(Las Vegas, Nevada) – Six new champions were crowned July 7 at the 2022 Boys Junior National Championship in Las Vegas. The final matches capped off eight days of nonstop action at the 43rd championship, which brought together 387 teams and thousands of athletes and spectators.
The road to the golden ball is not always an easy one, and such was the difficult path of 352 Elite 17 Lime Tonny (Florida) en route to the 17 Open title.
352 Elite played six three-set matches in the tournament, losing three of them to tough opponents Outrigger 17s (Aloha), The HBC 17s Working Man (SCVA) and Bay to Bay 17-1 (NCVA). They then played two of those teams (Bay to Bay and Outrigger) in the semis and finals, forcing them to dig deep to turn the tables.
And so they did, defeating Bay to Bay in another three-set match, 23-25, 25-23, 16-14, then winning gold with a 25-21, 25-22 win over previously unbeaten Outrigger.
“Amazing,” head coach Antonio Gaetan said. “It was a rough road to begin with. Hard teams, great tournament. So we did what we had to do, and then this is the result.”
Spike and Serve B 18-1 (Aloha) also pushed themselves to the limit en route to the 18 Open title. Half of their matches went to three sets, including two barnburners on the final day.
In the semi, SAS outlasted 352 Elite 18 Lime Roger (Florida), 28-26, 24-26, 18-16 before immediately facing Aspire 18 Thor (Arizona) in the final. That match also went the distance, with SAS on top, 22-25, 25-17, 16-14.
For many of the SAS players, it was a repeat championship, as they won 17 Open last year.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t even explain. It’s still sinking in,” SAS head coach Padraic Tune said. “I’m so proud of my guys. We were down in that match. We were down 10-5 and 13-10, and came back and gutted it out. These guys never give up. They’ve got the heart of a champion. My thanks to USA Volleyball and everyone here for setting up a great event.”
Northeast Boys 17-1 (New England) rebounded from two early losses to win the 17 USA title 25-16, 25-23 over previously undefeated Boys BSVBC 17-1 (Gateway).
“[I’m] so happy for my guys; so happy for our club,” Northeast head coach Kevin Marino said. “It’s our third year; we have tremendous leadership and directors. It just trickles down and it showed on the court all week.”
Like many teams, Northeast faced numerous challenges on the road to Vegas, including injuries, different lineups, and a three-month break between the end of their club season and nationals.
“[We had] nine practices to gear up for this,” Marino said. “I think we had our full team for six of them. They just came together when we got here.”
In 18 USA, High Flyers 18 Red (Great Plains) defeated SMBC West 18 adidas Matt in a thrilling 25-22, 22-25, 17-15 victory.
“We only had obstacles,” head coach Jack MacLean said. “We’re the only club in Nebraska that has been sending teams to nationals for the last 15 years. We don’t have high school boys volleyball … It’s just us on an island–battling, training, doing everything we can.”
MacLean said the team is made up of more than just boys from Nebraska. They have athletes carpooling in from Davenport, Iowa, once a week to train.
“The amount of resources that have gone in from the families and the boys, and the dedication… it’s just unreal,” he added.
TVA Addix 17 Mint (NCVA) lost just two sets en route to an 11-0 record for the 17 Club title. In the final, they defeated previously undefeated Tool City 17 Orange (Ohio Valley), 25-19, 25-23. It was Triumph Volleyball Academy’s second title of the tournament; TVA Addix 16 Mint won the 16 Club title.
“Awesome. Long years in the making. Time, dedication, struggles, commitment, everything. (They) played their hearts out today. Awesome tournament,” head coach Van Moua said.
18 Club winner LBVC 18 Jason (SCVA) was also undefeated (12-0), losing just one set in the semifinal against UNOxp Boys 18 HP (Great Lakes). In the final, LBVC defeated PacWest 18U Tahoma Boys (Columbia Empire), 25-19, 25-19.
LBVC head coach Jason Kwak said he’s being working with this group of players for four years, so it was a “culminating moment” for him.
“We’ve been getting better year by year,” he said. “I think it was a perfect time to get together on the court here and win gold.”