LOUISVILLE – Members of SKEVA (Southern Kentucky Elite Volleyball Academy) 15 Blue may be young, but they are a scrappy bunch. And that’s exactly how coach Tasha Manteris likes it.
Having barreled through pool play in the 15 Club division on Saturday with a perfect 3-0 record – all two-set sweeps – SKEVA 15 Blue twice found itself behind the proverbial 8-ball on Sunday, the final day of the 2019 Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament at the Kentucky Expo in Louisville. And, both times, SKEVA scrapped out a victory.
SKEVA’s most telling comeback came in the Gold Bracket final when it rallied from a 9-6 third-set deficit against the Irish Juniors 15 Blue out of Indianapolis. SKEVA had won the first set, 25-18, but then lost a 26-24 nail-biter in the second to force a do-or-die showdown for the title
The Bowling Green, Kentucky–based club then came up big late in the third set when it went on a huge 9-1 run to win the set 15-10 and the match. SKEVA’s Megan Gore hammered home a pair of aces in the final stretch to seal it.
“Cody (Sheffield, an assistant coach) and I have been talking about wanting to brag to the other coaches that we have the scrappiest team,” Manteris said. “So we have been talking to them the past couple of days about that and they’re finally starting to get it.”
For all of its scrappiness, however, SKEVA had its hands full in the final against a much taller Irish Juniors team that featured some tall middles. The Irish Juniors, who finished with a 6-1 record in the tournament, showed everyone how tough they were in the semifinals when they overpowered a good Asics KIVA 15 Black team, 25-18, 25-20, in the semifinals.
In the final, the Irish Juniors received some exemplary net play in the second set from Grace Sifferlin, Sara Kelly and Katie Bremer, the last of whom proved to be a force with blocks.
“Our kids are a little bit smaller,” Manteris said. “We’ve faced some big teams. We’ve faced some adversity, but they kind of come out with whatever we ask of them. I was telling them I was open (to suggestions). They were kind of talking to each other.”
That communication paid off in the third set when Gore, Brady Moore, Olivia Overmohle, Emma Loiars, Anna Neal and Reese Pennington came up big for SKEVA.
“We kind of got behind all weekend,” Manteris said. “I think our first very match (on Sunday), we were down by 12 points and came back and ended up winning, so, it’s been kind of a trend.”
After its latest thrilling comeback, SKEVA players jumped up and down with glee.
“We’re kind of excited for the club,” Manteris said. “We’re out of a small town in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It’s pretty exciting.”
Things were equally as exciting for Asics KIVA 16 White in the 16 Premier division. The Louisville-based club gave hometown fans plenty to cheer about by ripping off six consecutive victories to win the Gold Bracket championship.
KIVA had to do it the hard way after dropping a first-round Power Pool 1 match to A2 16 Shamrock of Ohio, 28-26, 24-26, 15-11. After rallying from a set down to oust Dunes 16 Teal of Indiana 10-25, 27-25, 15-9, KIVA swept its last five opponents in dominating fashion.
In the championship final, KIVA overwhelmed TI (Team Indiana) Elite 162 by a score of 25-23, 25-19. But winning is nothing new to coach John Campbell, who already has two national titles under his belt.
“This team here has every bit of the same skills,” he said. “They’re solid on every level.”
KIVA is especially solid on defense. The fast, athletic team dug up shots, blocked balls and extended rallies time and again with its defense. Playing well for the winners were Jaymison Summers, Anna Blumeier, Isabella Hughes, Miranda Jantzen, Fallan Lanham and Parker Nall.
Summers played tenaciously in the final, recording blocks, and teamed with Nall to block Team Indiana at the net.
“Our focus is defense,” Campbell said. “It allows us to run our offense. Our defense is solid. Our middles allow us to run our defense the way we always do. Jaymison Summers and Kayden Holcomb are great for us.”
The 16 Premier title was part of an impressive showing by KIVA. KiVA 15 White ran unbeaten through the 15 Premier division, defeating Munciana 15 Gators 25-16, 25-13 for the title.
SouthWest Volleyball Club of Ohio won the 16 Club Gold title with an 8-0 record.
Other Gold Bracket winners were: Academy 17E Riptide of Indianapolis, which rallied past Circle City White of Indiana 23-25, 25-20, 15-8, for the 17 Club title and finished unbeaten (7-0); Tri-State Elite 17 White (7-0) out of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, which battled past Mintonette Sports – m.72 of Ohio by a score of 25-22, 23-25, 15-9, for the 17 Premier championship; AVA 18 Blizzard (6-0) of Kentucky, which swept Circle City 17/18 Purple for the 18 Club title; and SPVB 18 Kahl (7-0) of Illinois, which powered past Mintonette Sports – m.82 by a score of 25-22, 25-22, for the 18 Premier championship.