By Cody Thorn
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The recipe for success, as odd it seemed, was for Club V 18 Ren Reed to lose the opening set twice on Sunday.
The Utah-based program fell behind 1-0 in both matches but rallied each time to finish the day 2-0 and advance to the TC NIT 18s Elite Division Championship bracket quarterfinals on Monday morning.
Club V won 2-1 against Skyline 18 Royal from Dallas, 17-25, 25-20 and 15-10. Then, dispatched Houston Juniors Volleyball Elite, 19-25, 25-18 and 15-9. There were a lot of parallels between the two contests held at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“Texas is one of the hotbeds for volleyball and we don’t see those types of teams back at home,” Club V coach Reed Carlson said. “To come here and a) compete with them and b) walk away with a couple of wins is unbelievable for us.”
Houston Juniors jumped ahead early, breaking a 4-4 tie on a kill by left-handed swinging Bella Woodard. HJV maintained the lead until Club V tied it at 12, 13 and 14. Another kill by Woodard, who is 6-foot-2, gave HJV the lead for the final time. That was part of an 8-3 run that allowed the Texans to pull away. A block by 6-4 Alexis Roberson, who will play at LSU, helped lock up the win in the first set for HJV.
“The first set we came off a big emotional win against Dallas Skyline and they kind of rocked us in the first set and chipped away and then we turned around and we had a little lull against Houston,” Carlson said. “Houston was playing well and they jumped on us good.”
The second set was competitive early on but after a combo block by Roberson and Madison Morgan allowed HJV to tie the match at 8-8. Then, a kill by Jayda Tupea kick-started a 10-1 run that gave the Utah squad momentum it used to roll to a 25-18 win.
“It felt amazing, we played rough the first set but after that we came together and said we can do it, we know we can,” said Club V’s Randi Reeves, who has committed to play at Salt Lake Community College. “We know they are overlooking us so we just have to play like we know how to play.”
The run featured a pair of timeouts called by HJV. Houston had some return errors, while Club V mixed in a kill from Brielle Rueckert and a combo block by Rachel Jepsen and Sadie Scoville.
“Serving and blocking and I think we aced them a few times, but we got them on the block five or six times and we started channeling stuff and they swung into it,” Carlson said. “We had made some errors (in set one) and we cleaned up our serving and passing and it made our blocking and attacking a lot easier.”
Club V’s held a 23-13 lead before HJV closed within seven twice.
Club V was strong at the net down the stretch in the second set and that carried into the third, jumping ahead 4-1. HJV rallied to tie it at 6-6, before a 6-1 scoring burst featured kills by Tupea and Ilaisaane Katoa, which forced HJV to call a timeout down 9-6.
The advantage grew to 12-7 after a net violation. Kills by Jepsen, a Pitt signee, and Tupea closed the match.
“We started talking about our blocking and where we need to put the block and where we need to set our defense,” said Reeves, who is the team’s libero. “From our blocking, it was easy to put the ball up and put it away.”
Club V will play Munciana 18 Samurai at 8:30 a.m. in a quarterfinal matchup.