The final competition for the 18-Blue and 16-Smack teams took place at the AAU National Championships in Orlando Florida.
The 16-Smack, coached by Jake Hong, finished in the top half of the Open division field. After a day and a half of travel, dealing with delayed and canceled flights to Orlando, the team opened up the tournament on the first day with a three set win over Vision 16 Assault. The team then defeated AVA 16-Rox before losing to A5 Mizuno 16-Jackie. On day two, going three sets in every match, again went 2-1 for the day beating Wildcat Jrs 16s and MJVA 16-Elite before succumbing to a tight loss against Tribe 16-Rox. The team struggled on day three losing to KJVBC 16s, Illini 16-Cardinal, and Nebraska Jrs 16-1. Entering into the first playoff round on Day 4, the team lost to Temecula 16-Mary JO.
“Paige (Craine) and I were very proud with how the girls played at this tournament,” Hong said. “They had to deal with some adversity all year long with injuries, and that helped us with this tournament because we ran into some obstacles with both injuries and even just getting to Orlando.”
“The girls were able to shrug off these adversities and still play their very best ball during this tournament. During our 2 day pool play we played some unbelievable defense and that helped us beat the teams that were a little more physical than us. The team really came together to get out of pool play and then compete against the top half of the open field. Mariah Bell really played great all tournament, both in the front row and the back row, all with an injured ankle. She really toughed it out with the injury and played hard. Our juniors, Melissa Scott, Sarah Scarminach, and Sydney Riegert all played a huge role with their leadership on and off the court. The team fed off their play and energy. Andie O’Donnell also ran a great offense as our setter and put up hittable balls for all of our hitters.
This was a great way to end the season with us playing our best volleyball. We are very proud of them.“
Jacky Yao’s 18-Blue team placed 35 out of 138 in the Club division, with a 7-3 record.
Day 1 Pool – the team beat, Kaboom 18-Force, Top Select 18s, Club South 18-Kevin all in two sets. Continuing on the winning streak in Day 2 Pool, the team beat Vision 18-Ninjas, Club One 18-Red, and Texas Elite 18-Black. Day 3 was chance to make it to the top 16, and team started out the day on a high note by beating Beaches VB Acadamy 18s in three sets 25-16, 25-27, 15-3. Unfortunately, another hard fought 3 set match against Iowa Force did not go their way, and the team lost 19-25, 25-15, 16-18, followed by a loss to HPSTL 18-Navy to end the day.
On its last day of competition, the team lost the first playoff round in the Consolation Bracket Club West 18-1 16-25, 23-25.
According to Jacky Yao, “The girls had a fantastic 4 days of volleyball. It was a very competitive tournament and they not only competed but defeated many teams as well. Setters Frankie Lewis and Emma Mascari were very efficient and got the ball to all the hitters and kept our offense balanced. Mia Cattaneo, Emma Craine and Grace Halleck were unbelievable; they passed great and their defense allowed our team to score many points in transition. Our middles Charlotte Garratt and Sammi Rhine worked hard and gave us great swings from the middle, while Tala Hishmeh, Lina Kleinschmidt and Colleen O’Connor worked tirelessly on the pins to score for the team. Overall we finished 7-3, the girls played with as much effort and heart as any coach could ask for. Finishing among the top teams from Southern California was definitely a byproduct of everyone’s hard work this year. I can’t wait to watch these girls play for their respective high schools and continue to develop as athletes and people.”