Daily Dots (April 26, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)
• Hi there! Anything happen in volleyball over the weekend?
Yes, as any volleyball fans knows, there was A TON of volleyball this weekend.
The USA Volleyball Girls 18s Junior National Championship was conducted in Columbus, Ohio, with Premier Nebraska 18 Gold taking home the biggest prize, edging Adversity G18 Adidas in the 18 Open final. Read Premier’s story here: https://volleyballmag.com/premier-nebraska-wins-18s-042621/.
The NCAA Division I national champion was decided on Saturday, with Kentucky capturing its first-ever title in four sets over Texas. This was entertaining, high-level volleyball at its finest! Our own Lee Feinswog was all over it with exceptional coverage.
There was a national qualifier in Omaha (Windy City) and another in Reno (Far Western), which produced surprising results. Heck, there even was a Showdown in the Smokies, which saw Sports Performance 18 Elite, ranked third nationally, knock off No. 2 Munciana 18 Samurai in pool play in 18 Open before Samurai got revenge in the championship match.
So, yeah, there’s a lot to get to this week.
• Here are the medal winners from Columbus:
Gold: Premier Nebraska 18 Gold
Silver: Adversity G18 Adidas
Bronze: Union 18-1 UA and Elevation 18 Goller
Gold: VCNebraska 18 Black
Silver: Pohaku 18-1
Bronze: CVC 18 Black and Gulfside 18U Prime
Gold: MichioChicago 18 National
Silver: Vegas Aces 18 UnderArmour
Bronze: TAV 18 Blue and HJV 18 Premier
Gold: Madfrog 18 National Green
Silver: Siesta Key Jrs 18 Charlie
Bronze: A2 18 Green and Unified 18-1
Gold: NIVA 18 X
Silver: Legacy 18-1 Adidas
Bronze: Impact VBC 18-1 and Sunshine 18 North
• Let’s review my “predictions” about 18 Open at Columbus.
Last Wednesday, I wrote that there were eight teams that had the goods to win it all:
A5 18-Scott (Georgia)
Adversity 18 Adidas (Illinois)
Colorado Juniors 18Kevin (Colorado)
Houston Skyline 18 Royal (Texas)
MAVS KC 18-1 (Kansas)
Premier Nebraska 18 Gold (Nebraska)
TAV 18 Black (Texas)
Tstreet 18-Kasia (California)
With Premier Nebraska beating Adversity in the final, I was right about two of those eight. It is true, however, that only those two of the eight finished among the top eight in Columbus.
On Thursday, after the pools came out, I predicted the teams I thought would finish in the upper half. Below are my predictions, with commentary:
Pool 1: TAV, Northern Lights, Milwaukee Sting – Sting did not advance out of pool. WAVE 18 Kevin was the third team. WAVE and Northern Lights finished in a three-way 3-2 tie with AZ Sky 18 Gold. WAVE and Lights advanced; Sky lost out on the tiebreaker.
Pool 2: Coast, A5, AZ Storm – All three advanced, as predicted.
Pool 3: Adversity, Houston Skyline, Rockwood Thunder – Rockwood finished 2-3 but missed out on advancing when 2-3 Circle City 18 Purple beat Tribe 18 Elite Annika. Had Tribe won, Rockwood would have advanced.
Pool 4: MAVSKC, Premier Nebraska, SA Juniors — All three advanced, as predicted.
Pool 5: Tri-State, Colorado Juniors, Sunshine South Bay – Juniors, the top seed, struggled with injuries and ball control and did not advance. Adversity G18 Adidas Purple, the club’s second team, made history by advancing.
Pool 6: Tstreet, HJV, Mintonette m.81 – I felt certain that Houston Juniors was going to have a terrific weekend. It was not to be. FC Elite 18 Elite instead broke from the pool and made it to the quarterfinals.
Pool 7: Union, OT Felix, San Gabriel Elite — All three advanced, as predicted.
Pool 8: Elevation, Dallas Skyline, Encore — All three advanced, as predicted.
So, if you’re keeping track, I correctly predicted 20 of the 24 teams to advance from pool play. I think that’s pretty good, but will leave it to you to judge …
• Let’s take a look at how my predictions from Windy City and Far Western panned out, starting with the Open fields in Omaha.
Week 1 of Windy City, which usually takes place in Chicago, featured 16s and 15s only. I made predictions in the Open divisions last Thursday.
In 16 Open, I selected Legacy 16-1 Adidas to win it all for Nebraska Elite 16 Top Gun to finish second and qualify and Dynasty 16 Black and Academy Cleveland 16 Rox Red to tie for third and qualify.
Well, I had the two finalists right, but Nebraska Elite made up for a tough year to date by winning it all in its hometown.
My other two picks to click did not, however. Dynasty finished seventh and AVC 17th. Instead, MN Select 161 and MAVSKC 16-1 went home with the bids.
In 15 Open, I had previously-qualified Rockwood Thunder 15 Elite taking home the title in the 23-team field, with Milwaukee Sting 15 Gold and Seal Beach 15 Black securing the two bids over the likes of OT 15 O Isaac, Lions 15-1 or Elevation 15 Chicas.
Lions ended up winning it all over Flyers 15-APX Bill. Rockwood acquitted itself well, losing just once. Sting and Seal Beach placed third and fourth, respectively, which made my assumption that only two bids were available here incorrect. Sting won the final bid and, in the process, made me appear smarter than I truly was.
• Out in Reno, I had Absolute 17 Black, Tstreet 17-Naseri and Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar going 1-2-3 in 17 Open. Absolute did finish second, but that’s the only thing I got right. Front Range 17 Black, the No. 10 seed in a field of 29, surprised by winning it all! Excel 17 National Red, the No. 6 seed, took home the third bid for its third-place finish.
In 16 Open, I picked Aspire 16 UA Premier and Club V 16 Ren Andrew to cop the only two bids and predicted that top-seeded Coast 16-1 would fall short here, with its head coach, Ozhan Bahrambeygui, in Columbus with his 18s.
Well, Coast proved that my picking is as good as Ozhan’s coaching by overcoming two losses to win it all. Coast won its semifinal and final matches both by 16-14 Game 3 counts! Previously qualified Sunshine 16-LA placed second, which allowed my Aspire pick to be good, as Sharon Vanis’ team finished third. My Club V pick, 16 Andrew, finished seventh and even lost to Club V 16 Red Matt along the way.
In 15 Open, I tabbed Tstreet 15-Chris and Coast 15-Luis to take home the two bids. Tstreet did so and Coast made it to the Gold pool, but it was Mizuno Long Beach 15 Rockstar that emerged with the second bid in what was an all SoCal final pool.
• I asked coaches on my email list (if you’re a coach and not on it, you are not getting my weekly requests for input! Use this link — Club volleyball coaches — http://eepurl.com/hn9qgr — to get onboard today) to share their stories from Columbus, even if they did not come home with medals.
1st Alliance 18 Black finished 6-1 in the USA division, losing in the quarterfinals to HJV 18 Premier, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13.
“The team played well in every game,” coach Matthew Madia said.
Indeed, one match before, 1st Alliance was on the winning end of another barnburner, this one against A4 Volley 18 Juanchi that went 25-21, 24-26, 16-14.
“We battled for three grueling sets in a match that brought the best out of both teams,” he said.
Standouts for 18 Black include offensive workhorse Ewelina Gacek, big blocker Molly Boyd, top passer Caroline Doyle and Sammy Bunch, who set with consistency and made some great defensive plays to boot!
• Remember my saying, above, that I felt certain that Houston Juniors 18 Elite was going to have a terrific weekend in the 18 Open division? Kara Pratt’s team lost two players, pin Eliana Posada (broken rib) and setter Annie Antar (meniscus), ON THE SAME PLAY on Day 1. No wonder the team struggled all weekend long! Here’s the video:
• Encore 18 Goldhahn went 6-3 for the weekend and tied for 11th in 18 Open. The team fell, 25-17, 26-24, to Union 18-1 UA in its quest for the Gold bracket.
Middle Soana Leaea had her best tournament of the year, being a strong blocking and offensive threat, coach Katie Goldhahn said. The coach also lauded libero Peyton Dweck for her work extending rallies and setter Allison Ko for her strong leadership.
“This was a great group of young woman that got along exceptionally well,” Goldhahn stated. “It’s a team like this that makes you love your job. Their dedication and commitment never wavered. They worked incredibly hard. I am excited for their next journey.”
• Last week at the Lone Star National Qualifier, Fieldhouse 15 Ikaika-Annette placed fifth in 15 USA to earn a bid to Junior Nationals. The team’s report just came in and, true to my pledge to celebrate every team’s qualification story, even if tardy, let’s talk FH volleyball.
Club director Annette Garcia, who coaches the Texas club, said that her team came into Lone Star with “cautious optimism.”
“After an early exit from the Gold bracket at the Sunshine Classic in March, the team knew anything could happen at Lone Star,” Garcia said.
Fieldhouse cruised through the first two days of competition, with no match going beyond two sets, and entered Sunday with high hopes of winning the tournament and earning its bid to Nationals. Those hopes came to an abrupt halt with a three-set defeat in the first round at the hands of Houston Stellar 15 Elite.
Fortunately, FH had another chance at winning the bid, with two of the four semifinalists already having qualified. Fieldhouse was placed in a four-team bracket for fifth place, shook off the disappointment of losing to Stellar, and swept both Incredible Crush 15 Black and AEV 15 National to punch its ticket.
“Fieldhouse received great passing all weekend from libero Brooke King and DS Trisha Ortiz,” Garcia said. “Danielle Weaver enjoyed her best tournament of the year, bringing timely scoring and ferocious blocking from the right side; while Hayle Huggins provided a steady complement to Taryn Barnes’ big booms from the outside. The middles, Aubrie Crocket and Angelina Masojc, continued to grow and develop, as setters Brylee Bailey and Madison Scrivner provided direction and leadership for the team. Lone Star was truly a team effort!”
• Finally, a shout out to head coach Craig Skinner, his staff and players at the University of Kentucky for winning the NCAA Division I national championship on Saturday. It’s been 16 years since Washington won its first title. In the intervening time, only traditional elite teams had emerged as national champions. It’s refreshing to see new blood at the top. Many of us thought it would be Coach Sheff and Wisconsin. It turned out to be another follicly-challenged coach and a roster of players, all of whom started their collegiate careers in Lexington. Congrats one and all!