After a weekend of covering the 16 Open Badger Region Championship, I realized there are so many storylines that are worthy of coverage, and on top of that the number of players that made positive contributions for their team. From the start of the weekend on Friday night at the High Performance tryouts to the finals this afternoon, there were stories with in it all. Here are five takeaways from the Badger Region 16 Open. The rest of the week will be the Prep Dig All-Tournament Team and an All-Defensive Team from the Badger Region 16 Open Championship.
Sting 16 Gold LIVE!
This team is as good as advertised. They have the big names in Aubrey Hamilton (Arrowhead/Notre Dame) and Kiara Reinhardt (Cedarburg/Creighton), but they are so deep with anyone ready to come in and contribute. I knew this team coming in would be incredibly talented, but what is also apparent is the discipline and respect for their opponents and the game they have. As in any sport, the game will reward you when you work hard and respect the small details. Hamilton is solid in all six rotations. She can hit hard, which most pins at this level can do, but she can spot it wherever she wants. Reinhardt has such a high motor and is so dynamic. She can hit such a sharp angle and was even quite the force on the right side as well. Something that is not seen on any stat sheet or scouting report is her enthusiasm for her team. She plays with intensity and great body language always picking her team up and celebrating the big plays!
The Depth at Libero
WOW. Seeing Sheridan Dettman (Watertown) of Capital take away what were thought to be for sure kills against WVA, then you have Tahya Pozorski (Oconomowoc) of MVP taking pace off the hard driven swings of Milwaukee Sting Gold. Every court you watch there is a libero that is standing out not only with their defensive skills, but their communication and energy that is contagious to their teammates. Katherine Walch (Notre Dame Academy) of FC Elite is an absolute spark plug and comes out of nowhere to save a play while Kaleigh Fitzgerald (Kettle Moraine) of Sting White has such a solid read of the ball and is on point for serve receive. There are plenty more out there, but these are just a few liberos that are game changers.
Not everything went according to seeding. It’s March Madness, a special time of year. There are always bound to be upsets no matter if its in the NCAA Tournament or the Badger Region Championships. There are are a few matches that stood out:
*Capital Adidas 16 vs. WVA 16 Black (Pool Play)
These teams have had quite the rivalry in just a few matches this year. With both teams splitting the first two sets, it set up a third set with the winner being the champion of the pool. WVA was up 12-10, but Capital stormed back to score the last five points to win the match (WVA would later beat Capital in the Gold Bracket to claim 5th place). Jordan Armstrong (Verona) had solid connections with her middle, and fellow high school teammate Madelyn Kelley (Verona). Milla Malik (Waunakee) was so lethal from the outside and had her serve clicking with a jump float that would just drop right in front of the defense. WVA is definitely a never say die team with lots of balance, but are lead by Courtney Pearson (Kimberly) from the outside who also was a force at the net with her blocking this weekend.
*Adversity vs. Wisconsin Ice (Gold Crossover)
Adversity battled and went up against a very athletic Wisconsin Ice team for the chance to make it into the Gold Bracket. In three sets, Adversity came out on top 15-12 to advance into the gold bracket. Adversity is always in position and was a prime example of what solid ball control can do for a team. They are incredibly efficient and know the game well. They also defeated 414 Elite to finish in 6th place overall.
*Sting 16 White vs. Sting 16 Black (Gold Semifinals)
Back and forth, play after play, long rally after long rally. The defense was so impressive. These two teams are all two familiar with each other and I know it’s tough when two teams from the same club have to play each other. Isabelle Schauer (Watertown), the setter for Sting White was a game changer for Sting White all weekend. She was usually the one to start out with a long serving run and has such solid mechanics from footwork to decisions, the defense is always guessing on where she is setting the ball. Morgan McCormack (Kettle Moraine) had some HUGE blocks in key situations that were enough to put Sting White a few points better than their counterparts
Speed, Athleticism, and Energy
What is so great about the Badger Region Championships is that on one court you have these 16 year old athletes who are starting to think about their college plans and a couple courts over you have 12 year olds who might be playing in their first Badger Region Championship, trying to jump serve, jump set, and make the plays of those who are only a few courts over. What I am amazed by this Class of 2020 (which most athletes in the 16s division are from) is the speed and athleticism they play with. This proves you don’t have to be the tallest to be successful. Kaley Blake (Burlington) of Sting Gold is one of the best setters in the state, and she is 5’7, but can put a ball on point for her teammates. Julia Treichel (Wisconsin Lutheran) of MVP and Karlie McNabb (Sun Prairie) of Capital are 5’9 outside hitters, but both can absolutely fly. I’ve mentioned this in previous articles about these athletes, but they have attributes to a team that are not on a scouting report. They play with such great intensity, body language, and are bringing the best out of their team. What can be said about all the teams I saw this weekend is the fire and energy they all play with. The set might always be perfect, the swings might go out of bounds, but the energy on these courts are definitely worth noting, and are what those athletes are the 12 year old courts are trying to be!
Thank You Parents!
Prep Dig Wisconsin has been in operation since November, a few months in the making. This past weekend I was able to meet some of the parents and subscribers to Prep Dig. All of this was a reminder to me of the story behind the athletes and the goals they are all working towards. I was honored to hear the positive feedback from those I was able to talk to, great families. Another observation was I thought the sportsmanship was incredible. We’ve all heard (and at times seen) the horror stories of parents or coaches getting upset at officials, parents upset with coaches, you name the situation and it has probably happened. However in all of the matches I watched this weekend, I didn’t witness any of that. Not even close. Great sportsmanship by athletes, coaches, parents, and fans. Thank you parents and thank you Badger Region for a great weekend of volleyball. See you next weekend for the 15’s!