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Tawa’s Daily Dots: Making picks for Omaha, Indy, Spokane, Las Vegas

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Daily Dots (May 14, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• Happy Friday everyone! Has it felt like a long week to you? It’s been a LONG week here at the Tawa household, as Lisa, Casey, Jordy and I are living in the basement while the rest of the house gets a remodel (paint, carpet, kitchen cabinets, fixtures) in advance of its going on the market. Lisa and I both work from home, Jordy is in high school remotely and Casey is on crutches. That’s a lot of prolonged togetherness in a small space!

• Having wrapped up our recap of action from last week, let’s make predictions today, in the Open divisions we cover, for the four national qualifiers taking place this weekend.

In Omaha, the 35-team 16 Open division of Northern Lights is underway. There are nine already-qualified teams in the field: KC Power 16-1, TAV 16 Black, 1st Alliance 16 Silver, Nebraska Elite 16 Top Gun, MAVS KC 16-1, Northern Lights 16-1, Colorado Juniors 16Shannon, MN Select 16-1 and A5 16 Gabe. All occupy top seeds today in the nine-pool division.

Three of the already-qualified teams, No. 1 KC Power, No. 4 TAV and No. 5 1st Alliance, are ranked in the top five nationally by The only nationally-ranked team in the field without a bid is No. 28 OT 16 J Will. Two other teams hunting bids, Dynasty 16 Black and Houston Skyline 16 Royal, were in our national Top 25 the first time we produced rankings in early March, but since dropped out.

What will happen? With nine teams with bids, it would be an easy assumption that few or no bids would be earned this weekend. But bear in mind that only five of the nine qualified teams carry Top 30 grades going into Omaha. There is room for teams to break through.

We like Dynasty to finish top four and take home a bid. This team was No. 12 nationally in March because of its talent and we see it shining here. We also think this is the week for OT to punch its ticket. If a third team qualifies, it could be Houston Skyline, but is as likely to be No Name 16 Sarah, which will have two of the best players in the field.

As for the champion, we’ll take 1st Alliance over KC Power in a tight affair for the title.

• In Indianapolis, the Windy City qualifier has 38 teams in a 17 Open division starting today. This field isn’t nearly as strong, by comparison to the 16s at Lights, as there are only three teams entered with bids in hand, only two of which, No. 12 Circle City 17 Purple and No. 27 Academy Volleyball Cleveland Rox 17 Red, are ranked nationally. Three other Top 30 teams in the latest rankings, No. 25 Academy 17 Diamond, No. 28 OT 17 O Roberto and No. 29 1st Alliance 17 Silver, are in the field here seeking their Open bids.

We are bullish on Academy Diamond and say it qualifies here. We also believe in coach Roberto Santasofia and predict that he gets his OT team to the finish line in Indy this weekend. As for a third qualifier, give us Boomers 17 Black Chris to find a way, probably as a fifth-place team or lower.

Who wins? Circle has the best player in OH Chloe Chicoine. AVC has the next two in Caroline Jurevicius and Kathryn Randorf. Those teams play for the title, with Circle prevailing in three sets.

The 16s and 17s are playing Open at PNQ out in Spokane starting Saturday. Each field has 20 teams, four short of the minimum necessary to confer a full three bids. Sometimes, teams register for an event and drop out subsequently. USA Volleyball will award three bids if 24 or more teams register, even if fewer than 24 compete. We just reached out to the tournament for more information and the amiable April Stark responded quickly that three bids will be conferred in each of the divisions. Thanks April!

• The 17 Open field has only one qualified team, national No. 20 Absolute17 Black and only one other Top 30 team, Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar. Absolute had a rough go of it in Denver last week and we do not see Jake Spain’s squad in the championship match here. Instead, we like San Gabriel Elite 17 RoShamBo to take the title over SCVA rival Long Beach. Long Beach won the only time the two teams faced off, but that was back in December. SGE is 16-3 in Premier Volleyball League play and coach Kenji Mukai predicted that his team would be a top 10 team before long. If that’s going to happen, the time starts this weekend.

As for the third bid, it’s going to come down to NCVA denizens Vision 17 Gold and Rage-Westside 17 Michelle. We’ll take Rage, because of head coach Michelle Brazil, and because it’s played a tougher schedule year to date.

• The 16 Open field in Spokane has no teams ranked in the national Top 30 and only one, Mizuno Long Beach 16 Rockstar, with a bid. Not only is this going to be a free for all, we admit that we do not know these teams at all well enough to be confident in the predictions about to spew forth. We use the word “spew” on purpose, because there is a very good change these picks could be pure “spewage.”

Absolute 16 Black is the top seed, but isn’t in the Top 100 nationally in the AES computer rankings. Led by setter Kaley Mathews, Absolute was the top 15s in the NCVA last year before COVID, so we’ll give Katie Pease’s team the nod to qualify AND win.

As for the other two qualifiers, we see Vision 16 Gold and OJVA 16-1 Gold also punching tickets to Vegas. Just don’t ask us why …

• In Las Vegas, the Red Rock Rave will host Open divisions for 15s through 17s starting Saturday.

The 31-team 17 Open division is very strong, with five already-qualified teams and three, Sunshine 17-LA, Houston Skyline 17 Royal and Arizona Storm Elite 17 Thunder, ranked in the national top five. No. 9 WAVE 17 Rachel and Excel 17 National Red, a Texas squad, are the others with bids in their pockets.

With five teams already qualified, three bids will be conferred here. We think they go to Dallas Skyline 17 Royal, a physical team that has underperformed in qualifiers so far; Tstreet 17 Naseri, which has been very good locally the past month or so; and NOLA Kasey/Jesse 17, a Louisiana club with most of the best young talent in the Bayou State.

Coast 17-1, ranked No. 19 nationally, also is in the field, but this team has not played to its ranking this year. We do not foresee it happening this weekend. (By the way, we write this knowing that the last time we disrespected a Coast team, it won a national qualifier! Let’s see what this slight does to Rodrigo Suelotto’s team this weekend in Vegas).

As for who wins, it’s hard to go against Sunshine. Cari Klein’s team cruises until the final, where it outlasts Houston Skyline in three close sets.

Tstreet Curtis, OH Paige Buzzerio, setter Clara Stowell (13) and MB Sidney Shaffer

• The 26-team 16 Open division in Vegas should be very competitive. It boasts five qualified teams, led by a trio from the SCVA, Tstreet 16-Curtis, WAVE 16 Alfee and Coast 16-1.

Surfside 16 MB Legends and Club V 16 Ren Andrew are Top 30 teams nationally that have yet to clinch Open bids.

Tstreet and WAVE have played some epic matches this season and seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the region. So, of course, we’re going to pick Coast to win it all, over previously-qualified and national No. 17 Hive 16 Gold, which had an uneven performance last week in Denver.

WAVE and Tstreet tie for third, meaning the other two qualifiers will be fifth-place finishers. They will be Club V and SynergyForce 16 James. Club V, a team we’re predicted would qualify before, builds on its T-5 at Crossroads last week to finally make it happen. SynergyForce puts a bid in the NCVA column.

• The 15 Open division will greet 29 teams, three of whom, No. 4 WAVE 15 Juliana, No. 15 Mizuno Long Beach 15 Rockstar C and No. 28 Austin Juniors 15 adidas, are both nationally ranked and previously qualified. No.8 Coast 15-1 and No. 23 Spike and Serve 15 Red are the other two nationally-ranked teams in the field.

We like WAVE to win it all in a close one over Coast, which qualifies after an unfortunate Gold pool experience in its first effort in Reno. The final two spots could go in any of 7-10 directions. We’ll take Club V 15 Ren Matt to come from its 11th seed to tie for third. The final bid will go to … gosh, SCVC 15 Roxy, Viper 15 Mauro, Seal Beach 15 Black and Vegas Aces 15 UnderArmour all have the SCVA bonafides to take it…Spike and Serve! The Hawai’ian squad comes to the Mainland and shows it Hawai’ian style in claiming the bid.

• Finally, we close out the weekend with a video treat from Tstreet 16-Carson, complete with dad commentary. This play — Ella Scott with the dig, Andrea Brewer and Kiana Dand with the finish — came in the 16 American championship match last weekend in Denver versus PVA 16 National.