ORLANDO, FL – In its drive for a national championship in the 18 Open division of the AAU Junior National Volleyball championships, Nebraska Juniors 181 Black literally ran out of gas.
After beating #8-ranked A5 of Atlanta 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 and #50-ranked 1st Alliance of Chicago 23-25, 25-22, 15-6 to start the day, Nebraska Juniors dropped its final pool play match of the tournament to #11-ranked Munciana 181 25-20, 19-25, 15-13. That performance was good enough to earn Nebraska Juniors a trip to the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, Nebraska Juniors took on #13-ranked Front Range and suffered a 26-24, 25-9 setback. In the second set, the emotional drain of having played 10 ultra-competitive sets was obvious for Nebraska Juniors.
That was not the case in the first set, however, as Nebraska Juniors jumped out to an early 6-3 lead on a Tarrin Bellar kill and Raegan LeGrand ace serve. The teams then went back-and-forth and an ace serve from Bellar tied the score at 17-17. Front Range, however, then went on a 5-0 run and eventually got to set point at 24-21.
But, Nebraska Juniors made it interesting when LeGrand recorded a kill and Meagen Roth added back-to-back kills to tie the score at 24-24. A service error, however, broke the Nebraska Juniors run and Front Range was able to terminate on its next possession to take a 26-24 victory. Serving had been a strength of the Nebraska Juniors throughout the tournament, but six service errors in the first set against Front Range proved costly.
Front Range scored the first three points of the second set before Nebraska Juniors got on the board with a LeGrand kill. Front Range built its lead to 13-3 before Kelsey Green stopped the bleeding with a kill and she and Sarah Allick teamed for a block to make it 13-5. Front Range, however, finished the set on a 12-4 run to advance to the championship semifinals.
Nebraska Juniors will play in the four-team consolation bracket on Friday with an opportunity to finish as high as 5th in the national championships.
In the match against Front Range, Roth and LeGrand each finished with five kills for Nebraska Juniors while Beller had three kills, two blocks and an ace serve.
While Nebraska Juniors came-up short in its quest to reach the championship semifinals in the 18 Open division, River City 181 was able to make it to the semifinals of the 18 Premier division.
River City had cruised through the first two days of competition without dropping a set and then proceeded to defeat Munciana 182 27-25, 25-17, Juggernaut 18 Black 225-21, 25-18 and Sky High 18 Black 25-22, 25-20 to finish pool play today and earn a trip to the championship quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, River City was able to rally for a 22-25, 25-18, 15-7 victory over Capital 18 to advance to Friday’s championship semifinals.
River City led just once in the first set – at 1-0 – but seemed to start clicking early in the second set. With the score tied at 6-6 in the second set, Lauren Salerno rattled off three straight kills for River City and a Gessica Gdowski kill and ace serve from Tiffany Wentworth put River City up 12-6 as Capital never threatened from that point on.
The third set was all Jess Schaben – the Iowa State recruit from Harlan, Iowa. Salerno started the set with an ace serve and Schaben had five kills and two blocks early on in the set to help River City build a commanding 9-2 lead en route to the victory. Schaben finished the match with 21 kills and Salerno had 10.
River City will face Top Select 16 Elite – yes, a 16s team that has reached the 18 Premier semifinals – tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. CST. If River City wins that match, it will face either Sky 18 Black or Mizuno Sports Performance 18 Red in the championship at 10 a.m. CST.
In the younger age divisions, three teams from Nebraska are still in the hunt for a title in their respective divisions.
In 15 Club, VCNebraska 15 Elite has won all 10 of its matches so far without dropping a set and has reached the 16-team championship bracket. VCNebraska will face Milwaukee Sting 15 White at 7 a.m. CST Friday in the first-round match.
In the 14 Premier division, Nebraska ONE Titanium posted a pool-play record of 7-2 and defeated Axis Elite 25-20, 18-25, 15-12 in a challenge match to reach the championship quarterfinals. Nebraska ONE will face Asics Louisiana at 7 a.m. CST Friday in the quarterfinals.
In the 14 Club division, Nebraska Elite 142 Nexus went 7-2 in pool play and then defeated Texas Eclipse 25-22, 25-20 in a challenge match to reach the championship bracket quarterfinals. Nebraska Elite will face either Avoli or Minnesota Crossfire 141 in the quarterfinals at 9 a.m. CST Friday.