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.”