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.”