by Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A little bit of pressure on the first day of the TC NIT can’t hurt. Not one bit. Especially for Michigan Elite Mizuno’s 18-and-under squad, which went 3-0 in Power Pool play Saturday inside Bartle Hall at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The unblemished start to the jam-packed TC NIT field did not come easy for Vince Muscat’s squad, as they earned a thrilling 25-22, 19-25, 19-17 victory over previously unbeaten Performance Volleyball Academy to cap Day 1.
“Pressure is a gift,” the Michigan Elite head coach said after the win.
Michigan Elite also beat Carolina Union Volleyball Club Premier in straight sets (25-14, 25-20) and Arizona EVJ in three sets (25-22, 22-25, 16-14).
“It was good to see the resilience of the kids,” Muscat said, “and as a coach that’s what you want in those pressure moments.”
In the decisive set, Michigan Elite fought off four match points. Outside hitter Kimani Johnson, an East Tennessee commit, admitted the win, although exciting, was not easy.
“It was definitely rocky at times but tense; I’m just glad we came out with the win and kept pushing, even though it was a really tough match.”
PVA, based just south of Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, certainly made the out-of-towners work for every point.
“Well, it was tough, honestly,” Johnson said. “At moments, we struggled, but it was really good to come back and connect with the team and battle together.”
Under pressure, Michigan Elite came through in the clutch on Saturday. And they’re ready for the next two days of TC NIT action.
“We’re going to get some good competition,” Muscat said. “And with all of these (college) coaches here seeing their players and checking in on them, there’s some pressure with that. But our girls handled it well today.”
Michigan Elite was among six Power Play 18s who opened the tournament with 3-0 starts, joining A5 Mizuno, OTVA, Dynasty Black, Tri-State Elite, and Illini Elite Cardinal. Tri-State Elite and OTVA swept through the day without dropping a set.
Plenty of squads put together strong starts to the weekend with 2-1 efforts – Munciana Samurai, Madfrog Green, Sunshine LA, H Skyline Royal, Adversity G18 Adidas, Rockwood Thunder Elite, Skyline Royal, Arizona Storm Thunder, MIZ LB Rockstar, VC United, Vital Gold and Legacy Adidas.
There are 32 matches to start Sunday's play, with the 32 winners earning a spot in the Elite championship bracket, while the other 32 are seeded into the Open championship bracket.