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.”