GJNC 18s Dancing into Columbus This Weekend
Columbus, get ready! The 2023 Girls 18s Junior National Championship will hit the Greater Columbus Convention Center on April 28-3
Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 30, 2023) – USA Volleyball crowned champions in seven divisions Sunday at the 2023 Girls 18s Junior National Championship in Columbus, Ohio.
Approximately 320 teams competed over seven days to earn titles at the seventh-annual event. The championship brought in an estimated 9,000 people and $6 million to Columbus.
Wave 18-Juliana (SCVA) overcame a loss on day one to advance to Sunday’s final match against Premier Nebraska 19 Gold (Great Plains Region). In an epic battle, Wave won the first set 25-17 before Premier bounced back for a second-set win (22-25). But Wave prevailed with a 17-15 third-set victory.
“I feel amazing,” said Wave’s Jillian Neal, who captured the winning point. “Nothing can beat this. Being able to end club season (like this); it’s just incredible. I’m so grateful.”
Wave outside hitter Julia Blyashov, a member of the USA Volleyball Girls U19 National Team, earned MVP honors while teammates Neal and Eva Rohrbach were named to the all-tournament team.
KC Power 18 Black (Heart of America) swept through 18 National with an 8-0 record for the title. They lost just one set in the tournament and defeated NOVA Juniors 18s Navy (Ohio Valley), 25-17, 25-17 for the win.
Ashlyn Bellamy was named MVP, and teammates Ava TeStrake and Skylar Weaver were named to the all-tournament team.
Topeka Impact 18-1, another Heart of America Region team, went 8-1 en route to the USA title. Their only loss was in pool play to Pursuit 18 National (Gateway) in three sets, and they swept Vegas Aces 18 UnderArmour, 25-21, 25-22, in the final.
Impact’s Taylor Russell said they had a good season and knew they could come out on top if they worked hard and played together. But that’s not what she’ll remember the most about being part of the team.
“I’ll remember the bond we all had. We’re all best friends,” she said. “It was such a great group of girls to play with. I would never trade this team for anyone else.”
Actyve 18-Black (SCVA) lost just one set in its 10-0 run to the American title. That set loss came in the semifinal to Rancho Valley 18Premier (SCVA), where Actyve was pushed to the brink in a 19-25, 28-26, 15-7 win.
After that close call, Actyve players headed right back out on the court to secure the championship with a 25-20, 25-23 win over TIV 18 Black (North Texas).
Setter Natalie Lercari-Sullivan knew that even with all the excitement of winning with her team, there’s still a bittersweet aspect to it.
“It’s sad to see everybody go because we’re all going off to college, but it’s been fun and exciting to be with them for the last six months,” she said.
The 18 Freedom final came down to two undefeated teams: Houston Juniors 18 Premier (Lone Star) and JJVA 18 Teal (Florida Region). The championship match lived up to expectations as Houston battled to a 25-21, 21-25, 15-13 win.
Middle blocker Victoria Powell fought back tears as she talked about the team’s journey and championship.
“I’m over the moon,” she said. “This team’s been through so much adversity. We’ve lost players, we’ve been through injuries, and we came out on top 15-13 in the third. I couldn’t be happier, and it’s our last time playing together. I’m going to remember how we fought in this match and winning it all when it really, really mattered.”
Legacy Girls 18 Elite (SCVA) had one of the tougher roads to a gold medal, but they persevered throughout the tournament for victory.
The team opened the tournament with two three-set wins, having to come back both times after losing the first set. In bracket play, they lost a three-set match (13-15) to Coast 18-Victor (SCVA). But they won three straight matches, including a 25-23, 25-15 win over Roots 181 Green (Lone Star) in the championship final.
Legacy’s Madison Maxwell said this team had “big energy.”
“I feel amazing,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team. We went through a lot of ups and downs. It was rough for a really long time, but we finally figured it out and we came together. It couldn’t have ended better. By far this has been my favorite team.”
Wave Volleyball’s Open title was its second of the day, as the club’s Patriot team, 18 Dave, defeated Rogue 18 GO (Ohio Valley), 25-22, 23-25, 15-11. The team was undefeated in the tournament but pulled out a close match in the semifinals, defeating NNJ 18 Jason (NCVA), 25-23, 19-25, 16-14.