KANSAS CITY – Fueled by a championship finish in one age group and two runner-up efforts, MadFrog Volleyball Club earned the Top Club Award from the 2021 Triple Crown NIT, which was held May 29-31 in Kansas City, MO.
Based out of the Dallas Metroplex suburb of Plano, Texas, MadFrog had 360 points, with Premier Nebraska next at 250 points. Points were awarded in age groups 13u through 17u, with 100 points going to the champion of each age division down to 10 points for 10th place.
Previous winners of the Top Club Award are: A5 Mizuno (2020), Texas Advantage (2019) and Arizona Storm (2018).
Here are the top 10 clubs from 2021:
T8. Legacy (140) – The Michigan powerhouse took second at 16 Elite and seventh in the 17’s.
10. Tri-State Elite (130) – Based around Cincinnati, the club finished third at 17 Elite and sixth in the 15’s.
by Marcos Aragon
SALT LAKE CITY — Club V 17 took their unblemished record all the way to the title game to face off against Synergy Force Volleyball 17. Club V earned the 17u Open title after taking down SFV 25-14, 25-20 at the Triple Crown West Coast Invitational.
Remaining undefeated for the weekend was a first for Club V, as Hailee Garcia described it. She admits that her favorite part of the tournament was the fact that the team didn’t lose at all and played to the level they expect for themselves.
“It’s something that we haven’t done, like at all, in our club — for my age group right here,” said Garcia. “Our past tournaments have been a little rough; we’ve done really well and then on the third day we just lost our matches. But I think it was really exciting that today we were able to pull it off and go two sets these last two games."
Avery Shewell echoed Garcia’s excitement, but admitted there was a small hint of nervousness due to the enormous nature of the championship.
“There was all that pressure, it’s the championship game,” Shewell said. “If you do mess up, there's a chance they could come back and win.”
When asked what her favorite part of the tournament is, Shewell responded especially quickly with a one-word answer.
“Winning,” she said.
Assistant coach Wayne Wood explained that his team is confident in their offensive and defensive abilities, but that the team is especially successful when their serves are on point.
“We’ve relied heavily on our serve and serve receive,” explains Wood. “If we can control that first ball, we have offense to spare.”
He added, “I have a ton of offense, I just need a first ball contact. If I can get a first ball contact, we have offense, and if I can make them not have a good first contact, it makes my defense pretty simple. I know that’s really generic volleyball, but they executed that at such a high level this tournament, and we did well.”
Garcia explained that over the course of the weekend, she noticed that the team had really improved their serving. In the match against SFV, the team very rarely sent the ball into the net and managed to find weak spots on the floor.
“Going into this tournament, Wayne, our assistant coach, has done an amazing job watching film on other teams and seeing how their serve receive is,” Garcia says. “When he calls it, I think we’ve done really well at hitting those serves and that does a really good job of getting the other team out of system or getting certain girls out of the plays. I think as the tournament goes on, it just got better and better.”
Wood explains that his team will use the tournament experience as a motivating factor before they head to their next tournament in Orlando. Despite not earning a bid to nationals, Wood notes that Club V will embrace the challenge that awaits.
“Going undefeated in this is a good stepping stone to continue later this month when we go to Orlando,” says Wood.
To Shewell, it doesn’t matter where the team plays next or who they play next — she’s just always ready to play.
“I love playing volleyball,” Shewell says with a smile. “Literally the entire time I’m playing, I’m like ‘I love this sport,’ it’s the best.”
by Marcos Aragon
SALT LAKE CITY — On championship Sunday, Hive 16 Gold captured the 16u Open title after defeating Club V 16, 25-20, 25-21 at the Triple Crown West Coast Invitational. Hive’s precision ball control was too much to overcome as they never let momentum shift to their opponents. When the team needed a kill, they easily found open space in the middle of the floor. This is Hive’s first tournament win.
“We are a big physical team, but I think what opens it up is our decisions — our choices on where we’re setting the ball and when we’re setting it up,” said Hive head coach Sarah Chism. “Our middles are very active, which opens it up for our outsides to go when they need to and be one and terminate the ball."
Jordyn Harvey explained that her team has a strong chemistry off the court, but the team’s true success is their ability to play as a cohesive unit.
“I think the strength of our team is we have really good hitters in the front row but really good passers in the back row,” says Harvey. “So when we connect, it really works because we can count on our team to get a good pass, and then count on the rest of the team to get a good kill or a good block.”
Margaret Mendelson noted that the team has had many close finishes but had been unable to bring home a championship, until today.
“We’ve needed a win. We’re always so close, we took third at Vegas and fifth at Crossroads,” Mendelson says. “We’re always right there. So to actually take one home is really awesome.”
Next up for Hive (Farmington, UT) are Nationals. After winning their first championship, the team is riding high with confidence. The team finished the weekend with a single loss to NE Elite 16 Top Gun, but Harvey pointed out that “anyone in this whole country is beatable.
Hive earned two impressive wins to reach the final, sweeping Absolute VBC and Texas Advantage.
“It definitely gives us a confidence booster to know that we’re a good team and we can go take this thing if we really want to,” Harvey said.
“This tournament was really important as a national prep for us, and I really like the format because it teaches us that we have to win all the way through, we have to be 1-0 every game,” said Chism.
“Our primary focus in this tournament is ‘survive and advance. 1-0, we focus on that immediate point, immediate set, immediate game right in front of us, and we’re able to keep our heads and not get too caught up in what’s down the road.”
Chism has high praise for the tournament, but even higher appreciation for the host city.
“I love that this tournament is in Salt Lake. Salt Lake is awesome,” she added. “People should come here, it’s a great location. The convention center was awesome, downtown is awesome, Utah is awesome. The weather is great, people should come to this tournament — this should be the premier tournament.”
by Marcos Aragon
SALT LAKE CITY — Wrapping up their third and final match of the day, TStreet 15-Chris was eager to end their shift at the Triple Crown West Coast Invitational on a high note. TStreet’s defense came up big in the second set and propelled them to a victory over Club V, 25-22, 25-14.
TStreet was down by six at one point in the first set, but great team defense eventually held Club V at bay long enough for the offense to claw their way back in. Chris Sisson, head coach of T-Street 15, expressed his respect for his opponent by calling this match the “toughest match of the day, if not the tournament.”
“They really pushed us,” said Sisson. “It was just a matter of staying composed and doing the things that we do. Defense, dig the ball, attack high and hard, make them defend and make them earn their points.”
Things changed for TStreet (Irvine, CA) in the second set as their defense stole the show. Sisson says his team’s energy level remained high all game, despite a close first set and two previous matches (victories over South County 15's and Renovators).
Between matches, Babi Gubbins says that her focus is always on rest and recovery, and knows the extreme value of those on her body.
“My body is my instrument,” she said. “I really have to make sure I feel well before I play.”
Gubbins believes that the strength of her team is their ability to dust themselves off after each play and stay focused on the next point. Gubbins notes that it’s also nice to be able to show off for the college coaches again.
“That’s what gets me motivated and excited to play,” she said. “Even the best players make mistakes. If I make a mistake, it’s fine — move on to the next play and just hope to do better.”
Annah Legaspi says she wasn’t too tired when it was time for their final match, instead she feels that the level of competition only makes her more excited. Legaspi also credits her team’s depth as well for their ability to stay fresh for each match.
“Each match, in my opinion, got harder and harder. So I was just ready for a better team to play,” she said.
Sisson agrees with Legaspi’s assessment of team depth and added, “we have a lot of girls who can contribute in a lot of different ways, so we had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time all the way across the board.”
by Marcos Aragon
SALT LAKE CITY — FH Muscle 17 Elite earned their second win of the day after the team defeated Club 801 in straight sets, 25-17, 25-16, during power pool competition Saturday at the Triple Crown West Coast Invitational.
Precision passing and a handful of aces played a big part of the team’s victory. The offense was in a major groove from the opening serve for FH Muscle, and head coach Brett Braziel credited his team’s devotion to its discipline.
“When we stay disciplined and do our job, we don’t have much to worry about.” said Braziel, who describes the strengths of his team as effort, discipline and great energy. “We’re real dynamic hitting, when we pass well — we’re hard to beat.”
FH Muscle (based out of the northwest Metroplex suburb of Justin, Texas) felt confident after their first win of the day against Forza 1 North 18 UA, but Jentry Lamirand describes the nature of their confidence stemming from their simple focus of just playing as a team.
“We’re preparing for nationals, so we’ve been working on some small details just to get better as a team.” Lamirand said.
Halle Sherlock agreed with Braziel that the team’s passing was huge for them Saturday, as was their serving.
“We have really aggressive and strong serves.” Sherlock said. “Serving is definitely one of our biggest strengths.”
Between matches, Sherlock says that her coach’s message was to remain disciplined, and Lamirand explains that the team also went over their adjustments as needed.
“We focused on what their defense was doing and we were able to find the spots on the court that were open,” she said. “We kind of analyzed that in the first set and really capitalized on that in the second.”
Despite the clear tactical strength of the team and its commitment to discipline, Lamirand pointed out that their chemistry will always remain its most vital aspect.
“We’re good teammates,” she added. “We all love each other, we’re all like sisters and best friends, and I think that’s our main strength.”
Looking ahead to their next match, Braziel says that he’s excited about the level of competition that his team is ready to face.
“Us playing to our level and being disciplined,” he said. “And getting a W.”
FH Muscle ended up topping NPJ 18 Forefront (25-22, 25-20) in its final match of the day to go 3-0 overall Saturday.