The Santa Barbara 18-Blue team, coached by Jacky Yao and Todd Garrett, won the Contest Bracket and took 33rd overall in the 18s division at The Volleyball Festival in Phoenix, Arizona.
The team opened up by shocking the number 1 overall seed Kane County, eventual champion in the tournament, in a thrilling three game victory. After losing the second round of play to Coast 18-2 in three games, the team had to playoff the two teams in a one game tie-breaker each and gained an opportunity for the Championship bracket.
The team later that evening lost the “challenge match” to Barcelona 18-Barca and were consequently bumped from the Championship bracket. However, the 18-Blue continued to play amazing volleyball dropping only 1 set and finished with an 8-0 run in matches for the remainder of the week to win the Contest Bracket, including winning an exciting 3-match win over USPAV 21-25, 25-14,15-11 and a tight finals match beating Coast 18-2 25-23, 25-23.
Coach Yao provided accolades for his players stating that setters Kira Schleich and Madelon Leiphardt did a phenomenal job with distributing the ball and creating opportunities that allowed our hitters to be successful.
Rachel Szeyller and Danica Smith played steady all weekend and scored key points down the stretch of games. Katie Shea was amazing, swinging relentlessly and she scored at will; Shea also stepped up her defense and made a couple amazing digs that allowed the team to convert into scoring opportunities.
Lina Kleinschmidt and Arika Johnson were our catalysts all weekend, they anchored our blocking and scored for us in bunches through the middle. Katherine Crook and Megan Leiphardt were tremendous on the defensive side of the ball, stablizing the back row and passing the ball brilliantly all week.
Coach Yao also commented, “Todd and I are so proud of how the team came together. Everything we had worked on this entire season showed at the tournament. It was a lot of fun watching the girls go out with their trophies and winning the way they did after how hard every single one of the girls worked during the year, they earned it! “
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In the 16s division, the 16-Smack team entered the tournament as the 12th seed of 122 teams, and the first day of play proved to be the easiest.
The team, coached by Greg Novak and Vanassa Hamra played some controlled, smooth transition volleyball which enabled it to sweep two Arizona teams and a team from Chicago in two sets.
On Day 2, each match was close being decided by a couple of points in the third set. A victory in the last match of the day meant a trip to the top 16 bracket, a loss meant a 3-way tie breaker game - feeling the urgency after splitting two close sets against AVA Texas, the team cranked it into high gear and easily put away the third set 15-6.
Day 3 started with a sweep over Legacy 16-1 but the team found a big challenge in the second match of the day against a fellow Southern California team, Saddleback Valley. Once again, the points see-sawed back and forth through the entire match but the opponent took the victory, forcing the 16-Smack into a double-elimination match to get them back into the Championship round.
The next match against Ranch Valley proved to be identical where a couple of points decided the fate and knocked the 16-Smack out of contention for the championship.
The final day of play had the team fighting for 9th place in the Contender Division. After beating Legacy 16-1 in two sets again, the team faced Avoli from Puerto Rico and split the first two sets. With backs against the wall being down 6-11 in the third set, and Puerto Rico having a raucous support group, Colleen O’Conner stepped up to serve the team into a lead. It was the spark to pull out the victory and send the team to the final match for 9th place.
Once again, the team was pushed to a deciding set against Saddleback Valley 16-Jed and the team closed out the match 25-21, 17-25, 15-9 for the trophy of the Contender Bracket finishing 9th overall.
“Having six of our 12 matches go to three games in the desert heat, we had a very exciting and hot four days of volleyball,” coach Greg Novak remarked. “We had so many great games and the team never let down or gave up. We saw the progress in all of the players and it was fun to sit back and watch the team have fun playing volleyball.”
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Also in the 16s division, Lauren Rinderknecht’s 16-Blue team played consistent all week.
“Everything seemed to come together for my team, including team court chemistry,” Rinderknecht said. Day 1 the team went 3-0 beating their opponents all in two-set matches. Day 2 proved to be a bit tougher with the team losing three close matches, but rebounded on Day 3 to win two of three matches.
Day 4 was a day of excitement when the 16-Blue gutted out three wins against San Gabriel 16-Premier 17-25, 25-14, 16-14, Premier 16-Black 25-18, 30-28 and Kern River 16-Gold 25-6, 22-25, 16-14. With an 8-4 record the team just missed making it into the top 33. On the final day, the team lost two close 3-set matches to NVVA Select 16s 9-25, 25-18, 19-17 and Spiral 16-Blue 25-12, 21-25, 15-13 to finish 52 out of 122 the Century Bracket.
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In the 13s division, the 13-Smack team, coached by Ed Gover and Dana Vargas, went on a roll after losing its opening match to the #3 seed SCVC 13-Roxy.
Coming into Day 3 with a 4-2 record, the team vied among the top 8 teams for a chance at the finals. The team beat Coast 13-2 to move on, but then got bumped to the consolation round by Wave 13Abra (eventual tournament champion).
Sweeping the next match against Arizona Storm winning 25-18, 25-10, the team put itself back in the top 8 with another shot at the final. Unfortunately the team lost in a nail-biting rematch to SCVA 13-Roxy 11-25, 20-25, 8-15. In the last round of playoffs, the team lost in three sets to Sunshine 13-Westside and finished 8th overall.