A5 14 Helen Qualifies in 14 Open Division; A5 15 LA, A5 17 Scott Qualify in USA Division; A5 16 Gabe, A5 South 16 Jason Meet in Championship Match of 16 Open Division;
Thrilling Finish to National Qualifier Season; SRVA Championships This Weekend Three U18's Teams Will Complete Their Seasons at USAV U18 Nationals in Dallas this Weekend.
One of the byproducts of the success our club has achieved to date is that expectations are high. Case in point: since 2015, every one of A5's "1" teams has qualified for Nationals in the Open Division - an astonishing metric that no other club in the U.S. has achieved. We know that this incredible record will not survive ad infinitum, but none of our teams want to be the team to break that string.
Consequently, as the Qualifier Season nears its end, the coaches and players on those teams that have not yet earned that illusive Open bid are feeling pressure to do so. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we need to remember that volleyball is a game and games are supposed to be fun. On the other hand, there is no way to replicate the pressure our young athletes feel when they are playing in a match with the season on the line. Thus, one of the important but seldom discussed benefits of playing for an organization like A5 is that our players emerge from their club experience "battle-hardened", ready to lead their collegiate team to a conference championship, NCAA bid, or - some day - an NCAA Championship.
We enter the most important tournament of the Qualifier Season -- SRVA Regionals -- with our teams peaking and riding a wave of momentum. Let's translate the training, competition and hard work our coaches and athletes have invested over the past five months into a Huge Hulking Haul of Hardware this weekend!
A5 14 Helen Qualifies for USAV Nationals in 14 Open Division
A5 14 Helen was feeling the pressure, though it was entirely self-imposed. They had won the silver bracket at both the Sunshine Qualifier and Big South, and Northern Lights was their last chance to qualify in the Open Division. They entered the tournament seeded 11th out of 16 teams, and just two Open bids were at stake. And it was a stacked field, with six of the teams having already qualified.
The prognosis wasn't good on paper. 14 Helen was initially pooled with two teams that had already qualified, and they had to finish ahead of at least one of them to remain in contention for a bid. A5 did better than that, finishing day one with a 2-1 record, in a three-way tie for first place. Fortunately, A5 had the best set percentage of the three, so 14 Helen moved to Day 2 having taken over the third seed in the tournament. (The lesson here: every point matters!)
A5 had to finish 1st or 2nd in their day 2 pool to advance to the Gold Medal Pool. Talk about stress -- they won their first match in three - 15-13, setting up a situation in which 14 Helen had to win one of their next two matches for a bid. They took care of business - again in three sets, 15-13 to earn a spot in the gold medal pool and a bid in the 14 Open Division, sparing themselves the agony of last year's 14-1 team, which failed to win a bid at a Qualifier but was awarded a bid by the at-large committee after the qualifier season was over.
Day three was anti-climactic. With the Bid safely in hand, 14 Helen competed gamely with three of the top teams in the country, finishing 4th in the tourney - ahead of three previously qualified teams.
A5 15 LA Wins Silver Medal at NEQ; Qualifies in 15 USA Division
Top-seeded A5 15 LA overcame a last-minute, sickness-induced lineup change to ride an eight-match winning streak into the finals of the 15 USA Division at NEQ in Baltimore, good enough for a silver medal and a coveted bid to Nationals in the USA Division. 56 teams were entered in the field.
A5 17 Scott Qualifies in 17 USA Division
I was following this division and I thought A5 17 Scott was eliminated when they lost their quarterfinal match against Virginia Juniors by three points. However, two of the four teams in the semifinals already had a bid, requiring the four teams that lost in the quarterfinals to play off for 5th place.
A5 won both of their playoff matches easily, earning sole possession of 5th place (of 80 teams in the division) and a bid to Nationals in the 17 USA Division. Conditioning and depth were their friends on Sunday - as they finished play on the schedule below. They will seek to better that bid at Regionals.
A5 16 Gabe, A5 South 16 Jason Make USA Volleyball History
Readers may remember that A5 16 Gabe and A5 South 16 Jason met in the semifinals of the Big South Qualifier a few weeks ago, with 16 Jason coming out on top. So we were happy to see that they were seeded #1 and #2, respectively, at NEQ, meaning that if both teams held their seed, they would meet in the Championship Match rather than the semi's.
A5 South almost blew it on day 1, losing a match to Wildfire. However, three teams emerged from pool play with a 2 - 1 record, and A5 South maintained their seed by the narrowest of margins (1.17 - 1.16 point ratio). Again.... every point matters!
From there, both teams took care of business to set up the first All-A5 Championship Match ever to be played at a National Qualifier in the Open Division. Indeed, very few clubs in the country qualify more than one team in a given age bracket in the Open Division, and it is possible that two teams from the same club meeting in the Championship Match of a National Qualifier is a first-ever occurrence nationwide. I'm sure a reader will correct me if they are aware of another such match.
Other Outstanding Results in Final Qualifier Weekend of the Year
A5 17 Jing was stretched to three sets just once in the ten matches they played in Philadelphia at NEQ. They beat a tough Triangle team in the Championship Match 28-26; 25-23, winning a Gold Medal in the 17 Open division and achieving "double-qualified" status. (Close match; every point mattered.)
Fresh from their Big South Championship in the 13 Open division, A5 13 Karen wanted to bring another one home. Though there were only seven teams entered in the 13 Open division at Northern LIghts, it was a meat-grinder, with four of the teams - including A5 - already qualified. 13 Karen's two wins on Saturday were against national powerhouses TAV and Rockwood Thunder, and both by a 16 - 14 margin in the third set (every point matters.). A5 beat TAV again in bracket play, setting up a Championship Match against undefeated Skyline, a team to whom they had lost on Day 1.
A5 lost that match, but came home double-qualified with Silver Medals, coupled with the sure knowledge that they can compete with any U13 team in the country.
A5 15 Bob survived Day 1 and Day 2 with 2 - 1 records in the 15 Open division, but Day 2 featured one of those pesky three-way ties for first place, which required A5 to face off against a team to whom they had just lost. 15 Bob won that one-set tie-breaker to advance to a gold-medal pool where - you guessed it - they finished in another three-way tie for first place. Since they had already qualified, they were not permitted to play off for first place. Rather, A5 finished the pool in 3rd place owing to set percentage, resulting in a 5th place finish in the 15 Open Division. They are double-qualified.