Same players, same coaches, same intentions – different results.
The Dynasty Black 13u volleyball squad certainly labored to get off to the start it might have envisioned at the Triple Crown NIT, as the team dropped three pool play matches and didn’t display the consistency required to make a dent at a top-scale championship.
But the deep, determined nature of the Dynasty team (based in Kansas City, KS) and its ability to shake off any negativity from early struggles proved most relevant, as Dynasty rumbled through bracket play and claimed the 13 Elite title with a well-earned 25-10, 18-25, 16-14 victory over MadFrog Green on Monday at the MAVS complex. MadFrog had taken down Dynasty without much drama in pool play, but the rematch was a different tale as Dynasty got a handle on their game when it mattered most.
“Triple Crown was like two different tournaments for us. We played really well against Long Beach in pool play and really well against Kiva, Mavs, and Madfrogs in bracket play,” said Dynasty coach Bryon Larson. “We played poorly in the other four matches. We didn't serve and pass well for large stretches in pool play. We served really tough and passed with precision and purpose in the bracket matches. The girls came into bracket play with the hunger and grit that champions play with. We got great swings out of system and kept pressure on our opponents. It was fun to see the girls flip a switch and play dominant volleyball.”
In the championship match, Dynasty took what looked like to be a dominant lead at 12-7, only to see MadFrog score the next five points to tie it up.
“They are a great team that can impose their will on anyone at a given time. We gutted it out and put the last few points away -- the match was a dogfight the entire time,” Larson said.
Although Dynasty needed time to find its game at the start of the tournament, Larson felt the format of the event (where teams play top-flight competition right out of the gate) was ultimately a benefit.
“The format of the Power Pools transitioning into bracket play is the best thing going. We were able to play elite open level teams for seven of our eight matches,” he said. “We got battle tested and made some coaching and lineup adjustments. The team overcame adversity and played inspired for the bracket matches. Triple Crown gave us the feel of Day 3 and 4 at Nationals for three straight days."
While there were plenty of big plays by the Nebraska Premier 12 Gold roster in Monday’s championship match of the Triple Crown NIT 12 Elite, a strong argument can be made that the critical moments came earlier in the semifinals.
The Nebraska Premier squad fell behind by 10 points at the start of that semi against MAVS, but somehow figured out a path back to contention. After securing a 25-23, 25-17 victory there, the 12 Gold had their confidence and faith fully restored before posting a 25-13, 25-21 win over Munciana Peppers at the MAVS facility in Olathe, KS.
“We had to regain our poise in the noise,” said 12 Gold coach John Castle. “We talked about what we wanted to do, but it’s volleyball and they are 12 years old … all I can say is everybody had a role in the comeback. We had amazing sideline energy, and that helped us get going in the right direction. After that, we knew we were fortunate to have the opportunity to play in the final.”
The championship turned out to be a rematch from earlier in the tournament, when Munciana authored a 22-25, 25-17, 15-9 victory. The 12 Gold could have been sobered by that early loss, but Castle said his young squad ended up with exactly the right attitude.
“We took that loss at the time as, let’s put ourselves in a position to get a chance at a rematch,” he said. “And that meant, focusing on the things that got us there – having fun, connecting with each other on the court and taking care of our side of the net. Really, that loss was a good thing, because it made us refocus on what makes us successful.
With Castle and coach Krysta Peers, the 12 Gold stood in a circle after their finals victory, shared their appreciation for each other and soaked in the first-ever 12 Elite title awarded at the TC NIT.
“We congratulated Munciana on a great tournament and how they helped us get better,” Castle added. “And when that final ball dropped, it was an awesome feeling.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When the Nebraska Premier volleyball program joined the fray at the Triple Crown NIT in 2018, you could tell it wouldn’t take too long for the club to make an impact on Championship Day.
Nebraska Premier delivered on the promise Monday, with the 12 Gold team taking first place thanks to a 25-13, 25-21 victory over Munciana and the 15 Gold muscling up for a 27-25, 25-20 win over Central Iowa Select.
15 Elite head coach Shannon Smolinksi said her squad thrived in an extremely difficult pool of competition by embracing and excelling in whatever role was required. The team went 8-1 overall, including four three-set victories.
“Their passion, their grit, their desire to not only compete at the highest level but to win, it’s special to watch,” Smolinksi said. “They trusted themselves and trusted their training.”
Nebraska Premier fell behind 6-0 to CIS in the first set, but figured out a path while slowly working on the comeback. In the second set, Nebraska Premier was sturdy and stable right out of the gate.
“They knew how the play was going to look, so that flowed into our offense, and we were able to have our offense go a little bit faster and attack with the speed we typically use,” Smolinksi added. “We were proud of their adjustments, to be able to take risks and go for it.”
The 13 Elite title was claimed by Dynasty VBC, based in Kansas City, KS. They slipped past MadFrog (TX) 25-20, 18-25, 16-14. Dynasty was just 1-3 in its first four matches, then turned around to win four straight.
By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo -- KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jessica Mruzik might have been hard to find for a stretch Monday, but rest assured, she had no interest in hiding at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The powerful hitter for the Legacy Elite (Michigan) vaulted her team off to a great start, hung back in the shadows, then delivered some killer blows as Legacy claimed a 25-21, 16-25, 15-12 victory over Texas Image to win the 18 Elite championship at the Triple Crown NIT. In a contest where the teams traded serious shots from powerful offensive sequences, the match was tied as late as 9-all in the third set.
Paige Briggs (heading to Western Kentucky for college volleyball) came through with a kill and a difficult dig, which was converted into another point on a swing by Allyson Severance (Miami-Ohio). Mruzik, who still has until 2020 before heading to Michigan, converted to make it 14-12, then served an ace for match point, a nice counterpoint to the second set that saw her play more in the background.
“When I’m struggling, I think of the most effective way I can help my team if I’m not playing one part of my game as efficiently as I’d like,” said Mruzik, whose flying kills from the back row provided many highlights in the first set. “I try to help my team out in other ways; if I’m not hitting well, I want to step up my passing.
“The (last serve) … that was great. I really wanted to get that ace.”
Texas Image had a few too many service errors and other mistakes to survive Set 1, but the team came at Legacy in waves in Set 2, with the kills from Azhani Tealer (Kentucky) reverberating through the hall. Molly Phillips (Texas) and Sophia Miller (Arkansas State) also broke loose offensively as Texas Image rumbled ahead in a set that was once as close as 11-10.
Legacy needed to make some adjustments before the third set, and they seemed to work as the Michigan squad took an 8-4 lead. Texas Image tied it at 8-all as Legacy settled for tipping the ball over the net, but that last push fueled by Mruzik and Briggs did the job.
“Paige does things you don’t expect – at 5-foot-10, she touches 10-3, so she can be deceiving. What she did in the third set, she’s such a great kid and a great player,” said Legacy coach Ricky Cottrill. “I flipped Jess and Jessica Robinson to start the third set to get a bigger block on (Tealer), and we got some momentum early. Paige did what she needed at the end.
“For (Mruzik), she takes a lot of swings, and I think she was running out of steam. I get after Jess; she’s one of those kids you can yell at, and she’ll respond. It’s a delight to be able to coach her.”
Robinson (Michigan) had important kills sprinkled throughout the match, including one that put Legacy up 21-18 in Set 1 and 13-11 in the third set.
“After Game 2, we said we knew we were the better team, and that was sloppy play by us. We had to focus on our jobs, not to do too much more or less,” Robinson said. “Play clean, support each other, and we’re not going to let anything hit the ground without, like, eight people diving for it.
“It feels amazing (pouring in points). Obviously the kills feel awesome, then you turn around to your teammates, and they are all screaming in your face, you hold your hands up. It’s great to feel the momentum, and you know your kill gets everyone ready to go.”
Legacy was 8-1 overall at the TC NIT.
By Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For about a half hour on Monday afternoon, TStreet and A5 Mizuno went toe-to-toe in the 16 Elite championship game of the Triple Crown NIT.
The two sides traded punches in an intense first set, just as they did in pool play just two days prior. And with a tournament crown at stake, the intensity was certainly high.
TStreet ultimately edged A5 Mizono 29-27 in the first set to put the California-based squad in the driver’s seat.
But what happened next may have come as a surprise to the fans gathered around Court 15 inside the Kansas City Convention Center.
TStreet turned on the burners in the second set as it sped past A5 Mizuno to claim a straight-set victory (29-27, 25-14) and an NIT championship. It’s the club’s second 16s title.
“This is a huge win for the club,” TStreet coach Mike Murphy said. “I’m so proud of the girls. It’s massive. We got the gold back in 2012 when this first started.”
The victory capped an 8-1 weekend, including a pool play victory over A5 Mizuno (32-30, 26-24) on Saturday. Texas Advantage handed TStreet’s lone loss (26-24, 25-15) in a pool play opener.
A5 Mizuno finished the weekend with a 7-2 record and as tournament runner-ups.
“We weren’t satisfied, but the first set was a battle,” A5 Mizuno coach Gabe Aramian said. “It was very close, similar to how we played them earlier in the tournament. We had multiple opportunities to close out the set; we just couldn’t perform when it mattered.”
Much like TStreet’s pool play win over A5 Mizuno, the first set of the title match was an action-packed battle. TStreet jumped out to a 5-1 lead before A5 Mizuno took its first lead at 10-9 following a 5-0 run. Thirteen ties followed during the remainder of the set.
A5 Mizuno’s Jacque Boney caught fire late with five kills and a pair of blocks. But TStreet’s balanced attack of Macy Wilder, Grace Chillingworth, Elyse Stowell, Rachel Fairbanks and Brianne Albright all contributed kills down the stretch to seal the set No. 1 win.
“The first win gave us more energy and we came out really on fire in the second set,” TStreet outside hitter Jessica Smith said. “We had a lot of energy and our blocking really pulled through. It lifted us up and kept us going.”
TStreet kept it rolling in the second set as it jumped out to a 5-1 lead. A5 Mizuno cut the lead to 5-3, but TStreet scored three straight and eventually used a crucial 6-1 stretch to take a 15-7 lead.
A5 Mizuno made one final push with a 5-0 run to trim the lead to 19-13 to force a TStreet timeout.
TStreet proceeded to finish the contest with a game-sealing 6-1 run, giving the program another title to its trophy case.
“It’s huge, especially because it’s the first tournament of the year,” said Smith, a UCLA beach commit. “Starting off strong really gives us a strong starting point for the year.”