evelyn Klumker ran a 5-1 offense all weekend long for Momentum. She made great decisions and connected well with her middles. She also was spot on behind the service line, and three times ended matches with aces, including in the three-set finals win over Dynasty.
Libero Rya Fingerlin also was a spark, with her rock solid passing, as were outsides Brenna Kelly and Shae Maiorana; and hard-working middle Grace Langer.
“Grace battled through a jammed thumb, rolled ankle, and bloody nose – not once stepping off the court,” Martinez said. “This kid is destined for great things. She’s a D1 prospect and showed that she’s a top kid in the level.”
“Those were really my standouts — but this was absolutely a team effort,” Martinez said. “All 10 players played all three days, stepping up at various points over the weekend in helping us get that win. Our 11th player, Keona Bui, didn’t get a chance to play due to an ankle sprain at practice — but shout out to her for coming along and supporting the team.”
• Dynasty 15 Blue had been having trouble winning third sets, so coach Madison Benton made that a focus of practices the past few weeks. So it was funny that the team found itself in a three-team pool without a crossover to start the tournament. That meant playing three sets regardless. Dynasty not only won both matches in 2-0 sweeps, it won each of the third sets to 25, for good measure.
Dynasty obviously LOVED playing three sets so much that the team delighted its coach and parent group by playing three sets all three matches on Saturday, too! Thankfully for Dynasty, the team was able to dominate all of the tiebreaking sets without adding further stress to those rooting the team on.
“Our strategy [in third sets] was pretty much just be as aggressive as possible while minimizing our unforced errors,” Benton said. “Once the girls stepped onto the court this weekend, they were able to use those skills we had been working on and they were confident in themselves.”
Dynasty broke the three-set monotony with two Gold bracket sweeps on Sunday to clinch a bid and make the semifinals, but was back to its old ways thereafter, winning a three-set semifinal versus MAVS KC 15-1 before losing in three to Momentum in the championship match.
After going 4-0 before the final in true, three-set matches, Benton was surprised her team came up short when the title tilt got extended to a third.
“I definitely expected us to pull through that third set and win,” she said. “My girls are resilient. Even at 14-11, we all were confident that we would win that set.”
“All 11 of our girls gave it all on the court and we could not have succeeded without any of them, Benton added. “Lauren Wright and Hannah Porter are solid rocks on our team who always push everyone to compete. Emma Kenny, Keilah Rivers and Anna Berardo dominated in the front row.
• A5 15-LA’s goal coming to St. Louis was to compete and to qualify.
“It was a good weekend for us,” said coach Laura Ann O’Sullivan. “We played hard, we had big moments and responded to pressure situations better than we have in the past tournaments. We also qualified so that was one of our goals coming in.”
Truth be told, for large stretches, A5 absolutely dominated. Through eight matches, A5 yielded more than 20 points once and fewer than 10 points four times in sweeping to the semifinals. One of those dominating sets came against Rockwood Thunder 15 Navy in the quarterfinals.
“The first set against Rockwood Thunder on Sunday, our whole team was firing on all cylinders,” O’Sullivan said. “Dominating that set really opened our team’s eyes as to what is possible.”
The team had big performances on the weekend from OH Hannah Benjamin, who was unstoppable at the net and made great defensive plays to boot. MB Genavi Oyoyo also had a big weekend, dominating the middle with her blocking and hitting.
• Sixty-four teams entered the 15 American division at MEQ. Only Summit VC 15-1, the ninth overall seed, emerged unscathed.
Summit went 10-0 despite not playing with a traditional second middle blocker. One of its original 10 was lost early with a broken foot.
“They have had to overcome and adapt,” club director Erin Wilson said. “The players never did give up.”
“Coming into this weekend we used a lot of strategy and a lot of focus at practices on our weaknesses to strengthen our presence at MEQ,” head coach Beth Schump said. “The girls stayed very positive and worked together extremely well.”
Summit was tested. The team won four of its last five matches in three sets, including two that went to overtime in the third set. The Kansas club needed to win a third set in the championship match versus Invasion 15 Black to clinch the title and the bid.
“The whole team stepped up,” Wilson said. “They moved the ball around well, and they hit the floor for every ball. This team has worked so hard this season. These coaches and players have had to put everything they had into this season, especially since we were down a player. They all have made us very proud.”
• This past weekend, Colorado Juniors 15 Sherri traveled to Southern California to test itself against top Golden State teams and to compete in the Premier Volleyball League’s “March Challenge.” Ranked No. 25 in our 15s “Hunch “ rankings, Sherri Hawkins’ team went 4-1 in its first pool Friday and Saturday, losing only to No. 10 Coast 15-Luis. The team then beat Seal Beach 15-Black in a crossover before falling again to Coast in the finals.
On Sunday morning, Colorado Juniors traveled first to Tstreet and then to Mizuno Long Beach for scrimmages with teams ranked fourth and 12th, respectively.
“We were very pleased that we were able to come out to see some great competition outside of our region and in a new location for us,” Hawkins said. “Libero Ella Vogel was huge for us, coming up with dig after dig after dig. She reminds me of a young Morgan Hentz, the standout libero for Stanford. Keep an eye out for this kid in the coming years.
“Another star performer for us was Izzy Stark, as a pin hitter and setter. She kept a lot of balls on the other side of the net with her outstanding blocking. She was also unstoppable on the 2. Finally, one of our smaller players, a middle for us, Grace Woodring, was steady all weekend. She was our leading kill percentage hitter at 47% and also came up with 16 blocks over the course of 14 sets.”
• Video of the Day: “By any means necessary!”
This is Top Notch 16 Elite out of Springfield, Illinois. Keira Staples is the libero who soccer-kicked the ball back into play, Sydney Rutter is the player who passed it over and Peyton Bergschneider had the over pass kill to start the celebration.
• Here now is suggestion No. 4 from Hall of Fame coach Terry Pettit’s “Ten Suggestions for Coaches,” which can be found, in full, at https://terrypettit.com/:
4. Before you get frustrated with a player not closing the block ask yourself the following:
*Have I trained her on how to process and sequence the decisions she has to make as the ball approaches the setter?
*Have I trained her in the most efficient footwork patterns?
*Have I trained her in how to seal the block?
*Have I trained her to pull from her shoulders?
*Have I trained her in how to land on both feet?
*Have we worked on this movement every day?
These same questions can be asked about every behavior we see on the court. When we evaluate our players we are evaluating our preparation and teaching.
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