With victories in 14 Club and 15 Club, Aspire Volleyball out of Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona Region) collected two of the nine titles handed out Sunday at the Boys Junior National Championship in Las Vegas, Nev.
15 Club, 14 Club, 16 Club
In 15 Club, Aspire 15 Black Panther roared through the division, going 10-0 without losing a set. They defeated West Edge 15 (SCVA) in the final, 25-13, 25-17.
“To watch they boys do what they’ve done… half hadn’t played before, starting in the fall,” head coach Mindi Moser said. “We had some injuries, we had some kids that weren’t able to come, and so we had to add some pieces. That always makes it a little bit tough, but they just played and battled. It was awesome.”
Like Aspire 15 Black Panther, Aspire 14 Groot also went undefeated, although they lost a set to Top Flight 14 Black (SCVA) earlier in the tournament. In the final, they beat Arizona Fear 14JS (Arizona), 25-17, 26-24.
“It’s surreal,” said head coach Kris Maglunog. “It goes back to the moment tryouts started, and getting these kids in the gym from day one. Everything that [we’ve been] training for just validates it today.”
In 16 Club, Triumph Volleyball Academy’s Addix 16 Mint (NCVA) notched a 12-0 record en route to the title. They didn’t lose a set until an epic gold-medal match against SC Legends 16 Elite (SCVA), finally winning 25-11, 22-25, 15-13.
Head coach Steven Guglielamana said the squad faced numerous obstacles on the way to capturing the coveted golden ball.
“One of our starting setters broke his toe. That affected him; we had to change our lineup,” Guglielamana said. “During the finals, we had a bloody knee [and] a kid had to come out. Our setter got a bloody nose; we had to plug that up. We fought back in a three-set match.”
16 Open, 15 Open, 14 Open
C2 Attack 16 SMACK (10-0) out of Tennessee (Southern Region) defeated HVA 16 Performance Red (Lone Star), 25-13, 25-21 for the 16 Open title.
Head coach Brian Hogg said the team had only lost two matches all year, and that those losses defined the rest of the season.
“To see this team grow from beginning to end, it’s just been amazing,” he said. “I’m really proud they could pull together and win this national championship.”
The C2 16 team only has about five practices a year; the rest of the work happens at tournaments.
“We’re always trying to figure some chemistry out, and it’s amazing these boys can come together and really do that,” he added.
San Juan 15-1 (Puerto Rico) had a tougher road to the final in 15 Open, losing a match to MAVS 15 Red (Heart of America) early in the tournament. The two teams met again in the semifinal, but this time San Juan was ready, winning 25-18, 25-22.
In the final, they met up with HVA Performance Red (Lone Star) for a three-set victory, 21-25, 28-26, 15-4.
“I’m just letting in sink in right now,” head coach Gabriel Lugo said after the match.
The team faced adversity before and during the tournament. All three coaches juggle coaching with working night shifts. On the second day of the tournament, their starting setter fell ill, and the backup setter stepped up to help lead the team.
It turns out it’s the second national title for Lugo, but his first as a head coach.
“Eleven years ago I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I also got a championship in 14 under as an assistant coach,” he said. “Today, first time, open division as a head coach, and I get my championship.”
Two undefeated teams met up in the 14 Open final, and it turned out to be everything it was hyped up to be. In the end, Puerto Rico’s Torrimar 15-1 came out on top against Excel 14N Red (North Texas), 22-25, 25-15, 15-12.
“This is a lot of work for 10 months. I’m very happy,” Torrimar head coach Luis Aponte Santiago said.
16 USA, 15 USA, 14 USA
For Minnesota Select 16 National (North Country) head coach Donald de la Vara and his athletes, the gold medal in 16 USA was more than just about the team; it was about the state of boys volleyball in Minnesota as a whole.
In early May, an attempt to add boys volleyball as an official high school sport failed by just one vote.
“We don’t have state high school volleyball in Minnesota, so for these boys to do something this big, to take the USA division … the strength and grit from these kids, [they] put more than just the team and the coaches on their back, and they held it down for Minnesota,” de la Vara said. “I just want the boys game to grow and make this a real thing, and let the boys play volleyball. This is more than the team; this is for the state of Minnesota … They know what this means. USA Volleyball is a huge thing, and it’s not like these boys don’t want it; the grit, the hustle, the grind. I’ve got tears flowing for these boys.”
MN Select lost just one set in 11 matches. In the final, they defeated Vegas United B16 Navy (SCVA), 25-22, 25-20.
In 15 USA, Old Dominion Volleyball Academy 15 East Coast (Old Dominion) battled through a tough division to emerge with the title. Every team in the division lost at least two matches in the tournament.
ODVA lost two of its first three matches; one to SG Elite 15 (SCVA) and a three-set scorcher to A2 15 Red (Ohio Valley). Then they won six straight to face A2 15 Red again in the semifinals, and the match was just as terrific as the first. This time, ODVA won, 25-16, 12-25, 15-10.
And who did ODVA face in the final? SG Elite, of course. The two teams pulled out all the stops en route to an ODVA win, 25-16, 15-25, 18-16.
“It feels fantastic,” head coach Ronald Fitch said. “It’s a good win to a very rough year. We’ve had some hurdles we’ve had to get through. I lost my mom recently; my assistant coach lost his dad recently. They were watching over us and they got us through. I’m over the moon. And on top of that, today would have been my mom’s 66th birthday. I’m so stoked for these guys.”
In 14 USA, Beach Cities 14 Black (SCVA) also bounced back from an earlier loss (to Forza1 North 14 UA) to take the title in a three-set thriller. Beach Cities defeated HVA 14 Young Guns Red (Lone Star), 15-25, 25-23, 15-12.
“Half of our team is pretty brand new,” Beach Cities head coach Sadiq Kagzi said. “It’s a lot of hard work from my team and players that got us here. Happiness, joy, thankfulness and luck.”