INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—When Miz Long Beach 13 L took to the court against Dynasty 13 Black Thursday afternoon, the team was facing a familiar foe.
On Wednesday, Long Beach (Southern California Region) squeezed by Dynasty (Heart of America Region) in a nailbiter, 21-19 in the third set of round 2 play. So when Long Beach won the first set in the 13 Open title match at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships, what happened next was no surprise.
Dynasty won the second set 25-20, setting up the rubber match. Long Beach jumped out to a big lead in the third, and slowly but surely, Dynasty chipped away at the lead before falling 15-13.
Long Beach players were ready for that, and they remembered coach Lance Aoki’s advice.
“Keep our composure…always,” said setter Sade Ilawole.
“That’s his motto,” added fellow setter Charlie Fuerbringer. “Composure and decimate.”
Aoki was pleased his teachings were in the forefront of his players’ minds in a tense battle.
“Composure is relaxing and staying calm throughout all the craziness that’s going on,” Aoki said. “Just play volleyball…something you love to do, and something they’ve been doing for awhile. Let it happen. It is what it is. You cannot change it, just play. Don’t panic, don’t freak out.”
Aoki pointed out that they forgot two parts of his motto: passion and love … for volleyball and for their teammates.
“Everyone needs to have love and passion for one another,” he said.” And that’s part of the composure.”
It was a second straight title for nine of the girls, including Ilawole and Fuerbringer, who won the 12 National title in 2018 under different club coaches. Aoki commended all his players for truly buying into his system.
“Just go out there and swing hard, serve hard. Play, win or lose. That’s all we can ask you to do.”
Despite going undefeated, Long Beach did not have an easy road to the title. Six of their 10 matches went to three sets. Aoki believes what pushed his team through to the championship was behavior.
“I told them, ‘the volleyball is good. It’s been good,’ he said. “It’s about the way you handle yourselves, your behavior with one another. Your behavior with being able to play relaxed and composed. And then being able to come together and have trust.”
He used the final set as an example, as it was a time for his players to not get caught up in the atmosphere of parents, fans and noise.
“Just trust your teammates,” he said.
Definitely words to live (and play) by.
Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for all USA Volleyball national championship events.
Arizona Storm (Arizona Regon) collected its second podium finish of the tournament as 13 Thunder won the American division. The 15 Open team won the silver medal on Monday.
Storm lost a single set en route to the gold, defeating Elite VBTC 13 Black (Ohio Valley Region) in the final, 25-19, 25-18.
Livewire 13 adidas (Arizona Region) and Encore 13 Lontayao (Northern California Region) tied for third.
DCVA 13 Ohana (Sun Country Region) lost just two sets in 11 matches to sweep to the 13 National title, defeating Tstreet 13-Taylor (Southern California Region) in straight sets.
Tied for third were Six Pack 13 (Iowa Region) and NKYVC 13-1 Tsunami (Pioneer Region.
Seal Beach 13-1 Black (Southern California Region) captured the 13 USA title in a rematch of the team’s only loss of the tournament. In their first meet-up, Seal Beach and Coast 13-1 went three sets, with Coast emerging victorious 15-9 in the third.
But it was different in the final, albeit still close, as Seal collected a 25-21, 30-28 win.
Third place went to East Side Blaze (Arizona Region) and Academy 13 Diamond (Carolina Region).