by Kyle Koso
If Kristin Perkins had to watch her team get bounced from the 13 Elite title match at the Triple Crown NIT on Monday, she wasn’t going to sit around and just hope the Milwaukee Sting Gold would stumble into solutions.
After the Sting dropped the first set to MadFrog 13 National by a resounding score of 25-8, Perkins ordered a full reset, with positions, approaches and attitudes all given a fresh look. It took a while, as the Sting also trailed for portions of set two, but eventually they doused some of MadFrog’s hitting prowess and fought their way to an 8-25, 25-22, 15-13 victory at the Kansas City Convention Center.
After feeling whatever the opposite of momentum is in set one, the Sting slowly unleashed its own solid group of hitters and applied heavy pressure as Natalie Surges and Ali Beers put down numerous shots. It was a bit of a shock, really, after that rough beginning.
“That wasn’t our best set of the weekend. We looked to each other – we put blame on each other in the first set, but we had to internalize that and work hard as a team,” head coach Perkins said. “We switched our blocking schemes, moved blockers over, changed the defense and we were able to pickup more balls. We have a lot of (offensive) variety, and we also have three setters, which is a drastically different style.
“That helped offset some of what they did on the other side of the court. Our setters made the difference, they gave our hitters the opportunity to see some higher balls, give us more time to put it down.”
Down 13-9 in set two, the Sting used a cluster of kills from Beers to get stable and then let the lineup roll with great swings from Holly Hawthorne, Ireland Zyzo and Surges, the latter who had the final kill of the set.
“We always say it’s time to come together, don’t play as individuals but try to play as a team,” said Beers about responding to early adversity. “We tried to focus, settle down, see what we did wrong and try to change it. Finally, it started coming together. People were getting kills, and we just kept going with that.”
MadFrog had beaten the Sting on Sunday in two sets, another match where the Sting got off to a slow start. But by the third set Monday, it looked much different. An ace from libero Addison Bruns gave Milwaukee a 9-6 lead; MadFrog came back to tie it at 10-all on a block from Simone Heard and then took a 12-10 lead.
Kills from Surges and Zyzo, an ace from Cassidy Bruns and a net violation pushed the Sting ahead, 14-12 – an errant swing by MadFrog notched the final point.
“We needed some energy, and after our bench was able to provide that, it carried onto the court, and then it seemed carry through to everyone,” Hawthorne said. “We were able to make it happen. We learned (from Sunday) where they hit and where we needed to be on the court, understood their plays. After we got some kills, we knew what we had and could get something done.”
While the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT was shifted from February to May because of the pandemic, several teams from the MadFrog club program in suburban Dallas were more than ready to shine despite the shift in routine.
One team that definitely handled the disruption in fine fashion was the MadFrog 12 Elite Green squad, which swept all three of its matches on Monday to claim the 12 Elite title at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“Triple Crown is such a competitive tournament and I always look forward for my team to compete in it. This year was no different. We struggled on day one and dropped a match to another talented Texas team, but my girls came through the rest of the weekend,” said 12’s head coach Stephanie Lewellen. “We talked a lot about positive body language and energy after the first day of play, in which we were lacking both.
"The team responded well to our conversation, the constructive criticism and came out on day two and three ready to take care of business. I am so proud of my team. We are ready to put in the work for the final performance of the season (the junior national championship).”
MadFrog started Monday with a 25-19, 25-11 victory over Mavs KC, then prevailed in the semifinals with an impressive 25-9, 25-14 win over Premier Nebraska. In the final, Dynasty Black put up some significant resistance in moments, but MadFrog had the answers in a 25-18, 25-23 victory.
“I know this is probably the only year that Triple Crown will happen in May, but I love that we got to compete at this level before nationals. This was a great warm up tournament for us as we head to Vegas,” Lewellen said. “Communication has been an issue for us all season long. Sometimes we would rather try to win a game as six individual players rather than as a team — one unit.
“The matches or sets that we won by a wide margin definitely were in part due to the communication, teamwork and consistency. We have some big hitters, but those big hits wouldn’t be possible without the good passing and setting.”
The MadFrog 12’s finished the 2021 TC NIT with a record of 8-1 overall, winning 16 of its 18 sets played.
by Cody Thorn
The Houston Skyline Royal 17 Royal made quick work of Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy 17 Jason in the Triple Crown National Invitational Tournament 17 Elite finals, though the biggest win may have come earlier in the day.
Skyline won 2-0 (25-10, 25-18) to wrap up an 8-1 showing over the three-day tournament at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The journey to the title match included a revenge win for Jen Woods’ squad, starting with a three-set win over Texas Advantage Volleyball Black 17 in the first match on Monday.
“No one (team) in Skyline has won Triple Crown so it is pretty exciting,” said Skyline opposite hitter Logan Lednicky, a Texas A&M pledge. “The finals maybe wasn’t as exciting as we hoped but we fought hard to get here. We lost to TAV on Day one and came in and beat them this morning in three. It is always a big competition between two really good clubs in Texas. It was a big win for us.”
After that game, Skyline Royal beat Arizona Storm 17 Thunder in two sets and followed with another convincing win over the Clearwater-based squad in the finals. The two teams met on Sunday and Skyline won in two sets there as well, winning 25-19 and 25-13.
In the finals, Skyline Royal scored six of the first seven points. OTVA came back after the slow start and the next 12 points were split evenly. A kill by Lily Frierson cut the deficit to 12-7 but Skyline Royal rattled off six points in a row to build an 18-7 lead. After that run was halted, Skyline Royal scored four in a row, with kills coming from North Florida commit Kierstyn McFall and LSU commit Maddie Waak.
A kill by the left-handed swinging Lednicky ended the first set.
OTVA took its first and only lead early in the second set, jumping ahead 6-4 after a 3-0 run that took advantage of errors by Skyline Royal. A combo block by Bailey Hanner and McFall allowed the Texans to tie the set at 8-8. Before that, the team got a kill from outside hitter Alexis Dacosta, a Baylor commit.
Skyline Royal pushed the lead to 13-8, which forced OTVA coach Jason Partington to call a timeout to regroup his team. The brief respite worked and the Floridians scored three of the next four points. However, OTVA didn’t pull any closer than three points the rest of the way.
That came at 20-17 on a return error but kills by Morgan Perkins – an Oklahoma pledge – and Dacosta pushed the advantage back to five for Skyline Royal. Of the 13 players for Skyline Royal in Kansas City, nine of 12 2022 graduates are already committed to Division I programs.
The second set ended with a net violation on OTVA, which made it 25-18 and capped off six wins in a row for the Houston-based program.
“From day one’s first point to today, it is a grind and it is a battle with all of these quality teams from all over the country,” Partington said. “We worked hard all year and we still got work to do. There is some amazing competition to get to the finals. It’s not the outcome wanted but it is OK. We still got work to do for AAU and JO (Junior Olympics).”
OTVA went 6-3 in the tournament, losing twice to Royal and then losing to Sunshine 17 LA in the opener. Those two met again in the first match on Sunday and OTVA won 27-25 and 29-27 in two long sets to reach the semifinals. OTVA then dispatched Tri-State Elite 17 Blue 2-0 (25-15 and 25-19) in the semifinals.
“The finals wasn’t as exciting but that was a good team, I just don’t think they had enough in the tank after what they poured into Sunshine,” Woods said of OTVA. “The path getting there (to the finals) is tough.”
Lednicky led Skyline Royal with 10 kills. As a team, Skyline Royal had a hitting percentage of .426.
Skyline Royal will prepare next for a trip to Las Vegas for the USAV Tournament in July.
“This was a tough tournament but it is a lot like nationals coming up in July,” said outside hitter Nina Moorer, who led Skyline Royal with 14 digs. “It will be a lot of the same teams and a lot of good teams. This was a good pre-tournament for that.”
by Matt Antonic
It was the end of the line for the Club Pohaku 18 & Under team on Monday. A priceless chance for a happy ending.
High school graduation had come and gone. For all but two Pohaku players, the 18's championship matchup at the Triple Crown NIT against Club Invasion would be their final time on the court together, a conclusion to their club sports career.
Chances for happy endings in sports seldom present themselves, and for both teams Monday, a moment had arrived to write the final chapter on their terms. The team that would ascend to the stage to claim the trophy would be the one who had more desire.
It was the countless diving efforts that said Pohaku wanted it more. It was the ferocious effort to defend at the net. It was the increasing volume of screams coming from the bench and from the crowd. Everybody was on a mission. It was the incredible execution at the end of both sets.
Pohaku completed their final conquest of the Memorial Day weekend of the NIT, toppling Invasion in straight sets (27-25, 25-20) at the Kansas City Convention Center.
What began as a weekend full of possibilities ended in triumph, and it was obvious just how much it meant. Coaches embraced on the sideline. Players shed tears of joy. The final team photo op came with a banner proclaiming it champions.
It was this Pohaku age group’s first year together with the club, meaning it had to start at the bottom of the rankings. There was nowhere to go but up. If you asked anyone on the club, however, they would tell you the sky was the limit.
“We started from the bottom of every bracket,” Pohaku player Aubrey Lapour said. “We were ranked last in every tournament. Every outing, we kept going higher and higher.
The climb resulted in a second place finish at nationals, but it wasn’t first. That was more than enough motivation for Pohaku. “We had to top it,” Lapour said.
For coach Conan Salanoa, the final championship win was the culmination of the improvement his club had made since they came together. His experienced team had been tested time and time again, and was more than prepared for the final exam.
“They were used to it,” he said. “Being in the championship match at nationals, I think it helped them there and helped us win today.”
Pohaku didn’t spend it’s time before the match obsessing over strategy. It was about playing hard and overcoming challenges.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity,” Salanoa said. “We had one girl playing with a stress fracture, another with tendinitis, but they know how to earn things. To overcome that was wonderful.”
For Lauren Wheeler, the win was about settling the nerves. The team made a string of mistakes midway through each set that gave Invasion the lead. “We definitely got a little frantic,” she said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves. We didn’t have anyone getting in their heads.”
For most of Pohaku, the future is now. Many players will go on to play high-level volleyball at the collegiate level, the next stop in their sporting journeys. Lapour said she sees nothing but good things on the horizon for the people she says she considers family.
“I don’t think there is any ceiling for these girls,” she said. “With the amount of passion they have for the game and heart, they can do anything.”
by Kyle Koso
With even just a quick scan of the lineup for the A5 16 Gabe squad, there’s undeniable talent in all corners of the roster, and the team certainly has all the pieces required to win matches.
That’s why it was the ultimate head-scratcher Monday at the 16 Elite championship match of the Triple Crown NIT when A5 fell behind by 11 points (16-5) against Legacy at the Kansas City Convention Center. To their credit, A5 (out of Georgia) assembled an impressive comeback to at least make set one interesting, before truly finding their touch in what became a 22-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory in the title match.
A5 even trailed 12-8 in set two; however, the percolating offensive muscle from players like Ashley Sturzoiu, Sydney Bray and Jaidyn Garcia really began to take hold to level the competitive energy of the matchup. Those downer moments have been part of the process all year, according to A5 coach Gabe Aramian.
“It’s bizarre, but not as bizarre as you’d think. We’ve had to come back a lot this tournament, but the word that defines us is ‘resilient,’” Aramian said. “We’re not the biggest or the most physical team, but we just keep playing and refuse to lose. Legacy’s used to being at the top all the time, the defending champions, so we had a lot of things going against us.
“Every match we played, every team we played was tough, there were no gimme matches. We knew we had to play excellent the whole time … we maybe didn’t all the time, but we always finished excellent.”
Legacy secured the first set after an amazing dig from Allison Berent and a net cord ace from setter Erin Kline, who had a stellar match from start to finish. In set two, A5 got points from multiple sources, polishing off the moment with kills from Sturzoiu and Milana Thornton.
“It was the championship, the thing you work on for the entire season. We had nothing to lose after the first set,” Sturzoiu said. “Over and over throughout the season in those pressure moments, you learn to rely on each other and how to build trust. Build each other up even if there is a mistake … I just felt like, this is something we just have to do.”
The third set saw Legacy jump ahead again, 7-4, on a kill from Laurece Abraham, and it was 11-11 on a kill from Legacy’s Harper Murray. Sturzoiu had a fearless swing to make it 12-11, and the match ended on a shot from Garcia. It marked the end of an imprssive journey, with A5 winning two other three-set matches (vs. KC Power and MadFrog) on Monday to reach the finals.
“We always battle and fight to get to the finish. We knew every play mattered, so we went all out,” Bray said. “We knew the comeback in the first set was a big accomplishment, and we knew we needed to keep that momentum for the rest of the way. We call ourselves the runts, and we are excited to do this. We battled with everyone.”
And if there was one lingering theme, it was widespread appreciation for the skills of libero Arya Jue, who dug up one impossible ball after another for A5.
“Arya stepped up big throughout the tournament, the whole season, but really was amazing in the tournament from beginning to end,” Aramian said.
“I read (the hitters), just kept my platform steady,” Jue said. “There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a lot of fun, too. I love my position a lot. We knew we were going to win – we just kept fighting and eventually won. That’s the first time we’ve beaten them in like four years.”
by Cody Thorn
Despite not having a full, healthy roster, MadFrog 15s National Green prevailed in 15 Elite championship match on Monday.
The Plano, Texas-based program won 2-1 over Premier Nebraska 15 Gold in the title game at the Triple Crown National Invitational Tournament at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City.
MadFrog lost the first set 25-23 to the squad from Omaha but then won the next two, 25-20 and 15-13. The game winning point came from a hit by Avery Jackson, which fell in the middle of the court after hitting the top of the net.
“Just seeing it drop was really nice,” Jackson said. “I was just trying to get it over and hit it as hard as I could so we could finish it. It was a good feeling. We have been battling all weekend and we have done so, so it was good to finish it. The word of the weekend was resilient, so I’m glad we pushed through and fought as a team.”
Added her coach Nikki Bramschrieber, “she went for it and I said swing to score and then it trickled over.”
MadFrog had to rally in the third after falling behind on miscues as four straight return errors gave Premier a 7-3 lead. Bramschrieber called a timeout to help regroup her squad and it worked a bit. MadFrog pulled within 7-6 within moments thanks to a serving error and kills from Regan Fitzsimmons and Lillian Croshaw.
“I tried to make them not feel the pressure,” Bramschrieber said. “It’s just volleyball. Just play. If they get a pass and we get a set, our first ball sideout is pretty good. I only worry when we can’t get multiple points. If we are serving, we are pretty hard to contend with.”
A service point from Talley Grissom allowed MadFrog to forge a 9-all tie in the deciding set. Back-to-back shots, with deflections going out of bounds, gave MadFrog the lead for good.
Croshaw had a block to make it 13-10, which led to a timeout by Premier coach Shannon Smolinski.
Premier pulled within a point twice, 13-12 and 14-13, the first on a combo block by Mia Tvrdy and Josie Clevergina and then on a service error by MadFrog.
Then, the match ended on Jackson’s shot – one where she just tried to get the ball over the net.
“We were resilient and we were pushing hard,” said Croshaw, who led the team with 12 kills. “We were not going to lose. We just kept pushing for every point.”
The match was the first for Premier on Monday that they lost in three sets. Earlier in the day, the Nebraskans beat A5 Volleyball Club Bob in three sets and then dispatched Adidas Dynasty Black in three sets in the semifinals.
The first set featured a back-and-forth contest that had nine ties through 22 points. The latest came at 11-11 but Premier rattled off three straight points to regain the lead getting an ace and then a kill by Lauren Medeck – who had a game-high 14 kills.
Premier never trailed from there, but MadFrog wouldn’t go away. Up 20-15, the lead dwindled to 21-20. MadFrog pulled within 22-21, 23-22, 24-23 but a kill by Tvrdy ended the first set.
MadFrog turned a 4-4 tie in the second set into a five-point lead, 11-6, after consecutive kills by Croshaw and Jackson – who just returned from five-week hiatus after a broken pinky suffered playing sand volleyball.
Premier got within a point, 16-15, following a block by Medeck but that was the closest score as MadFrog pulled away. MadFrog – 8-0 in the tournament – then took the first point of the final set on a combo block by Lainee Pyles and Akunna Cos-Okpalla.
Jackson had nine kills, while Fitzsimmons chipped in with seven. Jackson had a 2.48 passing percentage and added six digs, tied for second on the team with Avery Baughman. Fitzsimmons had seven digs, while Pyles led MadFrog with three blocks and two aces.
Carson Eickenloff led MadFrog with three assists, though the team is still reeling from the loss of setter Cate Hatfield. A knee injury last Saturday left her on crutches and the team trying to change the rotation and scheme ahead of a national tournament.
“It was difficult (to win) with a partial roster,” Bramschrieber said. “We are fighting a lot of injuries. We lost our setter. Avery just came out of her cast and our other right side was out for almost six weeks. Our goal was to come here and not be injured any further. We like to come here in February and compete, and I wish we’d been here in February. We’d been fully stocked by then. But this ended up being a warm-up for nationals. If we can win with what we got, the majority are USA teams, we have a good shot at being a medalist in (Las) Vegas.”
by Matt Antonic
The Arizona Storm made it clear on Monday they were capable of putting mistakes behind them. The majority of their first set against Club MadFrog in the 14 Elite championship match of the Triple Crown NIT was certainly a stretch they would like to forget.
The script was flipped in the second set. The Storm jumped out to an almost unbelievable 15-2 lead enroute to winning 25-12. The deciding set would test Arizona’s athleticism and MadFrog’s toughness at the net.
A bonafide thriller ensued. MadFrog nearly erased a 6-1 lead, pulling within one on an emphatic block at the net by middle blocker Olivia Wayne. The scoreboard read 14-13 in favor of Arizona when a Storm-hit ball appeared to be heading out. A whistle came from the referee tower, signaling a tipped ball by the ever so closest of margins. Game over.
Good news for a team that has endured, by coach Cari Bauer’s own analysis, a very difficult past year. Only last week were the Storm able to compete in a qualifier. The rise to the top of the division at the NIT and final championship victory (20-25, 25-12, 15-12) were nothing short of remarkable.
“It’s been a great three days for us,” she said. “This is always a great tournament with lots of tough competition.”
The stellar performance in the second and third sets was in direct contrast to a tough first set that saw the Storm struggle to gain their footing. MadFrog’s aggressive approach was causing all sorts of problems.
“We made some unforced errors,” Bauer said. “I feel like the kids were a little bit nervous. We needed to get more disciplined.”
The Storm toughened up on the block, which Bauer credited as a huge help to defenders. The team’s athleticism was then put on full display. Arizona recorded countless impressive plays, including several agile digs initiated by impressive dives.
The postgame buzz near the presentation stage from the Storm contingent was palpable, and for good reason. The club has been forced away from the competitive arena for months on end, and now finds itself crowned champions of the NIT.
Storm outside hitter Teraya Sigler said the team knows how painful coming so close only to fall can be. The motivation to finish the job in full was apparent in the player’s intensity.
“We know what second place is like,” she said. “We know what it’s like to have that heartbreak, and that was kind of the drive. We wanted it and we went after it.”
Some of the most impressive athletic plays of the match came from libero Izzy Mahaffey, who spent all game saving points for the Storm with vital defense. Mahaffey said her work ethic was just one piece that helped the whole team function well, and that good plays fed confidence.
“The energy was palpable,” she said. “We really felt the momentum shift in the second set.”
The club’s unity was obvious, and Mahaffey demonstrated as such when she echoed Sigler’s thoughts on what pushed the Storm over the top to victory.
“It sucks getting second,” she said. “We were really pushing ourselves and it was an amazing experience.”
by Matt Antonic
As flipping of the scripts go, the 13u Club MKE Sting will have quite the story to tell. Facing the KC Dynasty on Sunday, the Sting were fighting, but were being outplayed.
Having already dropped the first set and trailing 23-20 in the second, coach Kristin Perkins called timeout. The team needed something to change, and needed to do it quickly. The Sting decided to shift strategy, moving the focus on the Dynasty in an attempt to throw them off their game.
The result was stunning. The Sting mounted a comeback, unleashing a 6-1 run to win the second set, sending the match into a deciding third set. This time, it was no competition. The Sting scored the first five points of the set and never looked back, winning the set 15-6 and the match (19-25, 26-24, 15-6) at the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City.
The shifts came directly out of the timeouts, with a renewed sense of energy and focus as soon as the players broke the huddle. It was the successful execution of strategy, Perkins said, that pushed the team over the hill.
“We focused on their side of the court and not our side of the court,” she said. “We made adjustments from our defensive side."
The Sting were successfully able to force the Dynasty into making mistakes, opening a window for a comeback win. It wasn’t enough to just play good defense, however. The team needed to executive its offensive opportunities, and did so to Perkins’ liking.
“Our serve-receive and our serving game totally transitioned that game to our side of the court offensively so we could have momentum,” she added.
The Sting were boosted by an incredibly raucous group of travelling fans, enhanced by the permeable energy coming from the bench. The match was played on the less crowded South end of the Kansas City Convention Center. The noise and energy from the crowd become much more noticeable than matches played in crowded settings, where the noise from court-to-court can morph into a loud buzz that lasts all day.
Sting player Holly Hawthorne said the boost contributed to the team turning things around. “I think we finally were able to pick up our energy and realize that every team is beatable,” she said. “We can fight and win even when we’re down.”
The chemistry and communication between Sting players was on full display. Players on the bench contributed to the energy with a variety of cheers and chants. Hawthorne said it’s the result of the team being together for years.
“Over time, I think we were able to bond and get to know each other more and trust each other more,” she said. “That way we can go out on the floor and know that we are going to be there for each other.”
The Sting will take their best swings again Monday in the 13u bracket, facing a local team, either MAVS or Dynasty at 9:30 a.m.
Perkins said she is excited for the opportunity. Before the team broke the huddle and departed, she reinforced the messages she gives at practice about putting in work. “What we talk about is that we don’t look for anyone else to go for a ball except ourselves. The balls around us we’re going to go and give 110 percent.”
by Matt Antonic
Kennedy Wagner with 1st Alliance (Chicago) says her club takes a very positive approach whenever someone makes a mistake. There’s no yelling or screaming, no “come ons” or even a “shake it off.”
“Whenever we make a mistake, we say ‘you got it,’ because we really feel like that brings you up,” she said.
The Alliance had just made a handful of mistakes to allow Club Elevation right back into the second set Sunday in 16 Elite bracket action at the Triple Crown NIT. A 19-15 lead had suddenly been whittled down to one, leading to a timeout. The Alliance’s positive and disciplined approach paid off when they broke the huddle, as the team finished off the Elevation to win in straight sets (25-18, 25-22) at the Kansas City Convention Center.
In both sets, the Alliance dominated for stretches, but slip-ups allowed Elevation to continue to see daylight. The first set saw a five-point lead disappear in the blink of an eye. But as Wagner said, the club’s positive reinforcement allowed it to regroup with ease, closing out each set with dominance. It was 16-16 in the first set before a timeout. A 9-2 run followed to end it.
It was 22-21 in the second set; Alliance didn’t let Elevation score again. Wagner said the result was just a glimpse of the team’s hard work that has begun to pay incredible dividends. Due to Illinois COVID restrictions, the club was not able to be together or compete for lengthy amounts of time. When they did return to the gym, Wagner said the team’s work rate was higher than ever.
“We worked our butts off in practice,” she said. “We had three hour sessions, and we tried to be the team we are now. All those practices are showing off now.”
Coach Trish Samolinski agreed, adding that the team’s main focus has been efficiency. Specifically, efficiency at the end of sets. That strategy was on full display as the team came out of timeouts at the end of both sets and executed well.
“Especially the last five plays of the game, we’re really focusing on being pretty flawless,” she said. “I thought the girls executed really well when they got to playing.”
Among other displays shown by 1st Alliance were the variety of hustle plays that fired up both players and the band of travelling fans. The team saved points on several occasions by keeping seemingly lost balls in play, forcing the Elevation into mistakes.
“Without us making mistakes, it helps us achieve what we want to do,” Samolinski said. “We did things like move our servers around, and that moves the passes around and gets them out of system.”
“Gritty” was the word Samolinski used to describe her group and the effort they displayed. The team’s effort was even buoyed by players from teams in the club’s younger age group coming by the court to lend support.
“They’re a pretty group of kids. They know even if they’re down, they have the grit and intensity to fight back, and that’s going to win us games,” Samolinski added.
by Cody Thorn
Legacy 16-1 Adidas and Houston Juniors Volleyball 16 Elite ran across each other in a tournament earlier this season in Orlando.
The Michigan-based Legacy program won two sets to take that showdown, but a rematch happened Sunday morning at the Kansas City Convention Center at the Triple Crown National Invitational Tournament.
The outcome didn’t change in the new locale as Legacy won, but needed three sets to dispatch the Texans this time around.
HJV and Legacy played a close first set in Orlando before Legacy rolled in the second set. The scenario the second time was similar, but this time the Houston Juniors took the opening set, 25-23.
Legacy rolled to a win in the second set, 25-12 and rallied to win the third, 15-12. They will take on 1st Alliance on Monday in the 16 Elite quarterfinals.
“That third set, I will tell you, we have two good defensive specialists and they were able to put a good touch on passes and Harper (Murray) was able to put the ball down,” Legacy coach Rick Cottrill said.
The Houston Juniors jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the decisive third set, which included an ace by Sydney Jordan and then a combo block by Arissa Smith and Ariel Francis.
Cottrill called a timeout to regroup Legacy, but the Houston team kept scoring points. Jordan had a dig that went across the court and fell in by the post and then Mary-Katherine Preston had a kill, which made it 8-4.
Legacy rallied to tie it at 8-8 and later at 9-9 and 10-10. The lead switched for the final time at 11-10 and grew to 14-10. Four of the five points in that stretch were kills by Murray, who finished with 21.
“I think we have really good leadership in her and we all rally around her,” said teammate Sarah Vellucci of Murray.
The Houston Juniors cut the deficit to 14-12 on a block by Preston but the game ended on a return error.
“I’m really proud of them for coming back after being down 7-3 and 8-4 in the third set,” Cottrill said. “We wanted to be able to defend our serve-receive better. We didn’t do that well in the first set. We were able to defend the serve well and we did what we were capable of doing.”
Murray had six of her 21 kills in the third set, more than the combined total of the Houston Juniors in that set.
“We did a really good job of coming to the middle and passing,” said Murray, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter that is uncommitted.
The Houston Juniors built a five-point advantage in the first set, 12-7, but saw Legacy rally and eventually take a 19-18 lead on a kill by Murray. Cindy Tchouangwa responded with a kill to tie the game and Smith followed with another to make it 21-20. A block by Murray and a kill that sailed out of bounds by Houston gave its final lead, though the game would be tied at 22-22 and 23-23.
A kill by 6-foot-2 Piper Stephenson gave the Houston Juniors the lead for good in the opening set.
“They are hard to stop when they pass the ball well and we couldn’t stop them,” Cottrill said.
Legacy raced out to a 7-2 to lead in the second set and had control throughout, pushing the advantage to as high as 11 points three different times and expanded to 14 points behind an ace by Abby Reck and a block by Laurece Abraham.
The Houston Juniors rallied late with three straight points after that but only trimmed the margin to 24-12 before an error ended the second set.
by Cody Thorn
The opening of the Triple Crown National Invitational Tournament was a humbling one for the Premier Nebraska 12 Gold team.
The Omaha-based squad went 0-3 on Saturday at the Kansas City Convention Center but looked better overall Sunday, posting a 2-1 mark in the 12U division.
Premier lost its opener on Sunday, 25-7 and 25-20 to KC Power 12-1, but then won the next two and finished fourth in the pool.
“I think what brought us together was when we get one win, we’d have a huge winning streak,” said Kam Bails, who wears No. 5 for the team. “It is crazy when, it would be like ‘hey, we won this; might as well win the next one.’ The confidence was huge.”
Premier got in the win column by beating Iowa Select 12 Mizuno 25-18 and 25-19. Then the Gold added another win over MAVS KC 12-1 in two sets.
The first set was close but the Nebraskans pulled away to win 25-22. The competitiveness carried over for both teams in the second set.
Early on, Premier held a 6-4 lead before going ahead, 12-5. Mavs KC got two points in a row to cut the deficit down to 12-7. Then the game-defining run happened, which included a pair of kills from Bails and an ace by Averi Scardina.
The next time MAVS KC scored – on a service error – Premier held a 22-8 lead.
“In the beginning of the game we talked in the circle and said what we need to do to win the set and win the game,” said Premier’s Aubree Fettin, who dons uniform No. 4. “The sideline helps with the energy.”
The Kansas City-area team made a mini-run late, scoring six points in a row to pull within 22-13. After a sideout, Premier ended the game by scoring the next two points. With Taylor Ann McLeay serving, a return volley hit the net and ended the second set.
MAVS KC, based out of Lenexa, Kansas, finished the day 0-3 with losses to Madfrogs 12s N Green and Dynasty Black 12 as well. Those are two of the three undefeated teams in the pool on Sunday, the other was the Texas Pistols 12 Black.
Premier coach John Castle was pleased with how his team responded to the adversity of a 0-4 start in the tournament.
“Yesterday was a good learning opportunity,” said the coach, who has brought a team down Interstate 29 for the past three tournaments. “We faced some awesome teams that showed us things that we improved on today. That is what we did; we came out and applied those things and had a mindset, or a theme, of bring it. We talked individually yesterday about what we will bring today. I asked are we better together? And of course we are. We just need to bring it individually and we will get better together.”
by Kyle Koso
When a team is properly focused on the big picture, a few smears and ink spills really don’t matter that much.
Coping with occasional setbacks served the OTVA 14 Elite team well on Sunday at the Triple Crown NIT, as the squad from Florida earned a spot in the 14 Elite semifinals with a 25-21, 25-22 victory over Houston Skyline. OTVA will face Arizona Storm Thunder at 7:30 on Monday for a berth in the championship match.
The first and foremost threat to OTVA’s fortunes came in the first set, when a (hotly contested) rotation error, a Skyline ace and another kill shot cut the lead to 17-15. Things felt wobbly for a few minutes, but two well-placed tip shots from Izzy Mogridge and Lily Hayes closed out the set and allowed OTVA to regain its footing.
“We’ve learned to push past those moments. It’s going to happen, and we can’t let that get to us,” said Hayes, who ended the match with a thumping kill shot. “We come back and fight, get the momentum back so we can play like we did. The first day of the tournament was really iffy for us (going 1-2 overall). We came out today and showed teams what we really are.”
The second set was more back-and-forth, with Houston Skyline muscling up on kills from Bailey Warren and Bayleigh Minor and taking their first lead of the match at 10-9. A kill from Bella Pereira pushed OTVA back up 14-11, but Skyline countered and held a 21-18 lead as tension began to mount.
After a timeout, OTVA scored six straight points, getting some dynamite serves from libero Myah Typrowicz, and Kaylee Peper did some hard work on the block as well to help secure the win.
“The Kansas City tournament helps me and the team prepare for JO’s and AAU, which is our big thing,” said Mogridge, who flashed skill and touch at every position on the floor. “The energy is so great on the court, and I love controlling the court and the flow … that’s so good. We were able to slow down and focus on one serve-receive pass, and it goes from there.”
OTVA head coach Laura Stegenga said her team sometimes goes quite when adversity starts to mount, but Sunday showed her roster looking comfortable in urging each other onward. There’s certainly enough muscle and speed to make OTVA a threat Monday as well.
“It’s important for our girls to have a lot of communication when things aren’t going well. If you allow negative things to accumulate, that’s what kills you,” she said. “They had to keep their head up and focus on the next play, which is something they are learning. I’m not a fan of one player being set the ball every single time. Skyline had bigger girls than us, so we had to all stay involved to break up the block and give our outsides more of a look.”
by Kyle Koso
There’s not a ton of mystery to the approach of the Tri-State Elite 17’s volleyball squad – get the offensive menace cooking with hitters Tessa Jones, Lucy Trump and Maggie Bugkovitch and see if anyone can put up resistance.
Late Saturday in 17 Elite power pool action at the Triple Crown NIT, Tri-State deployed the plan but found the Premier Nebraska 17 Gold was more than ready for the challenge. The first two sets featured heavy hustle and wild momentum swings, and Tri-State managed the critical late moments best in a 13-25, 25-13, 16-14 victory.
Premier Nebraska broke open the first set, fueled by the all-court skill set of Sadie Millard and solid swings by Maddie MacTaggart. Tri-State came out of the huddle more than agitated that they hadn’t executed very well, and that’s when the offense turned fearsome.
“We knew we were better than what we were putting out there. We told the girls to stay confident, keep their heads up, and we would perform better,” said Tri-State head coach Kevin Lucas. “Nebraska’s defense, we hadn’t really seen that level all year, and we had to but into playing some really long points. They keep everything up in the air, so we had to get to the right mentality the second and third set.”
Trump terminated multiple points early in the second set as Tri-State took an 8-0 lead; two straight kills from Jones and a service ace made it 18-10 for the right amount of breathing room. Tri-State’s hitters were not only powerful, but very agile, allowing the lineup to reset over and over on long points to give them the best chance against Premier’s defense.
“We play a lot of 18’s in power leagues, and we lose most of those, but we have this communication and bond. It’s helps us grow, and we can pull out these types of matches,” said Trump, a Notre Dame signee. “My grandpa played volleyball at Ball State, back in the day, he’s really big on your vertical. I’ve been working on that my whole life, and my whole family, too. Through training I’ve been able to get faster, and that’s helped a lot because I’m a little undersized for my position.
“We don’t see a lot of these teams in tournaments, playing JVA, but we know how great they are. We came in knowing we’d have to work our butts off to play at a high level. I know I can look to my left and know, that person is going to get the ball.”
The third set’s first highlight came from Tri-State’s Gracie Reisman, who had a kick-save on a ball that kept it from falling before converting on a tip for the point. Her team took a 9-6 lead; there was a mix of service errors and errant shots, and a Reisman kill made it 14-13. At 14-14, Trump dropped in a nice placement for a huge point, and Jones finished it with a kill.
“I find it fun, I love to score, and even if I get blocked a couple times I tell my setter, you got to set me again. I want to score and help get us on a run,” said Jones, who will play at Ole Miss when she graduates next year. “If I get the point, maybe it will lift the spirits of somebody else on the team. I’m usually smiling when I’m playing; it gives me a ton of adrenalin and I’m happy to be on the court.
“We were tired, looked like we weren’t awake (early). This is a good start, and I think we have a good chance of winning it all.”
“This is one of the best regular season Tri-State teams we’ve had; only lost twice against 17s,” Lucas said. “We’ve won some tournaments and know we are a good team, and excited to prove it out here.”
by Matt Antonic
Two victories in successive sets vaulted Texas Advantage 16 Elite over Club Sunshine on Saturday, sets with two distinctly different levels of competitiveness.
If a spectator only caught the first set, a 25-18 victory that saw TAV race out to a 13-3 lead, they might assume the entire match was one-sided.
However, Sunshine, buoyed by a spirited cheering section, had no intention of going so quietly. Sunshine fought tooth and nail in the second set, even being within a point of victory, but was simply out-executed at the end by TAV to fall in straight sets (25-18, 26-24) at the TC NIT in Kansas City.
There was no question that both teams wanted it. There was also no question about which team was more fundamentally sound. TAV stayed in its system from the get go and was particularly dominant in the first set, leading by double digits for a majority of the time. Sunshine made a late push, spurred on by remarkable energy between team and fans, but it was too little too late.
“It starts in the training gym,” TAV coach Carlos Ramos said. “We go day in and day out. We work hard and we go after balls.”
The strong and relentless work ethic was visible during the first set, but a nail-biting second set brought out a hint of ruthlessness in Ramos’ squad. TAV was successfully able to force Sunshine into mistakes. Ramos attributed the success to his players being able to thrive in chaos.
“We do a lot of drills of chaotic situations, and it translates to those moments. The resilience those girls had to win the game was beautiful,” he said.
Ramos used the word resilience twice, and for good reason. The Sunshine had just scored back-to-back points to take a 24-22 lead, putting the set on ice. It was time to apply training from chaotic situations in practice to the game. TAV didn’t flinch. Four consecutive points later and TAV had a victory, winning the set 26-24 allowing it to remain atop Power Pool B at 16 Elite with three wins and zero losses.
Ramos said the team knew the options Sunshine was going to deploy coming out of the timeout down 24-22. After talking to his team, it was all up to his players to successfully execute a comeback, and execute the did.
“We didn’t used to be able to do that,” TAV's Kyndal Stowers said on the comeback win. “Anytime we were down, we were down the whole game. The fact that we were down against a good team and came back was awesome.”
There was a certain sense of maturity and composure one could sense from TAV. The noise of the Kansas City Convention Center and the moment itself did not seem cause for great concern.
“We didn’t freak out,” Stowers said. “We kept our composure and played as hard as we could.”
by Matt Antonic
It was a hyper-competitive match that was defined by stunningly long rallies by both sides. So it was only fitting that Club Northern Lights would use one to clinch the second set and the match over the KC Mavs on Saturday (26-24, 28-26).
The exciting back and forth sequence had coaches shouting, teammates clamoring and spectators screeching during 16 Elite power pool action at the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City. For a Northern Lights squad that led for a majority of both sets, the win felt deserved. The team’s efforts to execute under pressure had paid off.
“We’ve been working on our team composure,” Northern Lights coach Adam Beamer said. “We’ve been working on, in our timeouts, remaining calm and getting our heart rates down and going down and doing the things we need to do.”
After an early morning loss to Texas Advantage was followed by a bounce back victory over Club Sunshine, Northern Lights needed to take care of business over the hometown KC Mavs to finish pool play on a high note.
“We were kind of able to pick up whatever came our way,” Northern Lights player Stella Swenson said. “We were calm and collected."
Northern Lights was successful at causing the Mavs to make fundamental mistakes, but both teams proved adept at keeping the ball in play, leading to incredible rally sequences. Both sets saw the scored tied at 24, only for Northern Lights to seal the deal, displaying a remarkable killer instinct in the process.
In the second set, four separate match point opportunities presented themselves. With the scoreboard reading 27-26, Northern Lights thrived under pressure once again and won the longest rally of the match.
For Beamer, the victories on Saturday felt like sweet justice. His club had been stricken by a COVID outbreak after the Show-Me qualifiers back in April. Beamer himself spent 12 days battling a high fever. When his club showed up to Omaha two weeks ago to compete, “we were shot,” he said.
“It’s been a lot of work just trying to get back.”
The resilience on display Saturday wasn’t surprising to Beamer. His club had already dealt with the difficulties of not being able to be together, to have to meet over Zoom and go weekend after weekend with no competition.
After the struggles in previous qualifiers, Beamer said he was honest with his team.
“I just tried to convince them that we aren’t back to where we think we are or want to be,” he said. “COVID took its toll. It was good to come back, two weeks later, and be able to play with more energy in the style of some of these other teams.”
With the nail-biting win, Northern Lights cements the momentum it had been building heading into Sunday. Swenson said team chemistry was a major factor in the victory, and that it gives the players belief that they can keep winning.
“It’s been great so far,” she said. “It’s been great competition for our team.”
by Kyle Koso
Heading into its final match of the day Saturday, the Houston Juniors Volleyball 14 Elite squad had displayed its length and flashed its skill – yet had just a goose egg to display in the win column.
A less than ideal start against the Lions Volleyball Academy could have doused Houston’s mood for good as power pool play began at the 2021 Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City. But HJV kept faith, and kept hammering, enough to post a 16-25, 29-27, 15-9 victory with Kennedi Rogers closing both the second and third sets with noisy, impressive kill shots.
Once Rogers got rolling, there wasn’t much the Lions could do to slow her down, and HJV also had other muscles to flex, with the 6-foot-5 Jordan Taylor causing lots of problems as well. Setter Kirra Musgrove kept HJV in rhythm by spreading the ball around, and some of those looks also found the powerful right arm of Sydney Bryant – ultimately HJV was able to survive that exciting second set and grab early control of the deciding third set.
“This team loves playing against the Lions, I felt like there was a one-play turnaround, and we got our momentum back,” said HJV head coach Lauren Rhodes. “Once it happened, it didn’t stop. All day we had good plays, obviously some errors in there where we couldn’t string plays together.
“One of our kids that wasn’t here showed up, brought some energy, and we were a whole different team after that. Whatever works for 14s, whatever makes them happy.”
Down 10-7 in the second set, Taylor authored two kills to get HJV closer. After taking a 24-21 lead, HJV saw the Lions rally, with two kills and a block from Abby Vanderwaal tying the set. The Lions took the lead twice; HJV countered, and Rogers finished the deal.
“It felt really great. It was hard after that first set, but I think we came together and pulled it off,” Rogers said. “When it’s flowing (for me), that feels great … to know I’m helping my team when it’s needed. For us, we are very competitive and we don’t like losing. In the championship of our last tournament, we lost … this match is not exactly a rivalry, but we really wanted it.”
Taylor finished off a long, demanding rally with a kill to make it 9-4 in the third set.
“I knew I didn’t want to go home 0-3. We couldn’t do anything about the past, so I just wanted to work as hard as I can to win … that’s all I can control,” Taylor said. “It’s hard sometimes, you just have to find a way to get yourself out of it and play for each other. It felt great to get (rolling), especially against a team that is that competitive. I think we can use this momentum and kust keep pushing forward.”
Vanderwaal had a stellar match for the Lions, starting the proceeding with a kill, an impressive dig, and a tough serve to push her team to an early 4-0 lead. Hannah Kenny and Mataia Lawson also had numerous key sequences for the Lions.
Premier Nebraska went 3-0 in this particular power pool on Saturday; Arizona Storm, Houston Skyline and Arizona Sky also went 3-0.
By Kyle Koso
With each resounding kill shot, sizzling serve and hard-earned dig, the return of youth volleyball feels more and more real in the spring of 2021, all nicely timed with the return of the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, set for this weekend in Kansas City, MO.
Launching the 2021 event was College Camp Friday and that evening’s Unsigned Player Workout; the camps were run by the coaching staffs of multiple NCAA D-IID-III and NAIA programs, and more than 90 athletes took part in the Unsigned Workout. While the coaches ran their drills and made connections with possible recruits, it was obvious the players as well reveled in the chance to do something normal after the relentless abnormality of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TC NIT itself isn’t quite back to normal speed, as many clubs had to make other plans when it was postponed from President’s Day Weekend. But the 325-team field still flexes real muscle, and players and coaches are grateful to be back in the swing.
“I’m really excited about this event in particular. For months, I was thinking the February Triple Crown event was the one I had in mind, where it might all be over by then,” said Point Loma Nazarene University head coach Jonathan Scott. “When it got postponed, that was a real bummer. It really was emotional.”
Alina Nunez, 16, of the Revolution Volleyball Academy (Phoenix, AZ) took some authoritative swings during her time at College Camp Friday, and she also spoke of the simple joy of being back at a meaningful event, shoulder to shoulder again with her teammates.
“While everything was off, I felt really bored and anxious – I didn’t have practice three times a week. I was so excited to know we were coming back here,” Nunez said. “Last year at this tournament I was so excited; I did so good, and the team finished second in its division. I really loved this camp, too, all the extra touches, just trying to get my strength back so I can dominate again.
“I like traveling with my friends, the hotels, exploring the town. I like the environment here. People are yelling, everyone is going for the ball, getting on the floor, coaches are getting their girls riled up, and me and my friends are just screaming at each other.”
No doubt, the college coaches who will attend the 2021 TC NIT can compare notes about what’s been missing, and what’s satisfying to be seeing again after months of disruption. Metro State head coach Jenny Glenn had her 2020 fall roster ready to attack, only to see it all shuttered; her spring squad had a great record (15-2), but there was no NCAA D-II tournament, leaving everyone with a sobering case of the “what-ifs.”
“It’s been a long year, a lot of restrictions, with volleyball taken away for a while. It’s a slow crawl to normal, but it’s nice to be back in the gym and see all these kids playing,” Glenn said. “The thought of a more normal fall feels more likely, and it’s great to be heading in that direction.
“We were very motivated after watching the national championship being played on our home floor last year. That was probably the best fall we’ve ever had even though we didn’t get to play. It changes things when you’re not playing for an NCAA championship. We return a lot of players next year, but you can say it was a bummer not to (have resolution). You try to make the best of it as a coach, is this something we can use to get better or understand the game better, set goals? At the end of the day you can put a pretty ribbon on it, but it’s not the same.”
Nunez said she has more maturity, perhaps as a result of the shutdown, where it makes more sense now to just deal with a mistake on the court and move on, rather than agonize over it and let one point affect the next in a negative way. No one would intentionally make young players go through the special hell of COVID just to make them mentally tougher, but it might be an unexpected benefit.
“The ones who don’t have the intrinsic motivation are behind. The ones who want it for themselves and play because they love the game, I think they will be just fine,” Scott added. “I think ‘silver lining’ is the appropriate title for it. It’s something I’m hopeful for when it comes to our incoming girls and the recruits we are looking at now, and it’s something I press into with my line of questioning, how they’re doing mentally. It can go in one of two directions.”
“Everyone experienced the pandemic differently. Some Texas schools in our region didn’t have the same restrictions we did; the D-II defending champion (Cal State Bernardino) didn’t have a season at all,” Glenn said. “It’s hard to know how it will shake out. I’m hopeful we all will come out of this stronger. It’s been a hard year in a lot of different ways. I do think when you go through adversity, if you can find ways to cope and have a good support system, you will come out stronger. I’m hopeful for the generation coming up that we will.”
KANSAS CITY, MO -- After a three-month delay because of COVID-19 restrictions, Triple Crown Sports returns to the court with the National Invitational Tournament volleyball event, slated for May 28-31 at the Kansas City Convention Center.
Tournament officials expect 325 teams in age groups ranging from 12u through 18u to attend; this is the third year that the NIT has been held in Kansas City. While team numbers were affected by the shift from President’s Day Weekend, the tournament will still welcome numerous high-achieving clubs from around the country – dozens of states are represented overall, with about 12,000 room nights filled at 30 hotels in and around downtown and the resulting boost to area restaurants and concessions.
“A large number of teams fought just as hard as we did to make this event happen, and we are grateful for the opportunity to welcome them to Kansas City for this very competitive test of skills,” said TCS Volleyball Director Jared Rudiger. “We are also pleased to get these talented student-athletes in front of college coaches again and help programs set the table for their success down the road.”
Recruiting remains a key piece of the TC NIT’s appeal; 75 coaches from the ranks of JUCO, NAIA, NCAA D-II and D-III will be on site during the event, which includes three college camps on Friday as well as an unsigned player showcase workout from 5-7 p.m. Through streaming partner MVPCAST, nearly 90 Division I schools and another 25 from the other levels have signed up to watch matches live – championship matches for every age group will conclude the event on May 31. Due to NCAA health and safety protocols, Division I coaches are not allowed in-person recruiting until June 2.
The 13u – 17u title matches will be streamed live on YouTube; calling the action will be Chuckie Kempf (PxP Broadcaster for ESPN) and Jason Tarwater (radio/video broadcaster with Park University).
Passes to watch the action are $50 for all three days, or $18 per day. Triple Crown has arranged for several conveniences for those attending the tournament including airport transportation, a parent hospitality room and concession options on the street level of the Convention Center.
New to the NIT event this year are two presentations by Geoff Carlston, former head coach of women’s volleyball at Ohio State, from his Epic Journey Leadership program. He will speak on Friday, May 28 as well as Sunday, May 30 at the Convention Center; one session each day will focus on tools for families and athletes, with the other directed at club coaches.
According to Visit KC, the hospitality and tourism agency for the Kansas City metro area, the competition will generate an estimated $6 million for the local tourism industry, a sector of the economy hit hard by the pandemic.
“From the KC Convention Center and our Downtown hotels, to our restaurants and the modern KC Streetcar, our entire community is elated to welcome Triple Crown’s athletes, officials and families back to the City of Fountains for a third year,” said Nathan Hermiston, Senior Vice President of Sales & Services for Visit KC. “We value our partnership with Triple Crown Sports and relish the opportunity to host their premier volleyball event in the Heart of America.”
Follow the schedule and other event news at triplecrownvolleyball.com or on Twitter @TCVolleyballNIT.
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s DI Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering the “WNIT” concept event in D-I volleyball (NIVC), with that event debuting in 2017. Other youth volleyball events include the West Coast Invitational (June 4-6 in Salt Lake City), with 2022 events being added in Colorado (Rumble in the Rockies, Gaylord Hotel in Aurora, CO) and Baltimore (East Coast Invitational). TC fastpitch tournaments (including the 900-team Sparkler/Fireworks event) draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes. TCS also produces one of the largest youth baseball events in the world with the Omaha SlumpBuster during the College World Series.
BREAKING NEWS! – At the upcoming TC NIT volleyball event in Kansas City (May 28-31), there will be no temperature checks for those entering the Kansas City Convention Center. Also, masks are no longer required for players, coaches or spectators.
However, masks are still encouraged for those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, as well as for those who have underlying health issues or may be immune-compromised. If you are exhibiting any symptoms (fever, cough, chills, difficulty breathing, congestion, muscle aches), please do not enter the facility in order to protect the health of others.
COVID-19 cases have not dropped to zero, so please proceed with caution during the event.
As a reminder, here are the entrance points for all courts at the convention center. You can download the map here.
Please look over these topics as we get closer to the Triple Crown NIT, May 28-31 in Kansas City, MO.
TRANSPORTATION – You can still purchase round-trip ($20) or one-way ($12) shuttle passes to make your airport journey easier. Please buy a round-trip ticket only if you are staying at one of our designated downtown hotels (see list on web page).
Shuttles run 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, May 28 from the airport to the convention center. On May 31, shuttles will run from the convention center back to the airport; there will be a bag-drop option for teams at the convention center on the morning of the 31st.
LODGING – Any last-minute changes must be handled with the individual property, so contact them directly with any questions.
EVENT PASSES – Wristbands purchased online for spectator entry will be mailed out May 18 to all clubs. If you did not purchase an event pass online, you will be able to purchase them on site for $50 in Room 2205 at the convention center. Credit card only. Go here for more details.
COVID PROTOCOLS – Masks are required for anyone entering the Convention Center, per Missouri health department regulations, and there will be temperature checks upon entering the facility.
BALLS/CARTS – TC NIT will provide one cart and 15 balls. Teams can bring their own balls/cart if they prefer.
CONCESSIONS – Food and beverages will be available (cash or card) at the Convention Center, but not by the playing area. These options are all on street level as you enter the facility:
Room 2208 – Chic-Fil-A opens at 11 a.m.
Room 2209 – Tacos & Nachos opens at 11 a.m.
Room 2210 – Baked/Mashed Potato Bar opens at 11 a.m.
Room 2211 – Stadium Fare opens at 11a.m.
2200 Lobby/Hall – Kitch opens at 6 a.m.
2200 Lobby/Hall – Percup Coffee opens at 6 a.m.
NOTE: Three food trucks will be located on W 13th Street right outside of the 2200 Lobby, opening at 11 a.m.
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