MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (May 30, 2017) – SoCal Avalanche (Southern California) and Hoosier Exterminators (Hoosier Region) claimed USA Volleyball Open National Championships titles in the Men’s Open and Women’s Open Divisions, respectively, while The Eh Team (Canada) won the Sitting Division crown on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The Open Division is the highest level of competition held during the Opens that includes skill levels and master’s age division for both men’s and women’s teams. The USA Volleyball Open National Championships is now in its 88th running and is one of the largest national championship events in the country for any sport. This year’s competition has 464 teams competing with nearly 5,000 athletes.
SoCal Avalanche captured the Men’s Open Division after sweeping Team Pineapple (Hoosier) 25-20, 25-22, 26-24 in the gold-medal match. SoCal Avalanche ended the tournament with a 7-2 record, but won its final six matches after a 1-2 start in pool play.
SoCal Avalanche setter Matt West, who was named to the Men’s Open Division all-tournament team, said his team the team bonded, establishing respect and trust in the early going to overcome its slow start in pool play.
“You have to establish a culture immediately and I think that’s tough,” West said. “I always tell people I play with, ‘I don’t care if you like me. I don’t care if you love me. I just need you to respect me.’ Gaining respect is tough because it’s earned, it’s not given. You just establish a culture and you move forward. You hope that these guys trust you with their lives because you’re going to battle. Luckily they did. It was awesome. I had a great time.”
West felt the Men’s Open Division is a marathon and not a sprint to the finish.
“Talk about a marathon,” West said. “We played nine matches over four days. I go to sleep at 11:30 every night. I do the ice-bath thing. I stretch. I recuperate. I might be one of the few that does it, but it pays off.”
Silver medalist Team Pineapple finished the tournament with a 6-2 record. They defeated bronze-medalist Volleyball Academy-America (Northern California) 25-11, 20-25, 25-19, 25-19 in the loser’s bracket finals.
SoCal Avalanche’s Ray Szeto was named most valuable player of the Men’s Open Division.
Hoosier Exterminators came back through the loser’s bracket to win the Women’s Open Division title, knocking off Team Iowa Ice 25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 25-17 in the title match to force a Golden Set. In the winner-take-all one set to 25 points, Hoosier Exterminators went up early and never let Iowa Ice back into the set with a 25-20 victory.
Tiana Dockery, who was Hoosier Exterminator’s leader on the court and named the Women’s Open most valuable player, felt her teammates’ relaxed nature and team camaraderie played an important role in the championship.
“It means a lot,” Dockery said. “We worked really, really hard for this. We really wanted it. All the girls got together and pushed and connected really well. As you can see, the dancing kind of helped.”
“It is great. It reminds me of my time playing in New Orleans when we won gold (in U.S. Collegiate National Team program).”
Hoosier Exterminator’s Sareea Freeman, who was named to the all-tournament team and has now won three gold in five years in playing at the Opens, was ecstatic on winning the championship even if it meant coming back through the loser’s bracket.
“It is super sweet,” Freeman said. “One thing, usually there is no double elimination. With the double elimination that helped us to prepare. It gave us more time to prepare and more time to get us together and fight for this. I definitely think we came together as a team. It has been a really long week and been a lot of volleyball. Everybody contributed and that is what makes this victory so much sweeter.”
Hoosier Exterminators swept bronze medalist Team GEVA 25-19, 25-15, 25-19 in the loser’s bracket final to advance to the title match.
In the 10-team Sitting Division that mixed both able-bodied athletes with disabled athletes, The Eh Team (Canada) came out on top by defeating Team Florida All-Stars (Florida) 25-20, 25-15 in the gold-medal match. The champions went undefeated in seven matches without dropping a set. Team Florida went 5-2 in the tournament with both losses to The Eh Team. Nebraska High Rollers (Great Plains) captured the bronze medal with a 25-20, 21-25, 15-7 win over Sit Happens (Keystone) in the third-place match.
J Dee Marinko of The Eh Team was selected the Sitting Division most valuable player. Marinko is also a member of the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball National Team.
The Open has 12 division crowns yet to be determined. The Men’s and Women’s BB and B Divisions, Men’s 40s, Men’s 50s, Men’s 60, Men’s 70s, Men’s 76s, Women’s 45s, Women’s 55s and Women’s 65s will have finals on May 31.
Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for the USA Volleyball Open National Championships.
Medal Winner Recap
Men’s Open: Gold – SoCal Avalanche (Southern California); Silver – Team Pineapple (Hoosier); Bronze – Volleyball Academy America (Northern California)
Men’s AA: Gold – Legion (Southern California); Silver – Southside Bangers (Great Lakes); Bronze – Luau Chicago (Great Lakes)
Men’s A: Gold – Team Core (Badger); Silver – Team Bear Claw (Iowa); Bronze – NFVB Crank Blasters (Western Empire)
Men’s 45s: Gold – Balboa Bay 45 (Southern California); Silver – Fog Canada 45 Men (Canada); Bronze – Pro Combat/Botafogo (Brazil)
Men’s 55s: Gold – Kings Mountain Fog 55 (Northern California); Silver – Western States Laguna (Southern California); Bronze – Fog Canada 55s (Canada)
Men’s 65s: Gold – Sao Paulo Masters 65M (Brazil); Silver – Kings Mountain Fog 65 (Northern California); Bronze – Quiksilver Legends 65 (Southern California)
Men’s 73s: Gold – Rustys 73 (Columbia Empire); Silver – Outback Steakhouse 73 (Puget Sound); Bronze – TeamSota (North Country)
Men’s 78s: Gold – MAC Magic 78 (Chesapeake); Silver – Highlanders 79 (Rocky Mountain); Bronze – Rusty 78 (Columbia Empire)
Women’s Open: Gold – Hoosier Exterminators (Hoosier); Silver – Team Iowa Ice (Iowa); Bronze – Team GEVA (Garden Empire)
Women’s AA: Gold – CU ‘Olden Bears (North Country); Silver – Blue Ballers (North Texas); Bronze – Angry Beavers (Rocky Mountain)
Women’s A: Gold – Team Bison (North Country); Silver – Spank (Badger); Bronze – Foxy Ladies (Gateway)
Women’s 40s: Gold – Fog Canada Masters 40 (Canada); Silver – Winnipeg Fog (Canada); Bronze – San Diego Beaches (Southern California)
Women’s 50s: Gold – Panama Jack San Diego (Southern California); Silver – Fog Canada Masters 50 (Canada); Bronze – B.A.D. (Northern California)
Women’s 60s: Gold – Brasil Mix-60 (Brazil); Silver – WWConnect-60 (Rocky Mountain); Bronze – BLT (Northern California)
Sitting Division: Gold – The Eh Team (Canada); Silver – Florida All-Stars (Florida); Bronze – Nebraska High Rollers (Great Plains)