It’s extremely rare when I have a good time in Kansas City.
But last weekend was an exception.
Making the annual trek to the USA Volleyball Asics Show Me National Qualifier proved to be one of the most thrilling excursions ever to the jewel of western Missouri.
As always, a number of area players were in the event with a bunch of different teams. And those players enjoyed a variety of success.
One of the teams I was following at the event, Show Me Volleyball Academy 16 Rox, earned its USA Volleyball National Championships 16 Open Division bid by placing second in the tournament.
For a second-year program, SMVA 16 Rox finally reached a huge goal by earning a 16 Open Division berth. Shane Allen’s team had been in contention on the final day of the qualifiers in Indianapolis and Philadelphia. The team tied for fifth at the Mideast Qualifier in Indianapolis, ninth at the Northeast Qualifier in Philadelphia and 21st at the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier in Denver.
SMVA 16 Rox went 2-1 on the first day to remain in gold and followed by going 2-1 on the second day to stay in the gold division.
The second day started tough with a loss to Asics Mavs 16 Blue, ranked second in the most recent PrepVolleyball.com national rankings. The second game ended at 26-24, a sign of things to come.
After beating Ozark Juniors, the final match came down to SMVA 16 Rox and CYC 16 Green. SMVA 16 Rox hadn’t beaten CYC 16 Green until Sunday’s match, and that one went to three games.
Playing in one of the two final gold division pools, SMVA 16 Rox was at the edge. After falling at that level in Indianapolis and Philadelphia, the team started pool play by beating 17th-ranked KC Power in the first match.
Coming back Monday, SMVA 16 Rox needed three games to knock down 1st Alliance of Illinois, the fourth-ranked team in the PrepVolleyball national poll.
But SMVA 16 Rox had a fight to earn the bid and a chance to play for the regional title in High Performance 16 Gold.
High Performance had an inspirational tale as well. Down to seven healthy players, HP 16 Gold went through pool play Sunday, then had to win two playoff games before going to beat 1st Alliance to start the final gold pool action Sunday evening. HP 16 Gold lost Monday morning to KC Power, but still had a chance if it beat SMVA 16 Rox.
The first game went to SMVA, 25-19, but High Performance stepped it up in the second to win, 25-15.
The third game went back and forth before SMVA pulled out the victory, and the bid by sweeping the pool, 15-13.
While SMVA 16 Rox fell to Nebraska Elite 16 Fury in the title match in two games, it still was a rewarding three-day event for Show Me Volleyball Academy.
Brad Bruns is the club director with Shane Allen heading the 16 Rox team. Team members are Paige Perego (Parkway West), Amy Kindt (Marquette), Emily Rudolph (Marquette), Amanda Noel (Lafayette), Hannah Cherry (Villa Duchesne), Allison Turner (Lafayette), Ellie Watkins (Lutheran St. Charles), Riley Stephens (Troy) and Cassie Nodiff (Marquette).
It felt amazing to see such a group of neat kids reach a goal and be able to leave a national qualifier venue happy and with medals.
The other SMVA team, 16 Royal, had a tougher time in the 16 USA Division, tying for 19th in the Silver Division.
That team is coached by Christin Hunt and former ECC volleyball player Sam Walch. Players on that team are Katrina Aliano (Eureka), Claire Harman (Lafayette), Ashley Nickolaison (Francis Howell), Jordan Kriete (Borgia), Bailey Fischer (Timberland), Molly Fox (Marquette), Rachel Waller (Westminster), Maddie Toelke (Borgia) and Allie Marquart (Borgia).
For the Royal team, I wish they could have finished higher. There was some good play, but not enough to stay in gold bracket contention through the second day.
CYC 18 Green from St. Louis, won the 18 Open Division. That’s an amazing team, too. They won the St. Louis Power League title in the 16-18 Division and I saw them play the weekend before the Kansas City event during a tournament in Belleville, Ill., That’s an outstanding team and you just wish everyone from the Gateway Region the best when they travel.
One of the great things when there are a lot of local teams playing in a qualifier like Kansas City is that you’re going to see a ton of people you know and respect. It was good to see Rockwood Thunder 17 Mizuno Head Coach Ben O’Day, formerly of East Central College. Ben’s got an outstanding group of kids and they’ve already earned their USA Volleyball 17 Open Division bid. Injuries hurt them this past weekend, but they’ll bounce back.
I got to see some locals as well, including Alivia Brinker, Erin Hillerman and Alexis Ruether. I know there were others. Wish I could have seen everyone, but there’s only so much time and too many courts!
For me, it was nice to see Eureka senior Abby Biggs playing. Abby was the setter on the Rockwood Thunder 16 Mizuno team I helped to coach two seasons ago. She’s signed with Lewis University to continue her career. It’s amazing to see people you’ve had a small hand in helping achieving their goals and having fun while doing it.
We’re getting closer to the end of the club volleyball season. I know the USA Volleyball Gateway Regional championships are taking place this weekend in the 16s Division. Good luck to everyone who will be playing for a regional title and/or in the bid tournaments.
Not everyone can finish the season with a championship or a bid, but everyone will be a winner as long as they continue to learn how to play the game correctly and have some fun while doing it. Remember, it’s a game!