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.