We’re three days down with just one to go at the AAU Boys National Championships, and the third day of competition was like a pressure cooker. As time went on throughout the day, the pressure just kept building and building. Now, they say pressure makes diamonds, but the question is, does it also make gold? We’ll find out tomorrow, but for today, let’s take a look at who will be moving forward, one step closer to that gold and the title of AAU National Champions.
The championship bracket is locked in for 18 Open, and 50% of that bracket is comprised of California teams. The Cali conglomerate consists of a pair of perfectionists, OCVC 18-1 and Bay to Bay 18-1, which are both undefeated at 8-0 with just a single set dropped, the lone undefeated left in the entire division. Pulse 18-1 (7-1) and MB Surf 18’s-1 Asics (7-1) round out the four-team Golden State group. Joining the California collective will be Illinois’ illest, Adversity 18 Adidas (7-1) and MOD Elite B18 Blue (6-2), the hottest team in Arizona, AZ Fear 18 JB (5-3), and New York’s very own Niagara Frontier 18 Gold (6-2).
Caden Sajnog, Right-Side Hitter, Coast – Sajnog was a star yesterday but was instrumental in the team’s performance on day three, qualifying him for Supernova status. He’s aggressive but intelligent, a perfect weapon on the right pin.
Bryce Robbins, Outside Hitter, AZ Fear 18 JB – Robbins was a big impact player for AZ Fear on day three and helped propel the team into the championship conversation as they enter bracket play on Friday.
Nate Degraaf, Right-Side Hitter, Vanguard 18 Gold Webb – Degraaf can score with the best of them, but where he shined on day three was on defense. He guarded zone one like his life depended on it and dug some ridiculous swings throughout the competition.
Ajani Henley, Outside Hitter, K2 18 Supafly – Henley has a crazy vertical touch, and when he gets on top of a ball, there’s a high percentage chance it isn’t getting dug. He bounced many a ball on day three all the way into the afternoon portion of the AM wave.
Ryan Steponaitis, Middle Blocker, MOD Elite B18 Blue – Steponaitis oozed energy on day three, hyping up his teammates not just verbally but with his powerful, athletic play. He was a human highlight reel on day three.
Andreas Marouf, Outside Hitter, Wave 18 Darrell – Deep into day three, when most players would be gassed, Marouf found efficient ways to score while making sure not to expend excess energy. He was consistent, clever with his shots, and sprinkled in the occasional big swing. He played big brain volleyball on day three, breaking a mental sweat.
Jackson Herbert, Right-Side Hitter, The St. James Boys 18 N – Herbert was a big catalyst for The St. James Boys’ performance on day three. While he only got to play three rotations in the team’s 6-2 offense, he made his presence known by scoring relentlessly and shutting down outside hitters.
Other Stars Who Shined
Piotr Weyerhaeuser, Middle Blocker, Adversity 18 Adidas
Jack O’Riordan, Outside Hitter, Adversity 18 Adidas
Jibriel Elhaddad, Middle Blocker, Ocean Bay 18 Quiksilver South
Caden Day, Outside Hitter, Ocean Bay 18 Quiksilver South
Cole Hauser, Outside Hitter, Wave 18 Darrell
Austin Cortes, Outside Hitter, Pulse 18-1
Nathan Schrijver, Right-Side Hitter, The St. James Boys 18 N
Noy Fisher, Right-Side Hitter, MVVC 18 Red
Mike Bethea II, Right-Side Hitter, K2 18 Boys Supafly
Caleb Hammann, Middle Blocker, K2 18 Boys Supafly
Colton Bueter, Outside Hitter, MVP FL 18 Black
Johnaustin Bly, Outside Hitter, Niagara Frontier 18 Gold
Samuel Lane, Outside Hitter, Hot Shots 18 National
Shane Wetzel, Right-Side Hitter, WPVC 18 Boys Armour Black
Cooper Evans, Outside Hitter, MOD Elite B18 Blue
An elite eight teams have moved onto the championship bracket Friday morning. A trio of undefeated West Coast warriors, A4 Volley B17-Tyler (9-0), Team Rockstar 17Rockstar (9-0), and MB Surf 17’s-1 Asics (8-0) all went undefeated through three days of play. They’ll be joined by fellow Cali collectives Balboa Bay 17 Blue (7-1) and 949 B17 Black (7-2), as well as Hawaii representative Outrigger 17’s (5-3), Wisconsin wizards MVC 17-Brad (7-1), and Arizona A-Team Victory 17 (8-1).
Aiden Rigg, Right-Side Hitter, Outrigger 17s – Rigg came up big for Outrigger, with his lockdown blocking and effective attacking, helping Outrigger earn a place in the championship bracket for Friday.
Brody Threm, Middle Blocker, Cincinnati Attack 17 Black – Threm was a go-to hitter for Cinci, nearly always ready and able in transition. He’s a very vocal middle, which is always helpful.
Gavin Weed, Middle Blocker, Academy 17 Adidas (IN) – Weed utilized his great timing, fast arm swing, and ability to hi hard angles around the block to score a ton of points on day three.
Kellen Larson, Libero, Balboa Bay 17 Blue – Larson played lights out in the libero jersey on Thursday, helping defend the backcourt and propelling his team to the championship bracket.
Hudson Wooton, Middle Blocker, Balboa Bay 17 Blue – Wooton is a vocal leader on the court when he is in play and brandishes a big gun for an arm he isn’t afraid to use.
Other Stars Who Shined
Trevor Shackleton, Libero, SCLegends 17-Elite
Adrian Danciu, Middle Blocker, Forza Boys 17-1
Derek Nagel, Right-Side Hitter, Pipeline 17-1
Marc Gryzlo, Libero, Pipeline 17-1
Evan Hessel, Libero, Adversity 17 Adidas
Nathan Hayes, Outside Hitter, Asics Munciana 17 Icebergs
Ramon Rosado, Right-Side Hitter, Vaqueros Frank
Ethan McCarrow, Outside Hitter, OVC 17’s 1
Bawibawi Thang, Right-Side Hitter, Academy 17 Adidas (IN)
Jack Lyons, Outside Hitter, Outrigger 17s
Tristan Browning, Middle Blocker, 352 Elite 17 Lime Tonny
Cameron Gray, Right-Side Hitter, 352 Elite 17 Lime Tonny
The 16 Open Division may fall victim to some California cannibalism as six of eight teams to qualify for the championship bracket hail from the Golden State. SB Coast Volleyball (6-4) will battle 949 B16 Black (9-1) in match one on Friday morning, and Team Rockstar 16Rockstar (10-0) will take on Balboa bay 16 Blue (9-0) in match four, a battle of the unbeaten. Meanwhile, MVC 16-Joe (9-1) will have its hands full with a Bay To Bay 16-1 (9-0) team that has won every match and swept seven of nine opponents. Finally, AZ Fear 16 TS (8-2) will have the chance to eliminate at least one Cali team from contention when they take on PAC 16-MS (8-1) in the first round.
Christian Couch, Right-Side Hitter, Yorktowne 16 Blue – Couch is a big banger that can accurately hit the line and uses his length well.
Jacob Koch, Middle Blocker, Vanguard 16 Gold Bell – Koch was mean, mulleted, and a menacing middle on day three. He was a rock at the net and a rocket when attacking.
Kyle Zediker, Setter, SPVB 16 Elite – Zediker dished the rock very well on day three, helping his team amass a pair of wins in three morning matches with his buttery sets.
Ambrose Engling, Outside Hitter, MVC 16-Joe – Engling is an absolutely nasty hitter and can put up a monster block on the other side of the ball. He helped MVC pick up a pair of wins on Thursday.
Connor Mursalo, Middle Blocker, Pulse 16-1 – Mursalo displayed clinical finishing on a handful of tight transition plays that wound up being pivotal moments for the team on day three.
Other Stars Who Shined
Ethan Lam, Libero, Wave 16 Cole
Daniel Robitaille, Middle Blocker, Wave 16 Cole
Nicholas Gutka, Middle Blocker, Pipeline 16-1
Dane Turner, Outside Hitter, MKE Sting 16 Adidas
James Diaz, Libero, MCCV 16 Red
Carter Shomock, Middle Blocker, Vanguard 16 Gold Bell
Marek Turner, Middle Blocker, Team Rockstar 16Rockstar
Kali Duvvuri, Setter, Bay To Bay 16-1
Xace Leem, Outside Hitter, Bay To Bay 16-1
Kai Rodriguez, Outside Hitter, Bay To Bay 16-1
Michael Denver, Middle Blocker, SB Coast Volleyball
Michael Bleech, Outside Hitter, Niagara Frontier 16 Gold
The 15 Open Division played late into the evening on Thursday, but when the dust settled on pool play, group play, and challenge matches, the odds fell once again in California’s favor. MB surf 15’s-1 Asics, Balboa Bay 15 Blue, MVVC 15 Red, Bay To Bay 15-1, and Team Rockstar 15Rockstar all moved forward, one step closer to the championship trophy. Missouri’s HPSTL B15 Royal (7-1), Wisconsin’s MKE Sting 15 Adidas (8-0), and Illinois’ Ultimate B15 Gold (5-3) will look to cut down those odds and take the title back to their respective states.
Michael Rivera, Middle Blocker, Miami United 15 Elite – Rivera put up some big blocks on day three, all the way until the late-night challenge match to determine whether the team would make the championship bracket.
Aris Marukas, Outside Hitter, 630 Volleyball 15-1 – Marukas is as consistent as they come. He’s consistent in his passing and is a solid scorer on offense.
Logan Mainka, Outside Hitter, MKE Sting 15 Adidas – Mainka has a wicked jump serve that, when it connects, is a pain in the neck for any would-be passer.
Luke Martinez, Middle Blocker, HPSTL B15 Royal – Martinez was highly effective in the middle on day three for HPSTL. His timing and long arms make it look easy for him to score.
Grayson Bradford, Right-Side Hitter, MB Surf 15’s-1 Asics – Bradford was a brilliant blocker on day three, shining on one of the main courts. He plays with his head on a swivel, staying in the play constantly.
Devon Helmer, Outside Hitter, AZ Fear 15 SL – Helmer was one of the more consistent outsides on day three, which is a big deal considering how much volleyball these boys have played. He is a big reason AZ Fear has notched a 5-2 record thus far at Nationals.
Alexander Lee, Setter, Bay To Bay 15-1 – Lee quarterbacked a day three offense in the most efficient manner. When legs started to wear, he found ways to set his hitters up for success.
Alexander Garrett, Middle Blocker, Team Rockstar 15Rockstar – Garrett was a big reason why Team Rockstar won the team’s tightly contested challenge match to earn a place in the championship bracket. He maintained a high level of energy late into Thursday night during a heated battle with Miami United.
Other Stars Who Shined
Daniel Greenberg, Outside Hitter, Team Rockstar 15Rockstar
Carlos Miranda, Libero, Miami United 15 Elite
Luka Momcilovic, Setter, MKE Sting 15 Adidas
Aidan Akkawi, Right-Side Hitter, 630 Volleyball 15-1
Devlin Biggs, Outside Hitter, Adversity 15 Purple
Dylan Roszak, Outside Hitter, Pipeline 15-1
Thomas Thoman, Setter, HPSTL B15 Royal
Will Huelskamp, Right-Side Hitter, Cincinnati Attack 15 Black
Austin Aultman, Libero, WPVC 15 Boys Armour Black
Lathan Fry, Right-Side Hitter, Coast 15-1 Bowie