Daily Dots (April 5, 2021, although technology kept us from getting posted on Monday): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• It is SUCH a busy week at Dots! Twenty-eight teams qualified this past weekend at Big South in the age groups we cover. Another five in Atlanta won divisions and either already had a bid in that division or declined one, making 33 stories from this qualifier alone that we’d like to tell over the next few days. Add four bids from NEQ and a few more from the 18s at Show Me and there’s a lot on this writer’s plate. So, OF COURSE, the Internet (Xfinity) went out for SIX HOURS TODAY! Jordy — youngest son (HS junior) — said he heard a loud bang before it went down.

• Here’s the “who,” as best as I can surmise, from the three qualifiers. The “how” should follow when reports are received. NOTE: if you are a club coach and earned a 15s-18s bid or won a qualifier this weekend and DID NOT receive an email, please reach out, jtawa@volleyballmag.com.

Big South (Friday through Sunday)
18 Open
1. Sunshine 18 South Bay (one of MANY incredible stories from the weekend)
4. Coast 18-1
5. ECVC Hurricanes 18 Black

18 USA
1. TAV 18 Blue – previously qualified
4. East Carolina JVC 18 Premier
5. TX Fury 18-1
6. Tallahassee Juniors VBC 18 Pro

18 American
1. TK 18 Legends (wait until you hear THIS story!)

17 Open
1. OT 17 T Jason
3. WAVE 17 Rachel
5. Circle City 17 Purple

17 USA
1. TAV 17 Blue – previously qualified
2. Fort Worth Fire 171 Purple
3. Houston Stellar 17 Elite (one of our bids earned at Big South for Stellar teams)
4. Amarillo Xtreme 17 National

17 American
1. Houston Stellar 17 Premier

16 Open
1. Drive Nation 16 Red – previously qualified
3. Tstreet 16 Curtis
4. Top Select 16 Elite Blue
5. WAVE 16 Alfee

16 USA
1. Gainesville Juniors 161 – previously qualified
2. Rockwood Thunder 16 Navy
3. Ocala Power United 16 Adidas
5. Houston Juniors 16 Premier

16 American
1. Carolina One 16 Elite Pickens – declined bid
4. Houston Stellar 16 Premier

15 Open
1. WAVE 16 Juliana
4. Metro 15 Black
5. Triangle 15 Black

15 USA
1. 575 VB 15 Kortney
3. DME Adidas Elite 15U Black
4. Houston Stellar 15 Elite

15 American
1. Jupiter Elite 15E
(Friday through Sunday)
15 USA
1. TAV 15 Gold
2. Paramount VBC 15’s
3. Forza1 North 15 UA

15 American
1. Flyers 15 APX-Jeff

Show Me (Saturday through Monday)
18 Open
1. MAVS KC 18-1 – previously qualified (won by tiebreaker)
2. Northern Lights 18-1
3. PVA 18 Elite (only two bids conferred; PVA rises from dead to claim second bid)

18 USA
1. Alliance 18 Ren – previously qualified
2. Rockwood Thunder 18 Navy (think this produced the lone bid; 10 teams in the division)

18 American
1. 1st Alliance 18 White

Let’s examine my Open predictions (published Thursday) and, once again, declare… “Genius or dope!”

At Show Me, the only Open division this week was the 18s. There were 13 teams, two with bids and two available bids. Here’s what I wrote, in pertinent part:

“I like MAVS KC to win it all – they are that good – and, ultimately, I’ll go with Northern Lights and KC Power to take the bids. But DO NOT be surprised if PVA 18 Elite, Front Range 18-1, Pohaku 18-1 and Shockwave 18 Adidas Scott have something to say about it.”

Going into today, four teams remained in one pool: MAVS, Lights, Power and PVA. After three matches, MAVS was 1-1, Lights and Power 1-0 and PVA 0-2. My predictions were looking like genius. In the final three matches, KC Power had the chance to bid with the right outcome, but it proved to be the wrong outcome for Dave Johnson’s team each time. Lights beat Power to clinch its bid. PVA then swept Power to get back into the mix. Finally, MAVS swept Lights to finish first and knock KC Power from bid position.

In the end, I only got one out of two, but I picked the winner and came oh so close to being spot on!

At Big South, I had A5 Scott winning 18 Open and Coast 18-1 and Rockwood Thunder 18 Elite getting the only two bids. With eight strong teams in the 31-team field already with bids, I figured only two teams without bids would make the top eight. Turns out, I was wrong, wrong, wrong about everything here, as Sunshine 18 South Bay stunned by qualifying first. Coast earned a bid, as expected but Rockwood did not. It lost the fifth place match to ECVC, the little team that could… keep setting records for this young club.

The 55-team 17 Open field had me picking Circle City 17 Purple to bid and win, with Houston Juniors and OT Jason getting the other bids. Well, Circle City did get a bid but did not win it all and OT Jason got a bid AND won it all. But HJV let me down. After a dominating first day, the team went 2-3 over the next two to tie for 15th.

In the 54-team 16 Open field, I picked WAVE 16 Alfee to bid AND win, with Tstreet and Woodlands Revolution also emerging with golden tickets. Both WAVE and Tstreet did pick up bids, but the winning team was Drive Nation 16 Red, which beat Legacy 16-1 in the final.

Let me say this about Drive Nation. Here’s what a coach from the North Texas Region sent me in March about this age group in the region:

“This age group in Texas is very weak vs. the country. This is the weakest 16s age group I have seen in about 4 years in the NTR.”

Drive Nation has now double qualified and went 10-0 this past weekend to capture arguably the deepest qualifier of the year. So kudos Drive Nation and head coach Jason Nicholson for proving this coach wrong!

Now, what about Woodlands Revolution? The team went 6-0 through the first two days to get to Gold, only to find itself in a three-team pool with Tstreet and WAVE. That would prove the death knell for my predictions because at best the top two teams could content for a bid. But it also was tough for Revolution, which lost 15-8 in the third to Tstreet and 18-16 in the third to WAVE. So close!

Finally, in 15 Open, I picked Madfrogs to win, with WAVE, OT Isaac and HJV finding their way to bids. WAVE did get a bid and won it all, defeating A5 Bob in the final. Metro and Triangle took home the other bids, which demonstrates that I’m not going to be a successful 15s picker all season, because I haven’t seen these teams or the players. The Frogs tied for fifth. They were 6-0 before losing in Gold pool play to Metro. OT Isaac also finished fifth, but with a more modest 4-4 record. HJV finished well out of bid position, in a tie for 15th.

So, to sum up, I predicted that 13 teams would secure Open bids this past weekend. Of those, seven actually got bids. That may look good to many of you half-full kind of people, but this is terrible picking, well below my standard. I vow to do better!

• Speaking of picking, I’m going to take a one-Dot break from volleyball to make a pick on tonight’s NCAA championship tilt: Gonzaga 95, Baylor 80. Sorry, Texas folks. The Zags had their scare. They won’t have another on their way to an historic undefeated season.

• Today, I asked volleyball coaches on my email list to share players who had cool nicknames and to distribute a bunch of questions for players to ask in a “Three Contacts With … ” series you’ll soon see in Dots.

Which begs the question: if you’re a club coach reading this, did you receive these emails and act on them? If you did not receive these emails, there are a couple of possible problems:

1. You are not on my list, in which case sign up using this link: http://eepurl.com/hn9qgr 
2. Or it means that the messages are going to spam or being stopped altogether by a spam filter. This shouldn’t happen, because you affirmatively opted in, but I don’t know how these filters work. If you find my email(s) in spam, you could try trusting emails from me. That might get them to the right place in the first instance.

• Speaking of nicknames, 6-2 senior middle Daina Monroe, of Sunshine 18 Westside, has a cool nickname: “Gucci”

“She brings style and fun to the game,” club director Cari Klein said. “She shows up with great style and loves to support her teammates on the court and on her social media.  Sunshine has painted a Gucci corner in its gym to honor her!!”

• Here now is suggestion No. 6 from hall of fame coach Terry Pettit’s “Ten Suggestions for Coaches,” which can be found, in full, at https://terrypettit.com/:

6. Energy is the hardest thing for a coach to bring to practice every day. It is also the most important. Consistent enthusiasm for the game and the opportunity to work with players models the engagement we want from our team members.

• Remember my promise to celebrate every qualifying effort, even if some coaches were not able to send reports my way by the time I reported on their qualifier?

My good friend, Dan O’Dell, wrote in to tell me about Momentous 18 Dab, which went 9-1 to qualify second at Red Rock Rave two weekends ago.

“The goal of the weekend was to get a bid,” O’Dell said. “That said, I felt there were 7-8 teams that were all capable of coming home with a bid, so I knew we would have to maintain a high level for a long period in order to make that happen.”

Momentous won its first five matches in sweeps, then defeated tough Seal Beach 18 Black, which ultimately finished fourth; in three sets to wrap up a 6-0 mark over the first two days.

“Playing in the top division of the PVL all year helped prepare us for this tournament,” O’Dell explained. “We’ve lost a lot of set 3s this season, but have done so against top teams in SoCal which are all qualified in Open. Being pushed all year has set the expectation for how we would need to play to accomplish our goal of a bid. We played to the standard I set for the girls and were able to secure the bid.”

The biggest hurdle on the way to a bid was Unity 18 Mike in the first round of the Gold bracket.

“They have several players who left our team, which has created a fun rivalry,” O’Dell said. “I knew both teams would be ready to go and it came down to a big set three. Our team played flawless when we needed it most. I was really proud of my girls for their performance.”

O’Dell said that the trio of setter Cassie Smits and OH Mia Jerue, who have been big for his team all year; continued to shine at Red Rock.

“I was really happy with the way Alexa Niko and Katie Day stepped up though,” he added. “We need another major offensive threat and Alexa was big time all weekend for us on the right side. Katie Day was stable and consistent all weekend at libero for us, which gave us a nice boost.”

Maryland Juniors 18 Elite, which qualified in Open at NEQ, also came in with a report. Since this is the first Open bid in club history, I sure am glad they did!

Maryland Juniors came to NEQ with a National bid clinched through the Chesapeake Region (won the Regional Championship on March 7). The squad knew it was going to Columbus, which took the pressure off in Philly, and decided to push for an Open upgrade.

The team knew it might have a chance, as it was seeded ninth to start. With five teams in the field already with Open bids and trickle to eighth, the team might only need to advance one position to qualify!

“We knew that in order to win a bid, we would have to win at least one match against one of the top five seeds that had already earned an Open bid,” assistant coach Josh Isaacson said. “We lost a close, 3-set match the first day to the No. 4 seed, A5 18 Boba, in which we had a late lead in every set.  This set up a must-win match against the No. 5 seed, OT 18 T Dexter, on the second day.  Our girls came out motivated and, after winning a tough back and forth first set, they never relented and easily won the second set  due to tough serving and great defense. MB Aaliyah Griffin (6 blocks) and RS Sydney Green (8 kills, 0.538 %) led the way.  After that win, we knew that one more win, against the No. 12 seed Beach Elite 18B Adidas, would move us into the top six and the Gold pools, which would guarantee us our first Open bid in club history!”

“Earning the first Open bid in club history would not be possible without a solid team effort, and every match required someone to step up in a new way,” Isaacson continued.  OH Brooke Watts was the primary offensive weapon, leading the team with 76 kills. Setter Julia Slivka had 148 assists, 48 digs, and 10 aces. RS Sydney Green hit 0.275 with 36 kills and 12 blocks. MB Aaliyah Griffin led the team with 23 blocks to go along with 27 kills, OH Madison Mayer had 33 kills and 49 digs. MB Kaiya Walker played a critical role blocking, and libero Fiona Gonzalez Medina and DS Grace Wu led the way defensively with 76 and 33 digs, respectively.”

• Finally, one of the things I asked coaches about a couple of weeks ago had to do with big feet (I also asked about little feet). Specifically, I wanted to know who had ‘em.

As of right now, the “biggest boots in the business” belong to No Name 16 Sarah RS Maddie Snider and NKYVC 15-1 Tsunami MB Julia Hunt. Both sport size 13s.

Anybody bigger? Let me know! Jtawa@volleyballmag.com.


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