DENVER – Texas Image Volleyball lives and dies by its
motto: Serious volleyball in a positive atmosphere. And its 16 National team
on Friday certainly lived up to that maxim at the Colorado Crossroads
tournament at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
Getting balanced play from its lineup, Texas Image went undefeated
in Round 1 of the 16 American division, posting a 3-0 record. The scrappy,
athletic squad won six out of seven sets, including a 25-7, 25-12 rout of
Encore 16 Korver in the last match of the day.
The victory puts Texas Image in good position heading into Round 2 of pool play on Saturday, when it faces off against a pair of Lone Star State teams – Texas Pistols 16 Patrick and Texas Eclipse 16 Black – as well as NorCal 16-2 Blue, that each suffered one loss in pool play on Friday.
“It feels good, man,” said an elated Texas Image coach Andy Sullivan. “It gives us a chance to go for the Gold (division) and gives us another chance to get that bid (to Junior Nationals).”
Unlike the USA division, which awards three bids to the Junior Nationals this summer in Indianapolis, the 16 American division awards just one bid from more than 120 teams that are competing. Teams from a whopping 32 pools are battling for a berth.
If Texas Image continues the same kind of play it showed Friday on Saturday, the squad has a fighting chance for the bid. Texas Image got contributions from a host of players in dispatching Encore. Audrey Ingram was everywhere on the defensive end, digging up balls, and even recorded an ace for the winners. Julia Vincze, Jenna Murray and Louna Pessy blasted kills for Texas Image.
“We set up kind of slow,” Sullivan. “We kind of played down to the lower-level competition. We came out to have some fun and get back to the fundamentals of volleyball, instead of just win, win, win.”
Sullivan said the key for Saturday is “to get some good food and be back.”
Things also are looking good in 16 American for Rockwood Thunder 16 White, which won a three-team pool with a 2-0 record. The team was forced to play three full sets to 25 because its pool consisted of one less team than most of the other pools.
The lengthened match format didn’t seem to bother Rockwood, which battled past Nebraska ONE 16 Extreme 25-21, 27-25, 25-15, and then overwhelmed Core 16 Black 25-16, 25-17, 25-5.
Making things go for Rockwood were Pogisa Thompson, who did it all with blocks, digs and kills; Logan Rosh, whose dinks kept opponents off balance; and Jordan Roschke, who thundered down some kills.
Also winning, albeit in nail-biting fashion, were the Utah Ice in the 16 USA division. They went 3-0 to win Pool 11, but two of their victories went to three sets. Utah beat the Topeka Saints 16-1 by a score of 20-25, 25-17, 15-13; the MEVC Edge 16 team, 25-22, 25-16; and Colorado Springs Altitude 16 Navy, 22-25, 25-21, 15-12.
Utah coach Ty Harlan looked relieved after pool play ended Friday. The Ice advanced to Round 2 pool play where they will face Spiral 16 Under Armour, Delta Valley 16 Blue and City Beach 16 Black today, three clubs with longstanding pedigrees. Many Round 2 matches start at 8 a.m.
“We did good, but we’re still not completely satisfied,” Harlan said. “We can play better. We hung around and won some games that we let teams back into. We didn’t get a complete game.”
Harlan on Saturday will definitely be looking for some consistency from his team, which fields one of the youngest 16U squads in the tournament. The Utah coach said he has only two 16-year-olds, with the rest of the squad being either 13 or 14.
“We need to get a good rest and be able to play a complete game, and have everybody dialed in,” Harlan said. “It’s a good group. They are fantastic girls. They work very hard. It’s fun to be their coach.”
Rockwood Thunder 16 Navy also had to battle from behind to win its pool on opening day, beating mac juniors 16 black 25-11, 20-25, 15-9 in the final match of the day. Rockwood Navy (3-0) opened play with a 25-23, 25-15 victory against NC Elite Volleyball Club 16 Black, and a 25-8, 25-4 win against FUNdamentals Volleyball Mystics 16.
“We’re playing at a high level,” Rockwood Navy coach Matt Kalisiak coach said. “We’re having fun.”
In 18 USA, Houston Juniors Volleyball (HJV) 18 Elite-South cruised to a 3-0 record in Pool 2. Houston won six of seven sets in a dominating display of volleyball.
But what made Houston’s performance even more impressive was the fact that the team is playing without its head coach Felipe Coronel, whose father passed away recently and had to attend to arrangements. Assistant coach Ray Gonzalez took over and the team didn’t miss a beat.
“We’ve done a good job,” Gonzalez said. “I’m really proud for the kids. It took us 16 hours to get here. They’re playing hard because of what’s happened to their coach.”
Gonzalez said Wednesday’s major snowstorm created delays in getting all of the team to Denver on time. But now Houston moves on to Round 2 unbeaten with one of the most athletic teams in the tournament.
Houston received stellar play from Dasia Smith and Anna-Katia Batoum Bassong in a straight-sets win against Zona VBC 18-1.
In 18 American, Chelsea Piers showed some serious muscle in pool play. And in 17 USA, Jet Jet 17 McCracken finished 3-0 in pool play.
In 17 American, Academy Volleyball 17 Gold finished 3-0 in pool play.