DALLAS, Tex. (July 5, 2016) — Off the court, the Balboa Bay 15 Blue boys volleyball team seems like many other junior club teams: a little goofy, relaxed and full of inside jokes that come from spending countless hours together at practice and tournaments.
On the court, the team shows poise and a competitive edge that makes you think they’re always in a match regardless of the score.
On Tuesday, Balboa Bay (Southern California) used that edge to top NV Elite 15 (Puerto Rico) in the 15 Open final, 25-22, 25-23, at the Boys’ Junior National Championships in Dallas. The championship was the fourth for Balboa Bay after it previously won the 18 Open, 14 Open and 14 Club divisions.
“We didn’t feel pressure to win because of the other titles, but we wanted to win since we’d done it last year,” Balboa’s Ayrton Garcia said.
A core group of players won the 14 Open title in 2015, bringing depth and experience that helped the team go undefeated in this year’s tournament, dropping only two sets along the way. One of those set losses was to MVC (Badger) in the semifinal. The Milwaukee-based team pushed Balboa Bay to the edge, leading 15-14 in the third set, but the Californians rallied.
“It was so emotional being down match point in the semifinals, and then winning 18-16. Either those situations make you better, or drain you and we found out it made us better,” Balboa Bay Head Coach Glenn Culver said.
The players had more than one positive, unsolicited comment to make about its coaching staff, speaking particularly fondly of two-time National Champion and current Men’s National Team member Michael Brinkley, whom libero Cole Power and defensive specialist George Knapp credited for improving “all our serve receive passes.”
“We wouldn’t be here without our coaches. They get us where we need to be and made us better,” Justin Pennington said.
The defense proved key to Balboa’s win in a match between two teams with multiple power hitters. Power and Knapp were tasked with passing aggressive back row attacks from NV Elite’s Sebastian Negron and Joel Arriaga. The Balboa block, led by setter and tournament MVP Joseph Karlous and Matthew Olson also limited NV’s attack, while Adam Flood and Max Dunk consistently powered past NV’s defense to point-score.
Dunk was key late in the match, putting Balboa ahead 23-22 on a powerful swing from the outside, and tooling the block to seal the win two points later.
“I was really just trying to keep the ball in” Dunk said of the swings. ” the end, to be honest, I just tried to hit it cross court as hard as I could. I was in shock when it went down. It’s the best feeling.”
Gold: Balboa Bay 15 Blue (SC)
Silver: NV Elite 15 (PU)
Bronze: Roch PaceBootlegger151 (WE)
Bronze: Milwaukee Volleyball Club (BG)
Gold: UVS 15-1 (PU)
Silver: 352 Elite Boys’ 15 (FL)
Bronze: OCVC 15s (SC)
Bronze: Ohana AC Black (SC)