2014 Junior Olympic National Championships held in Minneapolis, MN
VolleyPerformance Owner/Director Bob Westbrook, VP Master Coach Jing Hou lead teams to medal finishes while VP participants Haley Templeton, Annika Olsen, Amber McDonald, Alyssa Munlyn, & Caroline Ostman are named to All-Tournament team.
Recap provided by Michael Fletcher, A5 Director.
|A5 18-Bob Caps Record-Breaking Season with Bronze Medal in 18 Open Division Every few years one of our teams participates in a match that is so memorable and meaningful to our organization that The Moment becomes etched in A5 lore. A few come to mind: A5 17-Erica winning a bid at Big South in 2006 – A5′s first bid in the Open Division; A5 18-Bob coming from behind to win the USAV National Championship (National Division) in 2008; A5 17-1′s runner-up finish in the Open Division of USAV Nationals in 2011–our highest finish ever. Similarly, A5 South can point to 17-Joe winning the Regional Championship and a National bid this year, and GA5 15-Bryan winning a bid to Nationals in 2013 was likewise significant in the history of that club.Anyone who was involved in 18-Bob’s match against hometown favorite Northern Lights last Tuesday will remember That Moment for a long time. A5 was coming straight off of an emotional, three-set win over T-Street, their pool’s top seed, earning a bye in the challenge matches and assuring them of a finish of no lower than 7th place. (The highest previous USAV Open finish by a U18 team from the South was A5 Bob’s 2012 team, which finished 9th.)
We were facing AAU bronze medalist Northern Lights in their home town. Lights fans were five-deep around their half of the court, but they were outnumbered by A5 fans, as every one of our eight teams still in Minneapolis was watching. With an appearance in the Final Four on the line, the sound was deafening; the play exhilarating; the atmosphere electric.
Lights built a 6 – 1 lead in set one from which A5 could not recover to go ahead one set to zero. But there was no panic on the A5 side. Indeed, that team’s previous six matches were three-set affairs, and we won them all. A5 again fell behind by five points in set two, and I found myself thinking, “OK, we’re going to lose, but still, this team has had the best season of any team in our club’s history.” But 18-Bob wasn’t going down without a fight and they chipped away at the lead one point at a time to take the second set 26-24.
Set 3 was a nail-biter, with neither team able to establish a lead of more than two points. Ultimately, with the match on the line, Northern Lights blinked and A5 didn’t. There is no way to replicate the pressure a player feels when she is on the service line late in a big match with the fate of the team’s entire season hinging on her ability to put an aggressive serve into play. With the match in the balance, Lights put two consecutive serves into the net, while A5 juniors Taylor Svehla and Alex Mills put theirs in play, with “Yes for Jess” Sloan putting the match away with an ace.
Miami-bound Haley Templeton and future Yellowjacket Annika Olsen were named to the All-tournament team.
Sadly, the dream of a National Championship in the Open division was cut short by a talented California-based Wave team. Still, with a third-place finish on the Nation’s biggest stage, 2014 A5 18-Bob’s legacy as the Best Junior Volleyball Team ever assembled in the South is secure. At least for now. (I suspect that next year’s 18-1 team may have something to say about that…)
Seniors, we look forward to following your careers in college, and juniors, we wish you the best in your high school seasons, and look forward to seeing you back with the club next season.
|A5 17-Jing Takes Silver, Matching Best Finish Ever by Any A5 Team By comparison, A5 17-Jing’s march into the Final Four was anti-climactic. Their final match of pool play-to take over the 2nd overall seed of the tournament-was against Coast–ranked 2nd in the country by AES–and A5 made it look easy, cruising to a straight-set, 25-14; 25-22 win, with very few fans, as most of the A5 Family was five courts away cheering for 18-Bob. This win earned 17-Jing a bye, and a meeting with National power Mizuno Long Beach, whom A5 dispatched 25-19; 25-22, earning their way into the Gold Medal Bracket and a semifinal match against third-seeded and undefeated (in the tournament) Five Starz out of Northern California.Starz never got into the match. With 17-Jing firing on all cylinders, they maintained a lead of three to five points throughout the majority of both sets, such that the 25-22;25-22 win was not as close as the score would indicate.
This win set up the Championship Match pitting Jing against Ping. A5 Coach Jing Hou and Texas Advantage (“TAV”) Coach Ping Cao, two of the top coaches in the country, have common ties to China’s National Team. This would mark the first time they had played each other in the New World. I have heard coaches suggest how cool it would be if TAV 17′s played A5 17′s, as it would be Jing vs. Ping (seriously; not kidding). And here it happened in the match for the National Championship.
Heading into the Finals, TAV had not dropped a set throughout the tournament, and they allowed a team to score more than 20 points on them just once. Their players have all committed to big-time Division I schools–including two to Texas. With an 84-3 record coming into the Match, AES ranked TAV first of the 2384 U17′s team in their system. Beating them in the Championship Match would be a tall order.
Sadly, it was not to be. TAV was just too good. They validated their top ranking by taking control of the match from the outset and they never let up.
Still, A5 17-Jing’s Silver Medal finish matched the highest finish by any team from A5 in the USAV National Championship Tournament ever. Congratulations, ladies, on an incredible season and a break-through tournament performance.
Congratulations, too, to All-Tournament honorees Missouri commit Alyssa Munlyn, Amber MacDonald (Wisconsin) and future Georgia Dawg Caroline Ostman. I mentioned this in a previous newsletter, but for the benefit of you skimmers out there, All-Tournament Team recognition is in many ways a team award, for it takes the entire team to finish second in the tournament, and only by finishing second does a team earn the right to place three players on the ATT. Congrats Alyssa, Amber and Caroline, and great work by the entire team!