Michigan Elite had a second straight great weekend

This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag’s weekly look at 10 things in club volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots each week through Junior Nationals this summer.

• In Louisville last weekend, the JVA’s annual showcase event, the JVA World Challenge, convened. More than 900 teams descended on the Derby City, a massive number for a tournament, smack dab in the middle of qualifier season, that was not a national qualifier.

• Three of the Open divisions we cover were contested at the World Challenge, with Michigan Elite 17 Mizuno capturing 17 Open, Sports Performance 16 Elite winning 16 Open and Tri-State Elite 15 Blue taking 15 Open.

Michigan Elite went 9-0 in Louisville, taking home a title one week after qualifying in Open for Junior Nationals at the Show Me qualifier in Kansas City.

“I believe this weekend had a lot to do with momentum from the Show Me qualifier,” said coach Jaison George. “They were able to bring a lot to the table from that event. The offense has consistently shown up in transition and we have been able to force free ball opportunities to our side.  We have had a consistent six-headed monster on offense with our roster.”

MEVBA fueled its impressive offense due to consistent ball control supplied by Jess Costlow, Mckenna PayneIzzy Busignani and Addison Newblatt.


Sports Performance, which had such a strong showing at Triple Crown in February but struggled somewhat at Bluegrass in March, defeated 23 other teams to take 16 Open. Seth Salmon’s team won despite being down two starters, standout setter Ellie Stiernagle (hand) and physical OH Haley Burgdorf (playing with 18 Elite).

“Everyone on the team was able to help make this weekend a great one and take care of our unfinished business from the last time we were in Louisville for Bluegrass,” Salmon said. “What truly helped us throughout the weekend was how great our blocking was as a team. We had 60 total blocks for the weekend, averaging 2.86 blocks per set.”

Down two players, SPVB 16 Elite still thrived at the World Challenge

On championship Sunday, SPVB took its blocking to new height, averaging 4.29 blocks per set. Big blockers for Sports Performance included middle Olivia Stewart and pins Brooklynne Brass and Abbey Knight. Libero Elayna Davidson, who averaged 5.29 digs per set; and setter Lina Giovani, who averaged eight assists per set, also catalyzed the win.


I don’t know what was more impressive in 15 Open, Tri-State’s 9-0 record or the way it handled formidable Munciana 15 Blue in the championship match.

“Tri-State Elite 15 Blue put together a very complete weekend of volleyball,” said coach Kelly Crowley. “The group was highly focused on the serve and pass game and turned that into an effective offense.”

Tri-State continued to shine in 15 Open at the World Challenge

Tri-State’s resume in 2024 includes the Mideast Power League title, second at Bluegrass, third at Central Zones and 13th at Triple Crown.

OHs Kenna Meibers, Maisie Jones, Aylah Belding and Cayden McIntosh teamed for 134 kills over 19 sets and combined with defenders Emerson Moser and Francesca Hansel to pass above a 2.0. Middles Jillian Forest and Charley Moeddel reached almost 100 kills between them, with 34 blocks, and setter Penelope Reisman led a very balanced offense.

• In the same facility in Louisville, starting and ending one day earlier, the Under Armour 18U National Championships took place for the second year.

The inaugural stand-alone event was held in Las Vegas last year and was not able to attract a strong field. By all accounts, this year’s field was much, much stronger, although the only representation west of the Mississippi came from Oregon’s NPJ.

Triangle won a national 18s championship at Under Armour in Louisville

The final eight – Sports Performance 18 Elite, Milwaukee Sting 18 Gold, 1st Alliance 18 Gold, A5 18-Marc, Munciana 18 Samurai, Tri-State Elite 18 Blue, Triangle 18 Black and Adversity G18 Adidas – comprised a formidable group.

Two one-loss teams, Sting and Tri-State, suffered their only losses in the semifinals, leaving undefeated Triangle and Munciana to battle for the championship.

Triangle, which has been playing without star junior Ryan Hunter since she was injured at Triple Crown, found a way to prevail in straight sets over Samurai, the winning kill coming from Asia Thigpen, the tournament MVP.

“She led the team with her dominant play and indomitable spirit,” said coach Logan Barber.

Setter Avery Scoggins, OH Laynie Smith, libero Coley Shiiflet and MB Ashlyn Philpot also shined for 18 Black. Philpot hit over .850 in the championship match!

“This was an amazing moment for these great players and proved that they are an exceptional team,” Barber said. “They were able to overcome a lot and prove that they can truly be greater together. I was extremely proud of them.”

• It’s April so of course there also were qualifiers. At Far Westerns in Reno, the 16 Open and 17 Open fields were uncharacteristically tiny, with just 11 and 10 teams, respectively. Far Westerns, given its place on the schedule, has seen teams with bids in hand drop in the past, but not like this.

The tournament ran Saturday through Monday and finished with Forza1 North 16 One prevailing in 16 Open and AZ Sky 17 Gold winning 17 Open.

Forza1 North won as the fifth overall seed. Its journey to the title included aa revenge win over Vision 16 Gold on Day 3.

“Winning this qualifier was really gratifying for the team,” said Forza1 coach Morgan Coberly. “We’ve had countless injuries and illnesses throughout the season and, just when it looks like we’re on the right track, something else happens. Two weeks ago in Spokane we basically found out the night before that Westley Matavao (our stud class of 27 OH) had walking pneumonia and couldn’t come. She was back this weekend and gave the team a huge boost and the confidence we needed to make a run. We just kind of built on each day and never seemed to get tired. This age group has medaled six times since 13s in qualifiers but this is their first gold! It was a really cool weekend!”


AZ Sky was undefeated for the weekend in 17 Open, but had two matches go to deuce in the third, including the championship win over Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar.

“Really proud of the way this way came together and battled all weekend,” said Sky coach Beau Lawler. “Multiple times we found ourselves down 5-10 points late in a set or a match and they were able to come together and battle for some gritty comeback wins. It’s a testament to this group’s mental fortitude, confidence in themselves and their teammates, and their training. That toughness is one of many reasons I truly love being in the gym and on the court with this group.”

Serve-receive, anchored by libero Lily Laflesch and outsides Raegan Richardson and Georgi Stein, were huge for AZ Sky on the weekend.

“Each might have had their best passing weekend and definitely had their best weekend as a unit,” Lawler said. “They had a remarkably high reception percentage and also kept us in system enough to get all six of our attackers involved.”

Middles Aubrey Bellus and Elle McCreery were electric offensively.

“Their ability to attack in so many spots along the net puts so much stress on opponent defenses,” Lawler explained. “They were merely unstoppable when 1-on-1 and continued to terminate even when opponents sent more blockers to help. Their blocking, combined with great service pressure and excellent defense from our setters, OHs, and libero, fueled both our gritty comebacks as well as our runs to close out matches.”

RS Addi France also had an incredible weekend.

“She’s such a smart and talented attacker, she always gives opponents trouble,” Lawler explained. “With her ability to terminate in system and out of system and her well-developed toolbox, we can always rely on her to but the ball away in tough spots.”

Sky previously qualified second at the Sunshine Classic, losing to AZ Storm 17 Thunder in the championship match.

• Speaking of Storm, Aaron Payne’s squad, the defending age group national champions, was able to go 10-0 (20-0) to win 17 Open at the Salt Lake City Showdown.

“We had a great weekend in Salt Lake,” Payne said. “The constants for us remained with Devyn Wiest (Utah), Teraya Sigler (Nebraska), and Izzy Mahaffey (Long Beach) receiving the ball consistently all weekend. Offensively, we have to give a lot of credit to setter Kaia Pixler (South Carolina) for moving the ball around really, really well (something we have had a lot of emphasis on in practice for the last few weeks). With the arms that we have, when we move it well, we get a lot of open net to work with, and our hitters see the block well and are definitive with their shot selections.”

Kenna Cogill (Oregon) and Liv Lenz (TCU) aided the cause by being dominant from the service line. Makenna Rumple (Iowa) had a standout weekend, hitting .500 with 18 blocks.

While all of Storm’s primary attackers hit north of .300 on the weekend, uncommitted outside Sa’Mya Dorsey was particularly impressive hitting .478!!!

“This team knows how to show up in big moments,” Payne said. “They love, fight, and play like family. It’s just a great team of great people and I’m excited to see where we go from here. The ceiling is high.”

Austin Skyline 17 Royal, Legacy 17-1 Adidas and VCNebraska 17 Elite captured the three Open bids with top-five finishes.

VCNebraska went 9-1 but lost at the wrong time and needed to defeat Drive Nation 17 Red for the final bid.

The team passed really well, said coach Blake Rawlins.

Standouts included libero Rya Borer, who kept everything off the floor; RS Kamryn Behrns, a sophomore who attacked and blocked at a high level; and UNLV recruit Tia Traudt, a 6-0 outside who showed off every phase of her game both front row and back.00

“Love the way we competed as a team this weekend!” Rawlins exclaimed.


Legacy’s bid was a long time coming. The Michigan squad was one match away from qualifying in its last three qualifiers and finally qualifying with a third-place finish in Salt Lake, behind two previously-qualified teams.

“Throughout the weekend, it was amazing to see all nine of our players step up in various moments to help us accomplish our team goal,” said coach Kacy Byron. “Different players stepped up for kills, aces, blocks, and digs throughout the weekend. It was truly a team effort from start to finish.”

Setter Campbell Flynn led the charge for Legacy again this weekend. She had 156 assists, 50 digs, 44 kills and 10 aces.

“Campbell was excellent in her decision making with getting hitters one-on-one and by being a consistent threat herself at the net,” Byron said. “Tournament after tournament, qualifier after qualifier, Campbell consistently shows why she is the best setter in her class in the country.”

Legacy also got great work from libero Devin Dzienny, outsides Marie Laurio and Molly Reck and MB Olivia Grenadier. Unsung heroes Mallory Reck, Addy Williams and Lauren Johnson also made significant contributions at the net, as did DS Ryan Dzierwa in the back row.

“Overall, I could not be more proud of our Legacy 17-1 team and their ability to put one another first,” Byron concluded.


Austin Skyline faced a tiebreaker on Day 3 after its three-team Gold pool all finished 1-1 with a 2-2 set percentage. Skyline outlasted previously-qualified Nebraska ONE, 18-16, in the first tiebreaker, then VCNebraska, 15-8, in the second to clinch a bid.

Pins Joy Udoye, Addy Gaido and Riley Certain were catalysts, along with libero Callie Krueger.

• In a 16 Open field that had six previously-qualified teams, 1st Alliance 16 Gold topped them all for first place in Salt Lake.

Said coach Trish Samolinksi: “We had a checklist of things we wanted to accomplish 1. Earn the open bid 2. Earn a medal 3. Win it all. All qualifier season we have competed really well in open and have come so close to earning the bid; we knew this was our first priority.”

MB Lynney Tarnow led the way with a transcendent performance that included 101 kills at a .432 efficiency, with 31 blocks and seven aces.

Others who shined included OH Elle Schara, who passed a 2.48 with 85 kills; libero Lucy Maloney, who passed a 2.43 with 86 digs and 113 aces; and setter Niki Bulotovic, who returned to the court from injury and had 30 kills and 282 assists on the weekend.

“We could not be more proud of our girls,” Samolinski concluded. “Each player adapted so well and our depth at each position really made this a complete team effort.”

• Bids trickle to eighth place in Open. Both Colorado Juniors 16 Kaleena and Club V 16 Ren Matt took advantage to earn entry to the Open division at Junior Nationals.

Club V’s qualifying run came on the back of vastly improved defense. The key match came versus Jupiter Elite on Day 2. Club V trailed 14-10 in Game 3 and rallied behind explanation-defying defense to win, 18-16, to clinch.

Club V was led offensively by consistent hitting from Madison Rich and Halle Bills and big blocking from Bailey Rosander and Emily Kenison.


Juniors won its first two matches on Day 2 to clinch a bid. The team, which is on the smaller side, got terrific work in the back row from libero Ava Johnson (75 digs; passing 2.2); and MB Morgan Holloman (58 kills; 19 blocks). Setter Tate Brandsma also shined with her ball distribution and did an excellent job of getting the middles involved and in position to to score.

• Two weekends ago, Prime 15 Adidas earned an American bid at the Salt Lake City Showdown. The 66th seed to start, the team went 11-0 and dropped just one set.

OH Makayla Ziegler was unstoppable from both pins, hitting .378 on 143 attempts. MB Whitney Port was a dominant force in the middle, both on offense and defense. She led the middle attack hitting .333 on 96 swings. RS Ella Fisher found a new level to her game, as she attacked well from the right hitting .381 on 84 attempts. Kate Nelson is a right side who found herself in a DS role for multiple matches and her serving was a total game changer on more than one occasion.

“Together this team played our best volleyball when it mattered the most!!” said coach Christy Stoeckel.


Club ONE AZ 15 Platinum upgraded its USA bid, earned at Windy City, to a National bid at the Arizona bid tournament this weekend. Kristi King’s team went 6-0.

The team enjoyed superb defense and serve receive from the backrow duo of libero Shay Loth and defensive specialist Reese Wilbricht.

At the net, offensive powerhouses Rylan Keane (OH), Halle Chapple (OH), Kenzie Maldonado (MB) and Sydney Simon (RS) found ways to dissect blocks and put balls away some of tough defense.

At the helm of the offense were setters Aubrey Butterfield and Caitlin SimmonsEmma Caldwell (MB) and Kyla Flukiger (RS) did an outstanding job putting up a wall of a block against some very dynamic pin hitters this weekend.


Elevation 15 Chicas finished third at the OVR Bid Tournament, earning a bid to Junior Nationals.

“This after knocking on the door at every tournament attended (six total before this one, finishing 5th in every one of them in the Open or USA division),” said coach Howard Garcia.


East Carolina 16 National won the 16 Premier Division of the JVA World Challenge last weekend. The team finished 10-0 on the weekend without dropping a set.

“We only had seven players and pulled together to achieve a first place finish against some tough teams on Day 3,” said Kelley Kraniak

 • Finally, this pic of supportive volleyball dads has been circulating on social media. Why is the one guy dressed in white when all others are in red? He’s the libero!

Volley Dads doing it right in the Ohio Valley Region


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