PHOENIX (July 9, 2018) – The 39th Annual USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championships concluded its eighth and final day in style Monday at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The day’s action awarded championship titles to Bay to Bay 17-1 (Northern California), Balboa Bay 17 White (Southern California) and West Edge 17 (Southern California) in the 17-and-under age divisions, while 949 B13 Black (Southern California) claimed the gold medals in 13 Club.
The BJNC is an eight-day tournament with age division championships from 12-and-Under to 18-and-Under played in a staggered start and finish schedule. This year’s event attracted a record 577 teams with an estimated 6,000 players competing and more than 12,000 tickets purchased to watch the event set on 47 courts.
Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for all USA Volleyball national championship events.
Bay to Bay 17-1 (Northern California) came back from the brink of being knocked out of contention for the gold bracket to win the 17 Open Division title after rallying past Ultimate B17 Gold (Great Lakes) 15-25, 25-22, 15-13 in the gold-medal match.
After losing the opening set, Bay to Bay 17-1 overcame late deficits in both the second and third sets to stun Ultimate B17 Gold.
Bay to Bay 17-1 advanced to the championship match by defeating 949 B17 Black (Southern California) 25-18, 25-21 in the quarterfinals before sweeping then-undefeated Pac6 17 Blue (Southern California) 25-23, 25-21 in the semifinals. Pac6 17 Blue had not lost a set in the tournament until its semifinal match.
However, Bay to Bay 17-1 almost did not even get a chance to make into the gold bracket. They lost to SB Coast 17 (Southern California in the second round, then opened the third round with a straight set loss to Ultimate B17 Gold. With its backs to the wall, Bay to Bay 17-1 swept Team Rockstar (Southern California) to force a one-set playoff with Team Rockstar 17-1. As with both sets in the third round, the one-set tiebreaker was settled by two points with Bay to Bay 17-1 prevailing 25-23.
Bay to Bay 17-1 had four players selected to the all-tournament team including most valuable player Colton Brooks. He was joined by teammates Joseph Bergles, Ryan Li and Shane Atkins.
Li felt the comebacks throughout the tournament were a team effort as everyone chipped in to contribute.
“It was unbelievable because we were trailing the whole time,” Li said. “Then we made some little changes here and there, and a lot of players stepped. It was great team effort.”
Bergles said the pressure was on down the stretch as Bay to Bay overcame a two-point deficit in the final stages of the championship match.
“I was just so nervous,” said Bergles. “Then all of a sudden Shane (Atkins) came out with a big block and then we everyone went crazy. Out of the blue, we just stole the national championship. We got to represent Northern California.”
Brooks felt losing the opening set in the championship match provided a spark his team needed.
“Obviously we were all pretty bummed from the first set,” Brooks said. “But we came back with fire in the second set. We didn’t give up. We were even down in the third, but we didn’t give up. We came back and were able to pull it out.”
Atkins agreed that he too needed to come out with more fire after the first set loss. He made some adjustments to his swing, and that carried through to the gold medal.
“Overall, I had to play with more fire,” Atkins said. “In the first set, I didn’t have enough energy. In the second set, I had to come back harder, swing harder, swing higher.”
After the championship point, Atkins couldn’t believe what had just happened surrounded by some of his best friends.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel real,” Atkins said. “I was thinking about it, but I was trying to savor the moment.”
Bay to Bay 17-1 finished the tournament with a 9-2 record plus the one-set playoff victory.
As a program, Bay to Bay Volleyball reached the podium six times at this year’s BJNC. In addition to gold in the 17 Open Division, Bay to Bay won silver in the 15 Open and 13 Club Divisions, and bronze in the 12 Club, 14 Club and 17 Club Divisions.
Matthew Houlihan, assistant coach for Bay to Bay 17-1, took over the reins of the Bay to Bay program along with his wife Arielle, who served as head coach of the 17s team that won gold. He feels the coaching staff that dedicates their time is the main reason for the program’s successes this year.
“Hands down it is our coaching staff. No doubt about it,” Houlihan said. “They work so hard and are so dedicated for the right reason to teach these guys how to play the game. They have shown throughout our pipeline of young kids coming up to the older age groups that we are teaching them the right way and doing things at a pretty high level now they have been in our gym for a long time. That is a big testament to the coaching staff from our 12-year-olds all the up to the 18-year-olds, how we are approaching the game. That is the biggest compliment that I can give. That group from 1s coaches to 2s coaches. Looking at this 17s team, it is a conglomerate of 2s players and 3s players and 1s players when they were little players and first started. They stuck with it. They have been positive. They have really worked hard and trusted the process of what we are working on in becoming better athletes and better all-around people.”
Houlihan said he and his wife added the younger age groups to the club once they took over the program, and it has been part of the most rewarding part of the job.
“It has been the most incredible job, most incredible opportunity to work some many incredible young guys, stellar coaching staff. I get to work with my wife, and see how proud she is for what she does for these young guys. I think it just fantastic to see the opportunities boys are given here. It is hats off for USA Volleyball for what they are doing. It is nothing but good stuff.”
Ultimate B17 Gold reached the championship match by sweeping Coast 17 Blue (Southern California) 25-16, 25-19 in the quarterfinals and Legacy Boys 17 Elite (Southern California) 25-19, 25-23 in the semifinals. Ultimate B17 Gold ended the tournament with a 8-3 record.
Pac6 17 Blue (Southern California) and Legacy Boys 17 Elite (Southern California) earned the 17 Open Division bronze medals.
Balboa Bay 17 White claimed the 17 USA Division gold medal by defeating Cincinnati Attack 17 Black (Ohio Valley) 25-21, 15-25, 15-9 in the title match between undefeated teams.
Balboa Bay 17 White, which finished the tournament at 11-0, topped MVVC 17 Black (Northern California) 25-18, 26-24 in the quarterfinals and MB Surf Asics 17s 25-21, 17-25, 15-10 in the semifinals.
Cincinnati Attack 17 Black, which ended the tournament at 10-1, earned its ticket to the finals with two three-set victories in the Gold Bracket finals. They rallied past Aces 17U Elite (Columbia Empire) 11-25, 25-15, 15-9 in the quarterfinals, then overcame a one-set deficit to edge Vegas United B17 Navy (Southern California) 20-25, 25-20, 15-10 in the semifinals.
MB Surf Asics 17s and Vegas United B17 Navy earned the 17 USA Division bronze medals.
West Edge 17 (Southern California) earned the 17 Club Division gold medal after defeating SG ELITE 17 Elite (Southern California) 25-20, 25-21 in the title match.
West Edge 17 earned its ticket to the final by edging Chicago Bounce 17 Red (Great Lakes) 25-19, 23-25, 15-12 in the quarterfinals before topping Bay to Bay 17-2 (Northern California) in the semifinals. West Edge 17 ended the tournament with an undefeated record in 11 matches.
SG ELITE 17 Elite reached the gold-medal match by rallying past Seaside 17 Black (Southern California) 15-25, 25-15, 20-18 in the quarterfinals and Kaizen Boys 17 (Oklahoma) 25-15, 25-20 in the semifinals. SG ELITE 17 Elite concluded the tournament with a 9-3 record, and two of the losses were at the hands of West Edge 17.
Kaizen Boys 17s and Bay to Bay 17-2 won bronze medals in the 17 Club Division.
949 B13 Black recovered from a first-set loss to defeat Bay to Bay 13-1 (Northern California) 24-26, 25-20, 15-9 in the 13 Club Division gold-medal match.
949 B13 Black, which was undefeated in nine matches, reached the title match by defeating MVVC 13 Red (Northern California) 25-17, 25-14 in the quarterfinals and Boriquen Coqui 13-1M (Puerto Rico) 25-27, 25-23, 16-14 in a thrilling semifinal.
Bay to Bay 13-1, which was ended the tournament at 8-1 and set losses only the gold-medal match, defeated Team Rockstar 13-1 (Southern California) 25-12, 25-15 in the quarterfinals and MB Surf Asics 13s (Southern California) 25-20, 28-26 in the semifinals.
MB Surf Asics 13s and Borinquen Coqui 13-1M earned the 13 Club Division bronze medals.
2018 USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championships
18 Open: Gold – 949 B18 Black; Silver – Balboa Bay 18 Blue (Southern California); Bronze – MB Surf Asics 18s (Southern California) and AZ Fear 18 JB
18 USA: Gold – Sports Performance B18 Alpha (Great Lakes); Silver – Ponce Pumas (Puerto Rico); Bronze – AZ Fear 18 SB (Arizona) and WAVE 18 Kevin (Southern California)
18 Club: Gold – VCVC Boys 18 Yosh (Southern California); Silver – LBVC 18s (Southern California); Bronze – OCVC 18-1 (Southern California) and TVP 18 (Chesapeake)
17 Open: Gold – Bay to Bay 17-1 (Northern California); Silver – Ultimate B17 Gold (Great Lakes); Bronze – Pac6 17 Blue (Southern California) and Legacy Boys 17 Elite (Southern California)
17 USA: Gold – Balboa Bay 17 White (Southern California); Silver – Cincinnati Attack 17 Black (Ohio Valley); Bronze – MB Surf Asics 17s (Southern California) and Vega United B17 Navy (Southern California)
17 Club: Gold – West Edge 17 (Southern California); Silver – SG ELITE 17 Elite (Southern California); Bronze – Kaizen Bys 17s (Oklahoma) and Bay to Bay 17-2 (Northern California)
16 Open: Gold – Balboa Bay 16 Blue (Southern California); Silver – Borinquen Coqui 16-1M (Puerto Rico); Bronze – Team Rockstar 16-1 (Southern California) and 949 B16 Black (Southern California)
16 USA: Gold – SAS Boys 16 (Aloha); Silver – Adversity adidas 16 Purple (Great Lakes); Bronze – Balboa Bay 16 White (Southern California) and Coast 16 Black (Southern California)
16 Club: Gold – Legacy Boys 16 Elite (Southern California); Silver – HVA 161 Performance (Lone Star); Bronze – Seaside 16 Black (Southern California) and Milwaukee Sting B16 Black (Badger)
15 Open: Gold – Team Rockstar 15-1 (Southern California); Silver – Bay to Bay 15-1 (Northern California); Bronze – 949 B15 Black (Southern California) and SJVC 15-1 (Puerto Rico)
15 Club: Gold – AZ Fear 15 TS (Arizona); Silver – NCVC Asics 15-1 (Northern California); Bronze – Epic 15 Charlie (Southern California) and LBVC 15s (Southern California)
14 Open: Gold – OCVC 14-1 (Southern California); Silver – Vaqueros 14-1 (Puerto Rico); Bronze – MB Surf Asics 14s (Southern California) and Balboa Bay 14 Blue (Southern California)
14 Club: 14 Club: Gold – Balboa Bay 14 White (Southern California); Silver – AZ Fear 14 BP (Arizona); Bronze – Balboa Bay 13 Blue (Southern California) and Bay to Bay 14 Club (Northern California)
13 Club: Gold – 949 B13 Black (Southern California); Silver – Bay to Bay 13-1 (Northern California); Bronze – Borinquen Coqui 13-1M (Puerto Rico) and MB Surf Asics 13s (Southern California)
12 Club: Gold – Vaqueros 12-1 (Puerto Rico); Silver – Torrimar 12-1 (Puerto Rico); Bronze – 949 B12 Black (Southern California) and Bay-to-Bay 12-1 (Northern California)