By Cody Thorn
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Arizona Storm 18 Thunder made quick work of two foes on the way to a quarterfinal spot in the 18s Elite Division Championship Bracket at the TC NIT on Sunday at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The Phoenix-based squad reached the quarterfinals with a 25-16, 25-16 win over Ku’ikahi 18 Wahine RSB in its second match of the day.
A combo block from future Division I players Logan Bluetreich (North Texas) and Anita Babic (North Carolina) got the scoring started for Arizona, and the duo had another block for the second point of Set 1. The Storm 18’s scored five of the first six points and bumped the lead to 15-6 before the Hawaiian squad recorded consecutive points for the first time, pulling within 15-8.
“That team was a good team, but the key was staying fast and making them think,” Storm coach Terri Spann said. “I think we were able to stun them a little bit.”
The deficit grew to 21-10 for Ku’ikahi and then 24-12 before a late rally. The Hawaiians scored four in a row and forced Arizona to call a timeout to regroup. A return error ended the match shortly after the respite.
Ku’ikahi came out of the gate hot in the second set, getting a pair of kills from Kelia Giusta, jumping ahead 6-2. Slowly the Storm 18’s started to cut back at the deficit and tied the match on a return error at 11-11. A kill that sailed out of bounds gave Arizona the lead for the first time at 12-11.
The lead never changed hands after that.
“I think we dug deep, we knew we were a little bit off,” said Storm player Jordan Middleton, who followed with a kill to make it 13-11. “We started to click and communicate and make the pass, running the middle and splitting the block really helped us. Our block is really solid and we just worked really hard along the net and it really paid off.”
After the kill by Middleton, who signed with USC, Ku’ikahi called a timeout to try to regroup. It worked initially when Belle Iosua got a kill to cut the deficit down to a point.
From there the Storm closed with a 12-5 advantage. Ella Lomigora, a Long Beach State pledge, had two kills and a block, while Middleton added two more kills.
“We have not been very pretty at winning, we’ve been winning in three and it’s been ugly,” Spann said. “We’ve been waiting for teams to make errors – today, the last two matches we were earning our wins and forcing teams to have to play a little harder against us.”
Next up will be a Kansas City-area team in PVA 18 Elite, which also posted a pair of two-set wins on Sunday. The quarterfinal matchup will be at 8:30 a.m.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Scott Harris had just one request.
“Conserve your energy. Conserve your energy,” the Sky High Adidas 16’s head coach informed his players prior to Sunday.
Why? Sky High had to work for its 2-1 opening day during their efforts Saturday at the TC NIT. The Illinois-based club located just north of Chicago went to three sets in all three pool play contests.
“They like to make it tough,” Harris said with a laugh. “They dig a hole and have to climb out of it the hard way.”
Setter Jenna Meitzler was also relieved to play three fewer sets than the previous days.
“Today, we had a lot of energy because we didn’t go to three sets,” she said.
That’s right, Meitzler and her teammates gave their coach a break with a 3-0 Sunday, capped with a straight set victory (25-19, 25-20) over Colorado-based Momentum.
In the win, Sky High used a 10-4 run to take the first set. The final set was more of a back-and-forth affair, with a 7-3 burst to seal the deal.
“They’re starting to execute things more consistently like combo plays, which we need in our offense,” Harris said.
“We tried a lot of combos just to throw off their blockers,” Meitzler said, “which we worked a lot on in practice. And just staying up beat and working together.”
With the victory, Sky High moves into the Select Division Championship bracket and will play in a semifinal match at 10:30 a.m. Monday against the winner of OK Charge-Illini Elite.
Harris just hopes he sees the Day 2 Sky High squad that did not drop a set.
“They’ve gained more confidence since they’ve been there,” Harris said. “Things are starting to come together for them and we’ll take that into tomorrow.”
So does Meitzler.
“I think we got rid of our tired and anxious nerves,” Meitzler said, “and we just have to do that again.”
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.
By Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since Ava Martin began playing competitive volleyball at age 10, Bartle Hall has served as one of her hometown venues.
Martin, now a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kansas, nearly 20 miles south of the Kansas City Convention Center, is playing in her final volleyball invitational at Bartle Hall at this weekend’s TC NIT.
And the outside hitter bound for Creighton is hoping to make one final memory at Bartle with Performance Volleyball Academy (PVA) in the TC NIT 18s Elite Championship bracket play.
“This is the last tournament we’ll play here,” said Martin, who was deemed a first team All-American by MaxPreps after leading Aquinas to a state title this past fall.
Alex Dvorak, a Park Hill South (Riverside, Missouri) senior, echoed Martin’s sentiment.
“We need to defend our turf,” the PVA setter said.
Following three Power Pool losses on Saturday, PVA, an Overland Park-based club, made a statement on Sunday, going 2-0 with straight set wins over MadFrog (25-20, 26-24) and San Gabriel Elite (26-24, 25-20).
In the win against San Gabriel Elite, PVA outdueled the California squad in a first set that saw 11 ties and seven lead changes.
Setter Alex Dvorak was pleased with her team’s bounceback effort.
“We stayed together as a team,” said Dvorak, a William Jewell College commit. “A couple people came up to us after we beat MadFrog and asked where we were from. I just said that we’re from here. We’re from home. It’s great to be able to say that.”
PVA head coach Justin Franklin agreed.
“Today we came out strong and did not look back,” Franklin said. “California is always going to bring the heat but we’re from the Midwest and we do the same thing. We have a bunch of talented girls who fight through everything.”
Now, PVA looks to overcome that 0-3 start and make some more noise on Monday when they take on the Arizona Storm at 8:30 a.m. Monday – the final day Martin and Dvorak and their Kansas City area teammates will compete in a building they’ve gotten to know quite well over the years.
“When we received an open bid to get here, we were like, ‘OK, so what now?’” Martin said. “I feel like now it’s about continuing to prove to ourselves. I’ve been playing here since I was 10, so I want to go out with a bang.”
By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Watching an early lead wither and perish can really take the bounce out of the steps of a volleyball team.
But the OTVA 16 Jason squad has been making strides on their mental approach these days, and that was the key to prevailing in hard times Sunday as the Florida program earned a spot in the 16 Elite quarterfinals of the TC NIT. Their 25-23, 25-15 victory over MadFrog Green means OTVA will look to advance into the semis in Monday’s 7:30 a.m. match with A5 Mizuno-Gabe at the Kansas City Convention Center.
OTVA got off to a fine start against MadFrog, with a Mara Happ kill putting them up 14-10, but once the Texas squad began to settle in, they got back in range and actually went ahead, 18-16, on a kill from Brianna Watson. OTVA head coach Jason Partington called a timeout, and the reset worked wonders as his squad scored five consecutive points, two on aces from Bella Lee.
“We got ourselves in some trouble with serve receive, keeping ourselves in system. We talked about moving our feet, get to the ball early, and we made an adjustment on the block,” Partington said. “Their outside was hitting hard cross-court, so we said move the block inside and take it away, and we were able to do that.
“We’ve been harping on it all weekend, we have to limit our errors. Keep it simple, and if it’s not there, get ourselves regrouped, which we did consistently there.”
“We had to discuss the small changes we needed to make, come together and relax. Our team, especially, will get stressed out, so it’s taking that 30 seconds and then getting back to it,” said Bailey Higgins, a potent left-handed kill option who was on fire early, tapered off, then had the big shots at the end. “A lot of times, I do say, I want that ball, I want to slam it, but my mentality is it won’t happen always. I try to find different ways to find a point or motivate my teammates to get the kill and keep things going.”
Higgins had some early success on her swings in Set 2 as OTVA moved ahead, 6-2. MadFrog tied it at 9-all, but OTVA bounced back with shots from Taylor Bedinghaus, Taylor Parks and Happ. Higgins did her work again with a kill to make it 18-13, and MadFrog could never shrink the gap.
“She’s mentally tough, and nothing rattles her,” Partington added about Higgins. “Even if she’s not getting touches or getting at down ball she wants, maybe the other team made adjustments … she plays defense, gets a block, waits for the opportunities to get those putaways.”
The other obvious strength for OTVA in the match came down to a sense of calm and steadiness, even as MadFrog’s terrific hitters started to get loose. Right there in the heart of it for OTVA was Happ, who dealt out some hard-earned blocks and a mix of kills to keep the match from suddenly tipping toward the muscle and might of the opponents.
“We’re a good team, one that can come back when we are down. I really wanted to win this match, win it in two, and stay aggressive,” Happ said. “I try not to be intimidated by anyone, even if I’m tall I know they might be taller. I put faith in myself and my teammates, because they always support me. At this level, you’re going to play others who are taller and stronger, but I do what my coaches tell me and make the adjustments I need while I’m playing.”
By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A couple of early plays from Maia Neiman and Eva Travis worked nicely as coming attractions.
The two TStreet 17-Naseri players took charge early in a Saturday night match against Arizona Revolution at the TC NIT, Naia with two skillful digs on shots that were smoked nearly to the ground and Travis with her trademark soaring attacks from the outside, with a vertical jump that would also get any basketball coach paying attention.
So when the match reached its tipping point late in Set 3, it made sense again that Neiman would keep a point alive with a clutch dig and Travis would drill the kill from on high, as TStreet secured the 25-21, 19-25, 15-11 victory to go 3-0 in Power Pool action. TStreet would be one of four teams from the 32-squad Power Pool lineup to go undefeated on the day.
The Revolution 17’s actually came back to tie up Set 1, slowly but surely unleashing their long and springy roster highlighted by the hitting prowess of Kendal Murphy (a Baylor commit), Eryn Jones and Evan Hendrix. A Neiman kill and two aces from Grace Jackson put TStreet in control to close out the set.
Set 2 was an enjoyable showdown of skills, with the Revolution taking a 13-6 lead before TStreet clawed back to within 14-13 on a block from Travis. But Murphy’s work on the outside and especially on leaping attacks from the back row rebuilt the lead, evened the match, and set the table for the Set 3 dramatics to come.
“When I’m focusing on staying calm, I think about how I’ve been in these situations so many times. I know that if we stay together and work hard, we’ll be OK,” Neiman said. “When I was pretty young, around age 11, I was a libero, and I’ve always loved playing back row more than anything.”
TStreet’s offense did a nice job of funneling the offense toward Travis as the third set advanced, going up 7-3 before two aces from the Revolution’s Bella Anderson (Grand Canyon University signee) tied it at 8-all. Neiman had a kill to make it 12-10, and after an Arizona timeout, the key sequence played out on Neiman’s dig and Travis’ startling height on her kill. The match was closed out on a terrific, hard-to-handle serve from Ella Scott.
“We have so many good players on this team, and we really jell. Maia is a phenomenal passer, really sets it up for me, and it all starts with the pass,” Travis said. “It can be nerve-wracking sometimes with the (hitting responsibility) but I thrive under pressure.
“My dad was a big jumper, he played volleyball, and I think I found it in middle school. One day I went up, I played middle, and I said, ‘oh, I can see the top of the net.’”
Both Travis and Neiman said they weren’t thrilled with how TStreet needed three sets to win every match on Saturday, noting either energy drop-downs or lapses that made the day harder than it needed to be. But with superior competition waiting at every turn, it’s hard to be perfect.
“We are a scrappy team. Maia made a great play late there, gave us an opportunity to set Eva in transition, and Eva had a matchup we really liked on the outside,” said TStreet head coach Naseri Tumanuvao. “The messaging was just about matching the opponent’s intensity and establishing our level of performance. We would like to put teams away when we get the opportunity.
“We encourage the kids to be tough defensively and to welcome the challenge. You’re going to see a lot of big attackers at this tournament, especially, and there’s no escaping it. You’ve got to battle, hold your ground, make a play.”
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.
by Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Among the 32 18-and-under Power Pool clubs playing in this weekend’s TC NIT, only two teams pulled off a perfect opening day.
What makes a perfect Day 1 at one of the toughest club volleyball tournaments the nation has to offer? Three pool play match victories, six set wins, and zero set losses.
After defeating NC Volleyball Academy Diamond 25-21, 25-16 just after midday Saturday, Northern Kentucky-based Tri-State Elite sat pretty at 3-0 overall and with a full steam of momentum. With one victory early Sunday at the Kansas City Convention Center, they’ll be in the 32-team Elite bracket and another step on the way to fulfilling their obvious promise.
“I’m very proud of our start here,” said Tri-State Elite head coach Matt Long, who noted the same team took third last season. “In practice we’ve stressed good starts to be able to compete for championships, so it’s fun to see (the 3-0 effort).”
Tri-State Elite also notched straight-set wins against Arizona EVJ and PVA Elite.
“We just fight and believe that we can (win this tournament),” said TSE outside hitter Lucy Trump, a Notre Dame commit. “Right now our defense is killing it and things were opening up in the back more than normal, so that worked well for us.”
Attacking from the back and at the net, Trump hammered home 10 kills, including two crucial hits that came late in a competitive first set that saw the North Carolina-based Academy Diamond squad lead for most of the action.
Trump attacked from the back twice – and Tessa Jones, an Ole Miss commit who finished with four kills, also recorded a kill – in the final four points to seal the ever-important Set 1 win. Tri-State Elite rolled in the second set, registering a 13-3 run for a commanding 19-10 lead.
“Our center Sophia (Hudelpohl, Limpscomb commit) has been able to let me play in the back row if we need to switch things up,” Trump said, “or if no one else is open, so it was a little weird but it made sense and it was successful.”
Regardless of the way it happened, Tri-State Elite got the job done.
“When you go into Power Pools you just hope to put your best foot forward, but you just never know what’s going to happen,” Long said. “We stuck to our game plan and to serving well and keeping them out of system, but also being a better team in general.”
Tri-State Elite, no doubt, has played as a team thus far at the WNIT, joining Florida-based OTVA as the lone “perfect” 18U Power Pool club after Day 1.
by Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Already longer and better leapers than your average group of teenagers, the Mizuno Long Beach 13u Rockstar L squad may be ready for that next step, which comes when the mental game starts making sense.
Day 1 of the TC NIT showed that Mizuno Long Beach will be heard from, going 3-0 in pool play at the Kansas City Convention Center, capping the day with a 25-18, 25-13 win over the Milwaukee Sting Gold, who were also 2-0 heading into Saturday’s final match.
The most stressful moment for Long Beach came in the first set, when two aces from the Sting’s Peyton Woolman tied the set at 13-all. After a very cleverly placed kill from Makenna Barnes, the lead was back to 19-14 and Long Beach kept the pressure up to close off the set.
“They’ve been working hard getting ready for the tournament; this group is very young, with three kids that could play 12. We treat them like they are older because of their physicality, then they open their mouths and you go, “oh yeah, they’re 12 and 13 years old,’” said head coach Lance Aoki. “You joke with them on the bench a bit to calm them down, and then we get refocused. One group of 13’s we have is pretty focused, and this group, you’ve got to keep talking to them.”
The messaging certainly worked in Set 2, as Long Beach jumped ahead 15-5. Kaitlyn Herweg, who had a pair of important aces in Set 1, hammered in another in Set 2 to make it 20-8, and the defense did a nice job limiting the damage from the Sting’s two most potent hitters in Ally Schwab and Amelia Olson. Set 2 was never in danger, with the electric nature of Hanna McGinest’s play leading to some late kills and a big block to seal the deal.
Another cluster of big shots and hard work at the net came from Taimane Poe. While Mizuna Long Beach moved the ball around comfortably, thanks to setter Miette Moon-Sasik, it was clear McGinest would get leaned on to finish off key points.
“I wasn’t anxious, really. Our first two matches were easier, and this one, when it’s a team that is tougher, it makes me play better,’ McGinest said. “It feels good, because I know people are looking for me, and they rely on me to get kills. We goof off a lot off the court, but we are ready to compete when we get on the court.”
“We’ve definitely faced hard teams, but our team is really strong, and we knew we could walk I and be dominant,” Barnes added. “It’s a challenge, but when we get focused, we are determined. We have the vertical, the strength, the shots to take the other team out of the game.”
There’s already a pointed rivalry going with another California team, TStreet, and the odds are good Mizuno Long Beach will cross that path again at the TC NIT.
“We’ll be excited to see them. When we play them at home, they would always win key points, and we thought this tournament would be a time for us to show them we are better,” Barnes added.
“We had a good match last time; we are very competitive with them,” Aoki said. “We’re short a player this time, but hopefully we can still stay strong.”
13’s ROUNDUP – The aforementioned TStreet squad also went 3-0 on Saturday, as did MadFrog Green (last year’s 12u champions at this event), Arizona Storm, Flyers, Club V, Wave and City Volleyball.
By Kyle Koso
By definition, there’s an umbrella of anxiousness when it comes to the TC NIT Unsigned Senior/Junior Workout, which took place Friday afternoon at the Kansas City Convention Center.
Any way you slice it, there are student-athletes trying to make an impression, and a few dozen college coaches looking to either solve current issues with their roster or get in the work it takes to eyeball what their team might look like in a year or two. All you can hope for is that the two-hour workout gets you closer to your goal, and maybe you toss and turn a bit less at night.
One player who showed her range of appealing skills was Sophia Ortquist, 18, who plays for the Vegas Aces club program and Nevada State High School. The accelerated pace of the drills showed her to be a physical presence at the net while also handling the ball when necessary, and the moment was useful in clarifying the work that needs to come next.
“I’m pretty chill about it. I’ve talked to a couple of schools, so I don’t feel I’m too far behind,” she said. “Maybe for a couple of things off the volleyball court I may be a little behind, but I’m catching up on it. I’ve been to a few showcases, so it’s not too bad.
“I’m not at my peak or my goal, still have work to do on my timing (as a hitter) and blocking, getting better with my footwork. This is one of my favorite showcases I’ve been to – I like the tempo. It’s player-based, where you can show your individual strengths. I wasn’t as nervous this time.”
From the coaching standpoint, there are a million stories as well, and you can be sure Nikki Binetti was hoping she could tick off a few things from her to-do list. Binetti was hired as head coach at Arcadia University in late December, and she must deal with some roster vacancies for the program out of the D-III school in Glenside, PA.
The mix of skilled players, at a variety of positions, was exactly what Binetti needed on Friday.
“I’m still looking for a decent amount of players for the (2022) class, four or five more, and I thought there would be good turnout here, good quality,” said Binetti, who was an assistant at Getysburg College for three years before taking the helm at Arcadia. “This event is one of the best, one of my favorites because of the level of talent. I want to finish off the ’22 class and dive deeper into my ’23 class and start to build my database a little bit.
“I do work ahead, check out their GPA before I even reach out to them, and that helps. Getting our name out there is always huge, and I would love to pull from West Cost and the Midwest. It starts with getting your face seen and talking with people.”
The TC NIT is known for the avalanche of college coaches who work the event and prowl the sidelines in heavy recruiting mode, but Binetti knows the D-III experience has a unique flavor and long-term value that athletes would be wise to consider.
“Just having that balance in general, of getting a really fantastic education while participating in a sport, but that sport won’t run your life,” she said. “You can do so many other things, internships, and prepare yourself for the future. That’s the D-III model and something I bought into, and what I want to sell to my team going forward.”
by Kyle Koso
Basking in the sun in crisp Kansas City may not have been an option when the TC NIT volleyball event took flight, but there’s nothing like College Camp Friday to warm the spirits of those gearing up for arguably the nation’s most elite tournament setting.
While pool play begins Saturday, there’s no shortage of interest in the roster of camps, 12 of them in 2022, where many of the nation’s most accomplished D-I and D-II programs put hundreds of student-athletes in the middle of drills at sincere skill-building tempo. That mix of an encouraging tone and a no-joking-around mindset is the recipe for a great kickoff moment, with players eager to add to their athletic tool kit.
“I’ve always been a power hitter, and now I’m focusing a lot more on my creativity on the court and how I can play the best shot to get the point,” said Evan Glade, 17, an Omaha native and hammering outside hitter who plays for Nebraska Juniors and the Millard West High School squad, which reached the state finals in 2021. “But, at the same time, increasing the power. I play year-round, sand, club, high school … it’s just a love and dedication for the sport. I’ve played since first grade, and it’s been with coaches and teammates I love, with a lot of support from family.
“I definitely got what I wanted today. I talked with a lot of coaches whose camps I’ve been to, so to see them again for the first time or maybe the second time again was really good. I’m never really fulfilled as (an athlete), I’m proud of myself for what I came here to do, I will come back from 5-7 tonight (for the Unsigned Player Workout) ... it’s a lot of volleyball, but there’s a lot to learn and a lot to grow.”
Another player eager to have a college-level book thrown at them was Rya Fingerlin, 15, of Parker, Colo., who suits up for Lutheran High School and the Momentum club program. Taking part in the libero/DS portion of her clinic, Fingerlin showed quick hands and calm demeanor even when trying to handle difficult, diving serves.
“I just love it. I feel like I want to get better every time out, and get the most difficult hits, I think it’s really fun,” she said. “This is my first (college camp), so I wanted to get some reps and get input from coaches. There are a lot of different styles to watch and learn from, and I also like the feedback, which you may not usually get.”
College coaches from every time zone ran drills at College Camp Friday, from Pepperdine to West Virginia, Texas to Marquette, Duke to Oregon State, and many points in between. Enjoying her time in the swirl of action was Arizona State head coach Sanja Tomasevic, a native of Serbia who has always tried to import her understanding that volleyball is an easy sport to love.
“The passion for the game … where I come from, we don’t have people who get burned out. We stick with what we love, and if you end up not liking it, you move to something else. Nobody makes us do things – whatever you do in life, it’s important to have that passion,” she said. “For me, I love coaching, and getting into the gym is the best part of my day. You put the time in as an athlete, there will be a lot of reward in that.
“This is a fun event – kids sign up for it, and when they do that, you know they are eager about it. When someone wants to give their best and get after it, learning for an hour and a half, I’m all in. Let’s get better.”
FORT COLLINS, CO – An uncommon mix of volleyball talent has again been drawn to the common ground of the Kansas City Convention Center, as Triple Crown Sports prepares to run the 2022 TC NIT, from Feb. 18-21 with 551 teams bracketed at Bartle Hall in age groups ranging from 12u through 18u.
The nation’s highest achieving club programs, ranging from California to Florida, long ago carved this trip into their calendars with the event in full rebound after being cut back to 360 teams in 2021 because of COVID-19 disruptions. Another sign of normalcy are the 12 college camps that will take place in the facility on Friday, Feb. 18, anchored by top university programs like Baylor, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Pepperdine, Pittsburgh, Texas and West Virginia, among others. Because of NCAA restrictions, only D-II programs could run camps in 2021.
Friday includes the popular Unsigned Junior/Senior Workout, with more than 200 student-athletes booked to show their skills in front of a sea of colleges looking for roster help. About 1,000 players will take part in Friday’s camp and workout activities, and more than 500 college coaches will hit the convention center floor over the four days.
And that just warms the seat for match play running Saturday through Monday; the event is scheduled so the highest-ranked teams play each other right away, with Power Pool teams still guaranteed a berth in the Elite championship bracket. Other teams can earn their way into the final chase for the trophy – the 13u through 15u championship matches will be broadcast on YouTube, with the 16u through 18u title matches broadcast on ESPN3.
Also competing in multiple age groups are club programs from the immediate area, including Dynasty, KC Power and MAVS.
“On behalf of Kansas City’s hospitality and sports communities, it is our distinct pleasure to welcome Triple Crown’s athletes, fans and officials back to Downtown KC,” said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission. “From the event’s high-caliber competition to memorable experiences outside of the Convention Center, I have no doubt attendees will enjoy their time in the Heart of America. We encourage our fellow Kansas Citians to join us in welcoming this esteemed event and its talented athletes back to KC for another incredible year.”
The TC NIT began in 2014 and moved to Kansas City in 2019. The event has evolved numerous special touches embraced by the volleyball world, including shuttle arrangements for teams to get to and from the airport, a dynamic vendor row, free seminars on the in’s and out's of college recruiting and a parent hospitality room, with drinks and snacks available for fans needing a break from the whistles.
“Our time in Kansas City has helped this event grow in national stature. We’re grateful for every promising development along the way, just as we are grateful for the city sticking with us during the hard times of the pandemic,” said TC event director Jared Rudiger. “Thanks to the partnership, we can run a truly riveting volleyball event that attracts superior competition and can further develop each and every player who takes the floor.”
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s DI Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. Triple Crown’s PV College Challenge features 8-10 of the top DI college softball teams in the country each year in Puerto Vallarta, MX. TC fastpitch tournaments (including the 1,000-team Sparkler/Fireworks event) draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes. TCS produces one of the largest youth baseball events in the world with the 650-team Omaha SlumpBuster during the College World Series. The Triple Crown Volleyball NIT has become the top-recruited club volleyball event in the country each February when 550 teams compete in Kansas City, MO.
BREAKING: We have your Day 1 Power Pool A matchups for the TC NIT, set for Saturday, Feb. 19! Match times will be released later today:
A5 Mizuno Marc vs. Northern Lights
A5 Mizuno Marc vs. Sunshine LA
A5 Mizuno Marc vs. Coast
FC Elite vs. Sunshine LA
FC Elite vs. Coast
FC Elite vs. Houston Skyline
Munciana Samurai vs. Coast
Munciana Samurai vs. Houston Skyline
Munciana Samurai vs. Northern Lights
MadFrog Green vs. Houston Skyline
MadFrog Green vs. Northern Lights
MadFrog Green vs. Sunshine LA
Texas Advantage Black vs. Premier Nebraska Gold
Texas Advantage Black vs. 1st Alliance Gold
Texas Advantage Black vs. Coast
Drive Nation Red vs. 1st Alliance Gold
Drive Nation Red vs. Coast
Drive Nation Red vs. Mavs KC
A5 Mizuno vs. Coast
A5 Mizuno vs. Mavs KC
A5 Mizuno vs. Premier Nebraska Gold
Legacy Adidas vs. Mavs KC
Legacy Adidas vs. Premier Nebraska Gold
Legacy Adidas vs. 1st Alliance Gold
MadFrog Green vs. NKYVC Tsunami
MadFrog Green vs. Adidas Dynasty Black
MadFrog Green vs. A5 Mizuno
Texas Advantage Black vs. Adidas Dynasty Black
Texas Advantage Black vs. A5 Mizuno
Texas Advantage Black vs. KC Power
Wave-Brennan vs. A5 Mizuno
Wave-Brennan vs. KC Power
Wave-Brennan vs. NKYVC Tsunami
1st Alliance Gold vs. KC Power
1st Alliance Gold vs. NKYVC Tsunami
1st Alliance Gold vs. Adidas Dynasty Black
Arizona Storm Thunder vs. Munciana Lorax
Arizona Storm Thunder vs. Legacy Adidas
Arizona Storm Thunder vs. Adidas KIVA
Mavs KC vs. Legacy Adidas
Mavs KC vs. Adidas KIVA
Mavs KC vs. OT Randy
1st Alliance Gold vs. Adidas KIVA
1st Alliance Gold vs. OT Randy
1st Alliance Gold vs. Munciana Lorax
Surfside Legends vs. OT Randy
Surfside Legends vs. Munciana Lorax
Surfside Legends vs. Legacy Adidas
Flyers APX Bill vs. AZ Sky
Flyers APX Bill vs. Arizona Storm Thunder
Flyers APX Bill vs. Wave-Brennan
Elevate Molly vs. Arizona Storm Thunder
Elevate Molly vs. Wave-Brennan
Elevate Molly vs. MadFrog Green
MKE Sting vs. Wave-Brennan
MKE Sting vs. MadFrog Green
MKE Sting vs. AZ Sky
Mintonette vs. MadFrog Green
Mintonette vs. AZ Sky
Mintonette vs. Arizona Storm Thunder
14u through 18u teams highlighted, Feb. 9, 10 a.m. MT
Time to find out which teams have earned coveted spots in the Power Pools of the 2022 TC NIT!
On Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. MT, we will announce the Power Pool lineup for five age divisions, 14u through 18u, when the TC NIT takes flight at the Kansas City Convention Center from Feb. 19-21.
Click to watch the Power Pool announcement on YouTube:
Officials with the TC NIT will announce the full schedule for the event by 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14.
Event page: Event Details & Registration - Triple Crown Volleyball
What you win:
Enter to win a VOICEINSPORT Virtual 1 hr Session with Team USA Volleyball Players Kelsey Robinson or Kathyrn Plummer and custom VOICEINSPORT t-shirts for your entire team with personal name & number!
We are excited to announce our Partnership with VOICEINSPORT (VIS), a digital sport platform for girls and women in sport! VIS offers mentorship with Pro athletes, 1-1 and group sessions with the top Experts in Sport Psychology, Sport Nutrition, articles on Mind, Body and all things women’s sports and a community to support each other.
Today we are kicking off a Triple Crown x VOICEINSPORT Challenge and GIVEAWAY!
How to enter:
Sign up your entire team for free here before the NIT event ends and be entered to WIN! Use code: NIT2022. Winners will be announced on 2/23.
If you don’t win: you don’t really lose!
When your athletes sign up for free they gain access to a safe community for girls and women in sport, daily articles written by female athlete journalists and access to the top experts in sport psychology and nutrition, pro athletes and more.
Let the Team Competition begin!
Questions? contact email@example.com
Check out VOICEINSPORT.COM
Read about VIS in the news here.
Request a Demo and learn about VOICEINSPORT for TEAMS here
by Kyle Koso
With all the options in their tool kit, the NORCO 17-2 volleyball squad is fixing to have a memorable run this club season.
Showing careful touch when needed and imposing strength when available, the NORCO team won all seven of its matches this weekend at the Avalanche Havoc, the debut event of the Colorado Tournament Series, powered by Triple Crown Sports and hosted at NORCO’s facility in northeast Loveland. The championship match with Shockwave 17-1 saw NORCO close with a 25-22, 25-14 victory.
In the 14 sets played, NORCO allowed opponents to reach the 20’s on just two occasions, pretty sturdy work at the front end of the club campaign.
“There is so much talent on this team; NORCO fields great teams at every level, but we feel we are a 1’s team anywhere else,” said head coach Erin Pavlin. “So the question is, will everyone buy into the system and each other in this process? That’s how far we’ll go, but there’s talent, especially on the pins - I have pins who can terminate everywhere.”
Set 1 against Shockwave was a tight affair and tied 20-20 when setter Emma Grace hit not one but two perfect short serves for aces, just slipping the ball over the net. Things were polished off by a noisy kill from Nicole Grove, with libero Taylor Tyser always in the right spot to make things work defensively.
“I wish I could take all the (serving) credit, but I’m getting awesome zones from my coaches, and all the information they provide has been huge for me and my teammates,” said Grace, 16, who attends Fossil Ridge High School. “We didn’t know what to expect, it being our first time together, so it was a weekend to try things out, and it worked out real well.”
“Emma is probably our most consistent server; if I give her a spot I’m confident she will hit it,” Pavlin added. “That type of point is so hard on the team it gets score on, and it’s amazing for the team that scores. To get that little separation there at the end got us in relaxed and then swinging hard in system.”
Grace had a superior dig on a tough ball in Set 2 that allowed NORCO to take 16-11 lead, and many other players were contributing big shots along the way. Dylanne Hardy had two kills that pushed the lead to 18-12, and both Ella Grimes and Skye Vancil were especially productive as NORCO made sure there would be no rally.
“We have expectations, and this is a good team with a lot of talent. I’m happy for the wins,” said Grove, who also attends Fossil Ridge. “I love playing with Emma; she’s a great setter and will push the ball outside when you don’t expect it, and can get you some one-on-ones. I can trust her every time.”
The Pikes Peak bracket was won by Premier 17; Spikes 14Z won the Longs Peak bracket and Spikes 15 Camilla prevailed in the Horsetooth bracket.
The next event in the Colorado Tournament Series will be the Mile High Madness, set for Jan. 15-16.
by Kyle Koso
When it comes to impressive debuts, the storylines just kept unfolding Saturday at the Avalanche Havoc volleyball event.
The tournament marked the arrival of the Colorado Tournament Series, offered by Triple Crown Sports, which welcomed 40 teams in a mix of age groups and bracketed to create the most useful level of competition for each squad. Matches are being contested at the nearly brand-new 10-court NORCO complex in northeast Loveland, which only just opened in March of 2021.
And certainly, there was plenty of fresh potential within the ClubOne 16-1 team, which entered the day having had just a handful of practices together. But in their first look in uniform, the 16’s looked seasoned and prepared, winning four matches and setting themselves up for a title run when Sunday’s double-elim championships are decided.
ClubOne (based in Platteville, CO) wrapped up Saturday with a 25-18, 25-20 victory over Core Values 17-1, doing a nice job of unsettling the taller Core Value team with excellent serving throughout. Even better for ClubOne, they faced a severe deficit in Set 2, trailing 12-3, before storming back and scoring the last seven points of the set to secure the win.
“I knew we’d pull it together, but we’ve only had four practices, so I told the girls let’s go out and have fun. And that’s what we did,” said 16’s head coach Madison Fisher. “When we got behind, I told them to take a deep breath, let it go because the mistakes are behind us. Let’s just stop their run and have ours instead.”
“Those were mostly our unforced errors; we tried to pick up the communication and believe in each other,” said Maddie Loeffler, 16, who attends Platte Valley High School and had four aces in the final stretch of the Set 2 win. “My serving has been developed by Ryleigh Haynes (head coach at Platte Valley), learning about mental toughness and being able to stay in it.”
ClubOne continued to show a measured mindset by not getting rattled at the length and size of Core Value. A couple of noisy kills by Charlee Russick (standing a modest 5-foot-6) pretty much announced that ClubOne wasn’t going to be bothered by what the tape measure read.
“It can be intimidating, but I work on my vertical and try to look through the block. I do what I can to work around it,” said Russick, 16, who attends Berthoud High School. “I think serving is probably the most important thing we do; if you don’t serve well, how are you going to score the points you need?”
“When I saw their size, I was a little worried, but our team is fast enough,” Fisher added. “We’re also pumped about our serving; we maybe missed five serves, so that means no running (penalty laps) for them.”
The ClubOne 16’s are seeded sixth and will play the Core Value 18-1 team early Sunday in the 12-team Mixed Division Gold bracket. The top four seeds earning first-round byes are Shockwave 17-1, NORCO 17-2, Believe 16’s and Eclipse 18’s. In the Pikes Peak bracket, the top seed is Attitude 16-2 Marc.
The Avalanche Havoc tourney will be followed up in the Colorado Tournament Series by the Jan. 15-16 Mile High Madness, the Feb. 19-21 President’s Day Summit and the April 9-10 Bighorn Bash. Many of these teams are expected to compete as well in Triple Crown’s Rumble in the Rockies, May 6-8, at the sprawling Gaylord Hotel grounds in Aurora.
“The whole goal of the Colorado Tournament Series is to give teams and clubs, who don’t necessarily get heard, an opportunity to have their needs and wants filled,” said TCS event director Sarah Dannettell. “We wanted to give teams a lot of matches; everyone got four matches today, which is unheard of in other tournaments, and they’ll get two more tomorrow.
“It’s great, this early in the season, for teams to try different lineups and get together to understand what kind team they’ll be. We also wanted to provide all caliber of teams a chance to play in a very elite setting. We didn’t cut any corners or do anything we wouldn’t expect to give our high-end clients. That’s one reason why we are having so much success.”
After stepping aside last year because of COVID-19 concerns, the National Invitational Volleyball Championship is back, with tournament officials announcing Sunday the 31 teams that will make up the field, along with first-round locations, matchups and game times.
This is the fourth edition of the NIVC since its reboot through Triple Crown Sports; the event previously ran from 1989-95. Previous champions of the current NIVC are Georgia Tech (2019), Iowa State (2018) and Ole Miss (2017).
The 2021 NIVC features Round 1 and 2 action from Dec. 2-5, with Round 3 scheduled for Dec. 6-8. The semifinals will be held Dec. 8-11, and the championship match be played Dec. 12-14.
2021 NIVC Bracket
Here is the 2021 NIVC field of teams:
Arkansas (19-10) – Southeastern Conference
Colorado State (18-10) – Mountain West Conference*
Delaware State (26-4) – Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference*
Houston Baptist (21-8) – Southland Conference
Jackson State (17-13) – Southwestern Athletic Conference*
Pacific (13-16) – West Coast Conference
Sam Houston State (18-9) – Western Athletic Conference*
UConn (21-10) – Big East Conference
UTEP (21-7) – Conference USA
Weber State (20-9) – Big Sky Conference*
*Denotes conference regular season champion
Arizona (16-15) – Pac-12 Conference
Bradley (16-14) – Missouri Valley Conference
Boston College (16-16) – Atlantic Coast Conference
Butler (16-15) – Big East Conference
Chicago State (17-10) – Western Athletic Conference
CSU Bakersfield (18-10) – Big West Conference
Evansville (19-11) – Missouri Valley Conference
Indiana State (18-12) – Missouri Valley Conference
Middle Tennessee (9-11) – Conference USA
New Mexico State (19-9) – Western Athletic Conference
North Carolina A&T (20-10) – Big South Conference
North Florida (24-7) – Atlantic Sun Conference
Portland State (19-10) – Big Sky Conference
Stephen F. Austin (18-9) – Western Athletic Conference
Troy (17-12) – Sun Belt Conference
Tulsa (14-15) – American Athletic Conference
Toledo (19-12) – Mid-American Conference
UNC Greensboro (23-7) – Southern Conference
UNLV (23-9) – Mountain West Conference
Univ. Texas Rio Grande Valley (17-10) – Western Athletic Conference
Valparaiso (22-9) – Missouri Valley Conference
Here are the first- and second-round matchups, in bracket order:
(Home team listed second)
Dec. 3 at Stephen F. Austin
Jackson State vs. Stephen F. Austin, 7:30 ET
Dec. 4: Arkansas vs. TBD, 7:30 p.m. ET
Dec. 3 at Arizona
New Mexico State vs. UNLV, 5 p.m. ET
UTRGV vs. Arizona, 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 4: Winners, 6 p.m. ET
Dec. 3 at Weber State
Pacific vs. Portland State, 5 p.m. ET
CSU Bakersfield vs. Weber State, 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 4: Winners, 4 p.m. ET
Dec. 2 at Colorado State
Tulsa vs. UTEP, 7 p.m. ET
Houston Baptist vs. Colorado State, 9:30 p.m. ET
Dec. 3: Winners, 9 p.m. ET
Dec. 2 at Chicago State
Evansville vs. Sam Houston, 6 p.m. ET
Bradley vs. Chicago State, 8:30 p.m. ET
Dec. 3: Winners, 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 2 at Valparaiso
Toledo vs. Indiana State, 5 p.m. ET
Butler vs. Valparaiso, 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 3: Winners, 7 p.m. ET
Dec 3 at Troy
UNC Greensboro vs. North Florida, 5 p.m. ET
Middle Tennessee vs. Troy, 7:30 p.m. ET
Dec. 4: Winners, 2 p.m. ET
Dec. 4 at Boston College
Delaware State vs. Boston College, 4 p.m. ET
North Carolina A&T vs. UConn, 7 p.m. ET
Dec. 5: Winners, 4 p.m. ET
“With the explosive growth of volleyball, and how the maturing club scene has allowed dozens of D-I programs to raise the bar of excellence in recruiting, it only makes sense to add to the postseason options in the college game,” said NIVC director Jared Rudiger. “Teams will chase an NIVC title as a reward for experienced rosters, or to provide a true learning experience for young players when it comes to the demands of the postseason.”
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s DI Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. Triple Crown’s PV College Challenge features 8-10 of the top DI college softball teams in the country each year in Puerto Vallarta, MX.
Name: Sarah Dannettell
Job Title: Volleyball Event Director
Family: I have a younger brother and two older step-sisters. My brother lives here in Fort Collins and we are very close! My older siblings live out of state, so I only get to see them during the holidays. My dad and stepmom live in Berthoud CO, and my mom lives in sunny Southern CA. Family is very important to me! I also still have all four of my grandparents alive and active in my life. My dad's parents live in Loveland CO and my mom’s parents live in Sandpoint ID. Brother – Dillon, Dad – Brad, Mom – Kim.
Hometown: Orange County, CA
College Attended: Northwest Missouri State University
Sports Background: Volleyball has been my passion for almost 15 years now. I played at NORCO volleyball club, where Jared Rudiger another member of the volleyball division was my coach, and I played at Fossil Ridge High School. I then continued my career at Northwest Missouri State University where I still hold the No. 3 spot for career high set assists. My junior year I was a part of the team that started our season off 14-0 to break a school record.
Hobbies/Outside Interests: Sports and people are my two biggest passions! In addition to working full time and coaching club I am currently getting my masters degree in Performance Psychology (Sport Psychology). I love watching hockey and football, enjoy going to dinner and getting drinks with friends, enjoy being outside as much as I can, but really enjoy any activity if it includes family and friends.
Favorite trip: A family road trip. Drove from Fort Collins CO to New Port Beach CA. Spent some time enjoying the sunshine then drove up the coast and across Oregon and landed in Sandpoint ID to visit family. Then drove all the way home. In total the trip was over 2 weeks!
How did you find or first become associated with Triple Crown?: Jared Rudiger hired me as an intern a few years ago. After working in that position for eight months and a successful TC NIT I was hired full time. Due to COVID I was let go from the company after my furlough ran out. When Sean Hardy called me and asked if I would consider coming back, I didn't hesitate and came running back! TC has been a fantastic company for me to be with and I am very thankful to be back!
What intrigues you the most about Triple Crown?: The diversity of the staff and the values of the company. The staff here are incredible! We have so much fun together. I truly never feel like I am at work; I feel like I am hanging out with my friends planning kick-butt events.
While the 2022 TC NIT volleyball event is still five months away, let’s revisit some important details for this high-powered gathering of the top club programs. It all happens Feb. 18-21 at the Kansas City Convention Center.
Our menu of College Camps, along with the Unsigned Junior/Senior Workout, is still being assembled, but those will take place Friday, Feb. 18 at the Convention Center. Look for these on the website by Oct. 1.
This in an invite-only tournament! A few spots remain in every age group (12u through 18u), but it won’t take much longer to finish the process of registering teams. You can see on the Who’s Coming list that we are pulling in superior programs from around the nation.
We have commitments from 22 of the Top 25 clubs in the country, based on the updated US Club Rankings.
If you haven’t asked for an invite yet but believe your team belongs in the mix, contact us immediately.