INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Confidence.
When it all comes down to it, confidence can be the turning point between winning and losing, or between giving up or moving forward.
But confidence was something Houston Skyline 15 Royal (Lone Star Region) had in their bags…their book bags at least.
The players and coaches read a book on confidence during the postseason, and it turned out to be a difference maker after they lost two matches before reaching the final. Houston Skyline defeated Arizona Storm 15 Thunder 25-15, 25-15 in the 15 Open division Monday at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships.
Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for all USA Volleyball national championship events.
Captain Madeleine Waak thinks the book kept them buoyed after those losses.
“I think we did very well responding to losing,” she said. “(The book was) about confidence, and knowing you’re good. We broke down our goals, and then we accomplished them. I don’t think we ever give up. Even when we’re down a little bit, I think we do a very good job of shaking it off and just going to the next point.”
Head coach Jennifer Woods said the book was a tool to help the girls refocus heading into nationals.
It was about how much control they have over what happens rather than being a victim of circumstance for good or for bad; that they have the ability to choose their thoughts,” Woods said. “It helped tremendously.”
Although Woods knew her team had the ability to win, circumstances weren’t necessarily in their favor..but they made the best of it.
“Storm is a phenomenal team, and everyone knows that,” she said. “That was our first match up with them. Going into it, we literally had to sprint from our previous match to (the final), so we didn’t have time to watch video or a scouting report. We just had to get out there and play, and it went obviously well. Our serving pressure was really ultimately what separated things.”
The journey to nationals was emotion for Skyline. Not only were they playing for themselves, they were also playing for a sister of one of the team members, who passed away a few weeks ago. The team’s bond held them together.
“They have been an awesome group to coach,” Woods said. “They never complain. They love to grind and train and pour it in during practice. They never want us to take it easy on them. They understand that the daily grind is what’s going to produce results. Having a team at this age that is mature and understanding is pretty unique, and we don’t take that for granted.”
Tied for third place this year in 15 Open were LoneStar 15 Red (North Texas Region) and OT 15 O. Melito (Florida Region)
In a three-set nailbiter, Arizona Revolution 15 adidas (Arizona Regoin) won the 15 American title over NKYVC 15 Tsunami (Pioneer Region), 25-18, 24-26, 15-7.
Not bad for a team that had different leadership halfway through the season after their coaches moved away. But their “replacement” coaches had some big credentials: former U.S. Air Force Academy head coach Marc Swindle and Lauren Conati, a former standout indoor and beach player at Call State Northridge.
“They were kind of frightened (about the coaching change) at first, but we were able to get them all together,” Conati said. “They learned a lot, and it’s unbelievable how much they’ve improved.”
Revolution had a chance to win in set two, but Conati praised the idea of more volleyball.
“Going to one more game makes it even more exciting,” she said. “We love volleyball, so we just want to keep playing it. We lost our focus in the second game, so I made sure that we riled them up and got them ready for the third.”
Revolution went 11-0 in the tournament. It was the second title for some of the players, who also won two years ago at 13s.
Arizona Revolution and NKYVC Tsunami
After an electrifying win in the first set, 31-29, Austin Performance 15 adidas rode that momentum to defeat Forza1 15 UA (Southern California) 25-12 in the second to take the 15 National title.
Head coach Lindsay Rosenthal said she was prepared for Forza1 to come storming back in set two, so she talked to her girls accordingly during the break.
“None of my kids have been in a situation like this before, so I tried to not focus on what was truly happening to us and more what we could do point by point,” she said. “We had a good match up against them because they started their top player in right back, and that matched us perfectly. Our goal was to just get touches. Even if we shanked it, just get touches because those little touches end up becoming digs, and then we can convert them.”
Third place went to Epic United 15 Elite ROX (Great Lakes Region) and Iowa Rockets (Iowa Region).
MadFrog (North Texas Region) head coach Michele Tucker earned her second national title with the club as her 15 N Black team defeated Sky High adidas 15 Black 25-22, 25-23 for the 15 USA title.
But, Tucker wasn’t around very long after the match as she rushed to catch a plane out of Indianapolis, so relatively new assistant coach Deja Erwin stepped in after the fact.
“The girls did a great job of siding out quickly and not allowing a huge run of points,” Erwin said. “That’s something that they struggled with the first couple of days. Over the whole tournament they just got better at closing the gap on everything, especially in this last game. Setters Ana Heath and Camille Heidemann both did a great job operating our offense, especially off the serve receive.”
MadFrog was close to elimination in the quarterfinals against Gainesville Elite. They were down 5-10 in the third set but stormed back to win 15-13.
“Some of their early struggle was finishing games and coming together as a team,” Erwin said. “They have shown this whole tournament that they can come together.”
High Voltage 14-15 College Prep (Florida Region) and OT 15 J. Rico (Florida Region) tied for third.
ECVBA 15 Joe (Southern California Region) went 11-2 and defeated Orange County 15 Blue (Southern California Region) in a marathon final, 25-22, 25-27, 17-15.
Third place went to SIVBC Typhoon 15-1 (Puget Sound Region) and Tstreet 15 Chris (Southern California Region).