Tawa’s Daily Dots: Minding my PNQ

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Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021
Long Beach 16 Rockstar

Daily Dots (May 21, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• Dots reaches the end of the week with a look at the Pacific Northwest Qualifier, or PNQ as it is more popularly called. While I don’t mind PNQ, the tiny qualifier in Spokane would be well-served to adopt a new name, one with marketing and merchandising possibilities.

The Southern California Volleyball Association recently changed its qualifier name when it moved from Anaheim to Las Vegas. What’s a better name, the “SCVA qualifier” or “Red Rock Rave?” Exactly.

I’ve been thinking of a new name for the Pacific Northwest Qualifier. “Get Zaggy with it” pays homage to Gonzaga University nearby, but isn’t practical. The “Close to Idaho” qualifier isn’t snappy enough. This part of the country is known for its big sky, evergreen trees and the Palouse, although Spokane isn’t technically within it.

“The Big Sky Slam” or “The Big Sky Spike”
“Evergreen Gathering”
“Tall Timber Tumble”
“Pepper in the Palouse”

These are off the top of my head ideas. Do you have any that are better? Let me know! jtawa@volleyballmag.com.

• Did you know that prior to 2007, PNQ ONLY had club divisions? No Open divisions at all.

I attended the last all-Club PNQ in 2006. It was held entirely at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I had a great time highlighting teams playing in the Club divisions. They usually get overshadowed because of Open, but had the spotlight all to themselves here.

Hawai’i’s Imi Ike won the 18 Club division despite bringing only six players to the Mainland. It helps when two of the six are Dani Mafua and Kanani Danielson. Mafua was a four-year contributor at setter for the University of Hawaii and graduated with almost 4,000 career assists. Danielson, known then as “Kanani Herring” is a University of Hawaii Hall of Famer. She was three-time Western Athletic Conference POY and three-time First Team All-American.

• Even when PNQ added Open divisions in 2007, the tournament struggled to grow to the size of other mega-qualifiers like Big South, Lone Star, MEQ and Crossroads. Reasons included Spokane’s small convention center, not so many volleyball clubs within driving distance of the city and an airport that doesn’t offer enough flights.

Add Covid in Washington state, which resulted in the tournament being postponed to May, and, well, field size was going to be a particular problem in 2021.

I bring this up because there were 47 teams, total, in the three 17s divisions at PNQ and 57 teams, total, in the three 16s divisions. Contrast this to Far Western in Reno, the qualifier closest geographically to PNQ and one of the smaller ones. At Far Western, the three 17s divisions totaled 113 teams, more than twice the size. The three 16s divisions totaled 138 teams, again more than twice as big.

PNQ has always been a great place to try to qualify, if you were willing to sacrifice school time because of travel challenges, but was an especially good choice in 2021. The 16 and 17 Open fields hosted just 20 teams each, but awarded three bids. The 16 and 17 USA fields had 17 and 12 teams, respectively, and gave out three bids in 16 USA and two in 17 USA. The 16 and 17 American fields contained 20 and 15 teams, a far cry from fields in those divisions that typically soar past 100 teams.

How were so many bids awarded with fields so small?

According to the USA Volleyball Championship Manual, Open and USA fields with fewer than 24 teams do not get to award a full complement of three bids. However, the number of teams is determined on the qualifier’s deadline day to register or when the tournament’s seeding is finalized, whichever is greater. At PNQ, apparently 24 or more teams originally registered, but many subsequently dropped out. In the Open divisions, at least four teams dropped in each. In 17 USA, at least four teams dropped, because the qualifier gave out two bids to the 12 teams that played rather than one as indicated by the Manual. In 16 USA, at least seven teams dropped. That’s more than 25 percent of the original field!

• In 16 Open, Mizuno Long Beach 16 Rockstar, the only qualified team in the 20-team field, went to Spokane expecting to take first.

“After showing some consistency in Reno, I knew that we could repeat that level of play,” coach Megan Moenoa said.

There was a concern, however. After Far Western, 16 Rockstar was shut down due to Covid protocols.

“I wasn’t sure if we got enough training time to build off of the momentum we created in Reno,” Moenoa said. “Fortunately we picked up right where we left off.”

Long Beach went through the tournament 9-0. Twice, it dropped the first set of matches, but rebounded each time, including in the final versus Sudden Impact 16 Thunder.

Moenoa said that her team was motivated to finish out the tournament playing at its highest level. When it came to Game 3 versus SIVBC for the title, “we were still playing with a lot left in our tanks.”

The coach added that winning was a team achievement and required “team effort,” something Long Beach preaches in its huddles.

“We came to the tournament with 9 players and everyone stepped up exactly when we needed them,” Moenoa said.

Sudden Impact had no idea what to expect in Spokane.

“We had only played in four local tournaments and, even though we were 11-1 on the season, we didn’t know how we would stack up against top teams,” coach Greg Brown said. “I thought if we could get to the top half in Open, then we would have a chance to measure ourselves from there.”

SIVBC won its three-team pool, then outlasted San Gabriel Elite 16 RoShamBo in a crossover between pool winners.

“Once we defeated San Gabriel Elite, I felt like we needed to re-evaluate our expectations,” Brown said. “We then set our sights on getting into the Gold pools on Day 3.”

Sudden Impact did enough on Day 2 to make it into the Gold pools and started off on Monday with a three-set win over Absolute 16 Black, the tournament’s top seed.

“We were able to serve them out of system just enough and contain their fast offense,” Brown said. “It wasn’t until we defeated Absolute that we felt like we had a solid chance for a bid.”

Sudden Impact also defeated Idaho Crush 16 Hartman in straight sets, clinching its bid and a spot in the finals, where it took Mizuno Long Beach to three sets.

“Playing Long Beach straight up in the finals proved we belonged with the best teams there,” Brown said.

Asked who the key players were who stepped up to aid qualification, Brown said this:

“We run a 6-2 offense, so it takes a total team effort. While it is hard to single out a few players, we did have timely contributions from several players. Having two good liberos is a bonus. Kayci Spray and Ally Bush passed, dug and served our team to victory. They made big plays all weekend. Left sides Bella Myers, Nyah Taylor and Emery Cocks all contributed with steady serve receive and timely big swings when it mattered most in tight sets. Right side Ella Wimmer provided a huge right side block and came up big at crucial times. Middle Blockers Bebe Anitei and Yazzy Muhammad were steady all weekend. Bebe led our team in blocking, while Yazzy was our top hitter.”

Vision was missing one of its players in Spokane, but was the healthiest and most complete team it had been in quite a while.

“We were excited to see how good we were/could be,” coach Tyler Taylor said. “We expected to get a bid and hoped to win the tournament.”

Vision started off 3-0 on Day 1, including a crossover match victory over Oregon Juniors 16-1 Gold; then went 3-0 on Sunday, including a sweep of Sudden Impact. Seeded second in its three-team Gold pool, Vision watched as Mizuno Long Beach outlasted OJVA in three, then swept Oregon Juniors for the second time in three days to secure the bid.

Vision lost its last two matches, to Long Beach for the pool and to Absolute in the third-place match. The team had fallen short of its goal of winning the tournament, but its main goal, qualification, had been achieved.

Audrey Liddle was no doubt a key player in our team’s success,” Taylor said of his outside hitter. “She is a tremendous volleyball player and a great teammate. Simone Adam [OH] was also a big player for us and our setter, Teya Nguyen, had a great tournament. That being said, I think all of our players truly helped to positively impact our matches.”

We did not hear from Absolute coach Katie Pease on her team’s third-place finish. We hope to hear from her soon.

• The 16 USA tournament, 17 teams strong, produced three big recipients, including champion Miami Elite 16N1 Scott. Miami Elite lost only once all tourney long, to DaKine Warriors 16 Surf. It avenged that loss with a championship match sweep.

LAVA West 16 Adidas, which went 6-2 to place third, joined Miami Elite and DaKine in earning USA bids. We did not hear from any of them before press time. As always, there will be a Dot available if any want to share their stories.

Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021-Vision 16 Blue
Vision 16 Blue

Vision 16 Blue topped the 20-team field in 16 American. The Silicon Valley club went 9-0 over three days and dropped just one set, but it was the first set of the finals with Puyallup Juniors U16 National. Vision regrouped and pulled out a 26-24 win in Game 2 and went on to win to claim the lone American bid.

“I knew we would compete,” coach Tony Holland said. “What I didn’t know is if we would compete with the consistency and the intensity required to keep us in contention for a medal. We are a young team still in the process of figuring out who we are.”

The championship match versus Puyallup Juniors was a display in resilience for 16 Blue. The team struggled in the first set, but focused on relaxing and staying together.

“The message was to keep doing the little things that got us here and we will find our way,” Holland explained. “I think when we forced them into an early timeout in the second set, the girls started to loosen up a bit and played with more joy from that point forward.”

Six-rotation OH Kaitlyn Lee was instrumental to team success. She played great defense and came up with some timely kills to complement OH Callie DeSchryver, who was awesome at the net all weekend long. Setter Annie Joo, who ran a great offense and played solid defense; and

Annie Joo (S) – ran the offense to perfection and played solid defense; and libero McKenzie Bell, who “played the position the way it should be played” according to Holland, also keyed the win.

Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar won the 20-team 17 Open division with a 9-0 record. We did not hear from 17 Rockstar head coach Tiffany Rodriguez, but know this Long Beach team, which features Adonia Faumuina, Mele Corral-Blagojevich and Rylie McGinest, to be among the nation’s finest when fully healthy. We do not know if all hands were on deck this weekend – Long Beach did lose four sets in the nine wins – but do know that it was tested on Monday, when all of its matches went the distance and Long Beach found a way each time.

Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021-NPJ Seattle
NPJ Seattle

NPJ Seattle 17 National went 6-3 and made it to the championship match opposite Long Beach, playing a competitive three-set final before losing. Formerly KJVBC or Kent Juniors, Oregon-based North Pacific Juniors acquired the longstanding Seattle club, which had stars like Courtney Thompson, Christal Morrison, Courtney Schwan and Stevie Mussie, before the season began.

Paula Schwan coaches NPJ Seattle and said that PNQ was the first multi-day tournament her team had played all year.

“Our team prepared hard on specific skills and our mental ‘state’ going into the tournament, with the focus on earning a bid and leaving it all on the floor,” she said.

NPJ suffered an injury on Day 1, but, according to Schwan, “rallied back on task and pressed on to make it happen.” NPJ survived a three-set crossover to stay alive, then recovered from a Day 2 drubbing at the hands of Alamo 17 Premier in its first match to survive and advance. On Monday, in winning time, Schwan’s squad eked out two three-set wins to win its Gold pool, qualify and advance to the championship match. There, it gave Long Beach a competitive match before losing in three.

Schwan said the two defeats before the final, to Renovators 17-Red on the first day and then to Alamo on Sunday, motivated them in the right direction.

“They were not satisfied with how they played a few matches and knew they were better,” she explained.  “They collectively decided to play for each other, have fun playing the game with a group they truly enjoy, play without fear, and be confident…and they did!”

Schwan said that all 12 players on her roster stepped up and even improved over the weekend. Here’s how she described them:

Delaney Speer – OH stepped up her game, played with excitement, was a force on the outside and on defense, and had a few crucial blocks. Adele Holland – Setter ran the floor well, kept focused and connected throughout the entire tournament with her players with such a positive energy. Zoe Faull – MB closed the block well, pressed and had some crucial and aggressive swings, including the winning point for us on a slide sealing the bid!  She also served very well and had some great digs. Kim Tercero – Setter/RS had some crucial blocks and great swings on the right side.  She had some great plays, and connections with the outsides. Bella Moon – Libero/DS dug like a beast!  She played great defense the whole weekend and served tough! Kiauna Mack – MB stayed aggressive, made some critical blocks, and a few awesome swings. Sophia Sheppard – Libero/DS passed great, allowing our middles to stay involved and had a few great digs, too. Alyssa Thelen – RS/OH put up a big block with a few really important kills.  Always super positive and uplifting to her teammates. Nora Hayd – OH/RS crushed a few on both RS and OH.  Blocked a few critical balls shifting major momentum. Ellie Marble – OH had some insane digs, chased down a few scattered balls, and had many kills in the front and back row in critical times for us. Keeley Santillan – OH served very tough, had an awesome dig off the block, several run downs and great swings from the back row at important moments. Kyleene Filimaua – OH (injured in first day/2nd match) was still with them every second, coaching her team from the bench the entire rest of the tournament on different points, and was very much involved in their success.”

“I’m So proud of ALL their hard work, keeping their heads, and getting it done,” Schwan concluded.  “Now the real work begins to prepare and play like that the entire tournament at Nationals with the top teams around.”

Vision 17 Gold outdueled Alamo for the third and final Open bid. Alamo played like the best team in the tournament over the first two days, swept Vision on Day 1 and NPJ Seattle on Day 2. A three-set loss in the Gold pools to Long Beach, however, put Alamo into the third-place match versus Vision for the final bid. Vision played better, swept to gain revenge and earned the bid carrot on top of it all.

We did not hear from Vision, but hope to in the days to come.

• There were only 12 teams in the 17 USA division and two received bids, Colorado Juniors 17Jayne and Vision 17 Blue. We heard from CoJo, whose only loss came to Vision Blue on Day 2, 35-37 (not a misprint), 25-14, 15-12. Juniors gained revenge in the championship match, barely, by a 23-25, 25-22, 15-13 score.

Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021-Colorado Juniors 17Jayne
Colorado Juniors 17Jayne

“After a top 10 finish at Crossroads, we knew we could keep playing well,” coach Jayne McHugh, the former head coach at Nevada, said. “Our expectation was to come home from Spokane with a bid. We exceeded that by winning the division, beating a very talented Austin Jr’s. team, twice, and an exceptional team, Vision, in the finals.”

Blocking was the key to victory. It was better this tournament than at any other point in the season. McHugh said the first win over Austin Juniors 17 Molten showed everyone how well they could play, even without one of their regular attackers.

“Our success was a true team effort!” McHugh emphasized, before singling out Trista Marx, who filled in admirably on the left; middle Tierney Barlow, who led the offense hitting nearly .400 for the weekend; and Aine Doty, whose defense was simply incredible.

TX Legacy 17 Elite won the 15-team 17 American division over Puyallup Juniors U17 National. The Texas team did not lost a match and dropped only one set over three days to claim the sole bid. Puyallup, which also lost the 16 American final, had a great day as a club to get to two championship matches, but a tough day by losing both of them.

• Let’s spend our final Dot of the week giving props to two teams, Coast 17-1 and SF Tremors 15 Wolverines, which qualified at Red Rock but did not have their stories told before now.

Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021-Coast 17-1
Coast 17-1

Coast qualified third in 17 Open in Las Vegas with a 6-3 record that included a 4-0 start and split with powerful Arizona Storm Elite 17 Thunder.

Coast had tried before to qualify, finishing 14th out of 43 teams at Lone Star, and knew this was it.

“We knew we could make it if we played with confidence, aggression, and together,” coach Rodrigo Suelotto said.

Suelotto said several factors contributed to Coast’s success.

“First, we have our entire roster healthy, with no injuries,” he explained. “Second, our team has worked really hard throughout the entire season to improve our technical and mental skills, and we are glad that we achieved a peak performance at the right time. This group started with four kids only from the previous season, so it took a lot of work to be able to compete with strong teams that have played together for years. Finally, we were able to find a system that allowed our players to perform the best consistently.”

The key moment that sparked qualification came versus Dallas Skyline 17 Royal in the Gold pools. Coast was 0-1 at the time, having lost to Club V 17 Ren Andrew the evening before, Coast knew, with national No. 1 Sunshine 17-LA also in its pool, that it had to win or else. Coast started slowly but got its nerves under control, played composed and with aggression and pulled out the win in two, which was enough to qualify.

Suelotto said he was unable to highlight just 1-2 names of key players who helped make qualification possible.

“What made it possible for us to finish third was the capacity of every player to contribute for the team,” he explained. “Regardless of playing time, every time a player stepped on the court, she was crucial for our success. For instance, Cheyenne Roberts, one of our middles that ended up not playing that much on Days 1 and 2, was one of our best players in our last match on Day 3, where we got our medal.”

Tawa's Daily Dots 5/21/2021-SF Tremors
SF Tremors

The 15 USA division at Red Rock was just the third tournament of the season for SF Tremors 15 Wolverines.

“With tight COVID restrictions for our Northern California Region, we weren’t able to have our normal scheduled season,” assistant coach Isis Arce said. “We spent months training and practicing outdoors, hoping tournaments would officially begin.

The Wolverines came to Las Vegas with an American bid already, but wanted to show that it belonged in USA. The team made it to the quarterfinals at Far Western and knew the competition at Red Rock would be at least as good.

“Our ‘undersized’ team, ranked 17th going into the tournament, felt like the underdogs going into each matchup, but the girls were ready to compete,” Arce said. “We played our brand of SF Tremors Volleyball the whole weekend with our tight defense, playing smart, and showing fight throughout each game. We exemplified hard work, discipline, teamwork, and love for the game. We played our best volleyball of the season.”

The key match came in the Gold quarterfinals, versus Eastside Blaze 15N. This is where SF Tremors fell short in Reno. Game 1 went to extra points, SF Tremors pulled it out and went on to sweep. When previously-qualified Forza1 15UA won in three one court over, SF Tremors had clinched its bid.

Arce lauded the entire team and its “amazing parents” for helping bring home the bid.

Setters Kiara Salomon and Audrey Shao led the offense with strong decision making in crunch time and tough serves that scored lots of points. OHs Anna Snigorenko, Sarah Caulder, and Sarah Ng got the job done all around with their strong defense and agility at the net. Right sides Mila Chan, Lydia Valle-Jhanda and Kylie Yen stepped up when needed most. Their blocks on defense and shot selection on offense played a key role in the team’s success. MBs Kendall Lee and Monika Brinlee made their presence known in the middle by shutting down strong hitters with their blocks. Defenders  Kaitlyn Viado, Leia Uyehara, and Penelope Madayag held down the defense, covering tons of court while getting digs off the top hitters in the division.

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1 COMMENT

  1. How about “Rioting is to our west, not here” Qualifier.

    Hope Tim gets over the injury bug before end of season play.

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