Indianapolis, Ind. (June 30, 2016) – Titles for the youngest divisions being contested at the 2016 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships, 11 Patriot and 12s in National and American, were awarded today at the Indiana Convention Center.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the bill, PROMESA, to help Puerto Rico with its 10-year long economic crisis and impending debt situation. Today, in Indy, a group of 12-year-old girls from Puerto Rico won the national title in the 12 National Division. A little closer to home, the host city had a team in the finals of the 11 Patriot Division; they fought hard and clung together and finished with the silver. And finally a team from Jacksonville was victorious in the 12 American final.

But look who was coaching that national runners-up in the 12 American? It was Bill Raitt, who won his first title yesterday with his Frisco Flyers in the 13 American division. 

12 National

Luis Velez is the step-father of Amanda Pagan on GVA from Puerto Rico, the champions in the 12 National division. GVA/Mizuno White 12U (PU) defeated Dynasty 12 Black (HA) 25-14, 25-13.

The team has been together for five years since eight-years-old. They are from Guaynabo, the northern portion of the metro area of Puerto Rico. GVA stands for Guaynabo Volleyball Academy.

Volleyball is the number one sport for girls there. The town has been home to a professional women’s volleyball team, Mets de Guaynabo. And Puerto Rico has a professional volleyball league for women, the Liga de Voleibol Superior Femenino.

What’s it like to be a volleyball parents? “Many sacrifices, very time consuming just to get them to this point,” said Luis. “They deserve … when they’re kids … the attention they need to do a sport that they like.

The parents of this team of 12-year-olds aren’t thinking college. Volleyball is a break. And, according to Luis, volleyball helps “to keep them busy, keep them out of the street.”

“Right now the economy is really, really bad … really, really bad. There are some parents who live in bad neighborhoods, but they still sacrifice their time to get their kids to practice.”

Why do you do it?

“Because they love it,” said Agnes Pagan.

“And the parents love it too,” Luis said. “It’s a very special team. They won for three years in the AAU tournament down in Orlando. This is the first time that we participate in this one.”

For Amanda, volleyball is year-round activity. After the indoor season, she plays beach.

Luis, speaking for fathers everywhere, said, “There’s … no break. No break.”

11 Patriot

Dynasty 11 Black (HA) won the 11 Patriot Division, 21-25, 25-13, 15-13, against the hometown favorites, Boiler Juniors 11U (HO) of Indianapolis.

Dynasty player Riley Unruh’s mom, Kristin, is a volleyball coach on top of being a volleyball mom.

“It’s very, very stressful. I also coach a 15s team and it’s much easier to be a coach,” she said.

The time spent in the gym adds up for Kristin and her two volleyball playing daughters. They live in Lawrence, Kansas, and drive an hour to Kansas City for practice, which on some nights can include back-to-back practices for the daughters, 6-8p and then 8-10p.

“We get home at 11 o’clock at night and sometimes we turn right back around and do it again the next day.”

But Kristin feels fortunate that her girls love the sport she loves and grew up playing. And now her 11-year-old is a national champion.

“It’s absolutely amazing. I’m super proud of her.”

How soon will you put this on Facebook? “Probably within 10 minutes.”

12 American

JJVA Team Rox 12N Robin (FL) won the 12 American Division over Flyers 12 Rox-Bill (NT), 25-17, 25-14.

Kim Dill is mother of Anna Dill on the champion JJVA squad. What’s it like being a volleyball mom?

“It’s a busy life, and yet fun. Teaching these girls to work together as a team at such a young age I think teaches them so much more about life than just volleyball, so I just think it’s wonderful that these girls are learning this at such a young age.”

Just last week, Kim dropped her oldest daughter, Madison, at the University of Miami, where she’ll play volleyball.

“This is my second child going through it, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. I played volleyball, but my girls play at such a higher level than I ever did.

“It makes me so proud. They work so hard and it’s not easy. A lot of times their friends are doing sleepovers or having get togethers and parties and they’re left out because they’re training or their team is practicing. So when they see the reward from all their hard work, again, I think it just teaches them about life and makes me so proud that they have such dedication at such a young age.

Tonight’s medalists are listed below:

12 National
Gold: GVA/Mizuno White 12U (PU)
Silver: Dynasty 12 Black (HA)
Bronze: Arizona Storm 12 Thunder (AZ)
Bronze: OT 12 Asics Longwood (FL)

11 Patriot
Gold: Dynasty 11 Black (HA)
Silver: Boiler Juniors 11U (HO)
Bronze: OT 11 Asics Red (FL)
Bronze: Skyline 11 Royal (NT)

12 American
Gold: JJVA Team Rox 12 N Robin (FL)
Silver: Flyers 12 Rox-Bill (NT)
Bronze: Rockford 12 Black (GL)
Bronze: Boomers 12 Black (FL)