Daily Dots (May 12, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)
• There was big news out of Texas yesterday, as we learned that acclaimed club coach Ping Cao was leaving Texas Advantage Volleyball after 12 years to work for crosstown rival Drive Nation. “Ping,” as he is known, was a 1984 Olympian for China who started his club coaching career stateside in 2000 at Sports Performance, where he won one 16 Open national championship and several AAU titles. Ping joined TAV for the 2010 season and helped the Dallas club win six 17 Open national championships over a span of nine years. Ping was VolleyballMag.com’s National Coach of the Year in 2019.
It is unknown at this time whether Ping will be coaching TAV 17 Black at Junior Nationals in June.
VolleyballMag.com has reached out to both TAV and Drive Nation for comment, so far unsuccessfully.
• Rumors that acclaimed 15s coach LJ Sariego also is leaving TAV are unfounded. The head coach for TAV 15 Black will finish out the year with his team, but then take a step back from head coaching duties. Sariego wants to spend more time with his 8-year-old son as he begins his athletic journey.
“As you know, being the father of a full-time athlete is a lot of weekends and I’ve missed way too much and he’s the only child that I’ll ever have,” Sariego said. “My life is him and that will never change. I’ll still be involved just as much at TAV, but not as a head coach.”
• In today’s Texas news, Gatorade announced that Ally Batenhorst, a 6-4 senior OH from Seven Lakes HS in Katy and Houston Juniors VBC, has won its National Player of the Year award. Batenhorst is the first Texan to win national recognition from Gatorade in volleyball. You can learn more in my Rapid Reads story here.
• Let’s gets back to recapping the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier, which conducted events last weekend in Denver in the 17s and 16s divisions, plus 15 Open. Yesterday, we recapped the 15 Open division. Today, we’ll start with the 61-team 17 USA division, where the top three finishers, Colorado Juniors 17 Andy, Aspire 17–UA Premier and MAVS KC 17-1, all went home with bids to the Junior National Championships. Fourth-place finisher, Dallas Arsenal 17 Gold, had two shots to earn a bid but fell achingly short each time.
• Colorado Juniors went undefeated to win the title and only was seriously threatened in the championship match.
“We expected to compete for a bid and even to win the division based on the work all the girls had been putting in, working to get better each rep,” coach Andy Levoe said.
Levoe said the team’s qualification was spurred from its work in Game 2 of the semifinals versus Arsenal, where Juniors rallied from down 24-21 to win, 28-26, and sweep.
“That was huge because all the girls had to sell out on their responsibilities and effort to get it done,” Levoe asserted.
It also gave them the experience and confidence to be able to do it again one match later. After dropping the first set to Aspire, CoJo won a close Game 2, 25-23, then rallied with four straight points down 14-12 in the third to win.
“To get this victory we had to come together as a team/in-sync unit more than we had before all season,” Levoe explained. “This was truly a team victory, as we were able to score from every attacker at a high level (hit .340 as a team), pass a 2.3 for the weekend, and have a ton of digs and hustle plays to save points.”
• Aspire was undefeated until the championship match and had lost just one set, to Arete Athletics 17 Navy Telos, in the Gold bracket quarterfinals, a match it escaped, 15-13 in the third.
Playing USA, Aspire entered with high expectations. The team had recently tied for fifth in Open at Far Western, with wins over two national top 30 teams.
“We knew we had a good shot at placing well in Crossroads in USA and matched those expectations by playing good volleyball all weekend,” coach Andrew Yamishiro said. “All 12 of our players helped contribute throughout the weekend to stay fresh and be able to play our best volleyball on Sunday.”
Yamashiro said that a couple of big blocks and defensive plays help propel Aspire past Arete in a match that could have gone either way. A win over MAVS followed, which clinched the bid.
OH Tatum Parrott had a very strong tournament for the Arizona squad.
“She was one of the best outsides in the whole USA Division in my opinion,” Yamashiro said. “She was really good in serve-receive and bailed us out of tough situations with her big swings.”
MB Natalie Meyer and setter Briley Decker also had strong weekends. Meyer was consistent all weekend with plenty of blocks due to her high volleyball I.Q. and averaged more than two kills per set. Decker was physical on the net whether attacking, setting or blocking, and was one of the team’s strongest servers.
“She makes the team around her so much better,” Yamashiro said. “She has a ton of ‘next level’ potential.”
• MAVS head coach Zach Warring shared the message he sent his team after it secured the third bid in Denver. It is so good that I am reproducing it in full here, with just a few light edits.
I do not know about you but I am still winding down from the weekend. Far too many great moments and memories racing through my head and excitement for the future. Since I still have some of that energy coursing through my veins, I wanted to take a moment to write a little recap as well as throw some topics of discussion your way for moving forward.
Stats and Highlights:
– The team won their bid by only dropping two matches ALL weekend! We were 8-2 on the weekend against some very good competition!
– We outscored our opponents by a total of 67 points! 518-451
– Jadyn Befort (OH) had a season high 17, SEVENTEEN, aces on the weekend, helping to lead our team to a tournament high 54, FIFTY FOUR, aces on the weekend while keeping 89% of our serves over and in! Some strong runner-ups are Brooke Leiker (OH) with 10 aces, Kendall Schmitz (Setter/OPP) with 8 and Vivian Kieffer (LB) with 7!
– Leiker (OH) had a whopping 93 kills on the weekend while hitting .240! Kaelyn McDonald (MB) crushed it at second with 59 while hitting a .404! Let’s not forget about Chloe Reese’s (OPP) tournament high hitting % while grabbing 5 blocks on the weekend!
– Speaking of blocks, anyone remember Madison Freed’s (Setter) ONE HANDED STUFFED BLOCK??? Plus, two assist stuff blocks with one hand! Maddy also snagged 12 kills on the weekend with a .220 hitting percentage!
– Clara Benskin (MB) took charge with a studly 20 blocks on the weekend while hitting a .349 and grabbing 40 kills!
– Kieffer (LB) led the charge in defense with 121 digs! Some strong runner ups are Leiker (OH) with 48, Kellyn McCabe (DS/OH) with 38, and Schmitz (Setter/OPP) with 39!
– Carly Lindgren (DS) took care of business in serve receive and led the team with a 2.25 passing average! Kieffer (LB) followed up with a 2.22 and McCabe (DS/OH) with a 1.93!
1. Now, we all know I coach defense for a living, so I will admit my bias, but KAELYN MCDONALD (MB), GIRL! YOUR DEFENSE IN THE CLUTCH WHILE SERVING! It fueled so much energy into this team and was so much fun to be a part of!
2. So, you all don’t know this, but I had 2 club coaches and 1 college coach tell me how deadly and tough our middle transition offense is and how impossible it is to stop. Look at you setters and middles! BUT, who gets the ball to the setter so she can find a middle, Vivian, Kellyn, Kendall, Carly, Brooke, Jadyn; so a big applause for your ability to dig effective balls!
3. Jadyn Befort closed out three matches for us with aces in her dominating force behind the endline.
4. Kellyn McCabe’s coverage and scrappy digs in key moments was a HUGE factor in our ability to keep our energy and grit alive.
5. Brooke Leiker with the game-winning, bid-earning swing down the line to end the tournament!
6. Lastly, and this is the sappy “Dad” in me, the biggest highlight for me is knowing that you 11 came in with a mutual understanding, respect and love for each other and made the promise that we wouldn’t leave without a bid. It took a ton of heart, effort, grit and trust to make that goal come true and all 11 of you were a necessity in making it happen. Megan (assistant coach Megan Rhule) and I want to thank you for trusting us both and allowing us to be a part of this journey with you all! We are both looking forward to another two months with you! After a week off of course …
• PVP 17 Fuego needed 11 wins to claim the lone bid in the 93-team 17 American field. Going 11-0 is an extraordinary achievement in any tournament, but when you average 5-7 on the front row as a 17s team and go 11-0 to win a national qualifier, it’s headline news.
Coach Truett Massey said that the team expected to make the Gold bracket. More than that was just gravy.
“Once we secured our place in the bracket, we really just tried to focus on each round itself,” he said. “We knew we had to use superior ball control to compete and win. After beating A very good Mavs 17-2 team we knew we had a shot to make the finals. Having only 8 players, with four being DS’s in school ball, this was 100% a team effort. My setter, Maretta Ramirez, at 5-6 running a 5-1 offense, did a phenomenal job running the show.”
• Let’s finish up for today in 16 American, where Tstreet 16-Carson won the 111-team division, winning every match in straight sets; while PVA 16 National went 10-1 to place second.
Just two weeks before, Tstreet was qualifying in the USA Division at Far Western, despite losing its libero, Sophie Reed, to injury. So what was Carson Tanner’s team doing playing American in Denver?
“The only availability to play in Crossroads was in American, so we took it knowing we had a great chance to win it,” Tanner said. “We were missing two of our teammates, Sophie Reed and Mikayla Delgadillo, due to some unfortunate circumstances, but we kept them in the loop with selfies, so in a way it kind of felt like they were still there. The team played sharply through all three days of competition and didn’t drop a set the entire tournament.”
• PVA head coach Mikayla Callaghan said that her team’s main goal all season was to qualify for Junior Nationals.
“We talked about it at every local and national tournament,” she said. “We knew we could do it, but we struggled all season with our confidence and consistency. It wasn’t just about winning a T-shirt or medal for us; it was about being 100% ready to win all the time.”
There was a reason that qualifying was so very important to this team.
“Half of our squad had never been to Nationals,” Callaghan explained. “Each year their seasons had ended early. Their hopes became bigger that the next year they would get the opportunity.”
PVA arrived in Colorado knowing it only had a handful of chances left to qualify.
“We knew we would not receive a regional bid, so it was up to us to earn it ourselves,” Callaghan explained.
PVA won its first six matches without dropping a set. Things were looking promising.
On Saturday evening, PVA won a Challenge match to get into the Gold bracket by overcoming a Game 1 loss to TX STORM 16 National.
“On the final day, the girls were ready to go,” Callaghan said. “We started our first game strong, but got comfortable. After a quick reevaluation, we were back on track and continued to win. And just like that, we were in the championship game.”
Playing Tstreet for the Gold ball, the coaches knew that Tstreet had previously qualified, which meant that PVA had achieved its goal. They decided to keep it a secret.
“After taking a tough loss in the championship, we expressed how proud we were of them and that we knew before the game that we had already qualified,” Callaghan said. “MANY tears, cheers, and excitement were shared amongst proud teammates, coaches, and parents. Some of our girls have been playing together since they were 11s and were in disbelief that they FINALLY received their opportunity to play at nationals. Our team was confident and consistent — something we struggled with all season — but brought it to the court at a perfect time.”