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Jami Rolfes finally got her chance. After filling the assistant coach’s role at both AJ’s and Arizona State University, she finally got her chance at captaining her own ship.
Rolfes’ Zia 18-Alliance team sailed into the much anticipated final against Club Red’s 18-1’s team and came away with the Region’s top prize, the Open Championship in three tough sets!
What made this voyage even more impressive were the two extra chairs on the bench. Two starters were at the State High School track championships, putting an even bigger load on the remaining girls, but Rolfes and assistant coach Giovanna Melo refused to let the girls worry about who wasn’t there.
“Club Red is an amazing team with some unbelievable athletes that have the ability to take over a match whenever they want.” Rolfes says of the team her girls seemed to battle every tournament. “This was evident in game two of our match when we couldn’t do anything to stop them. However, in game three something clicked with our girls and each and every one of them individually figured out what they had to do to step up to help the team out as a whole. The girls believed they could win, stayed consistent, refused to let balls drop, and worked together as a team. It was pretty awesome to watch.”
The 18-Alliance started the season as the 9th ranked team, but worked their way up to Division 1 after the first tournament and never left the Region’s penthouse. “The team this season was special because they were able to perform at a pretty high level no matter who was on the court.” Rolfes lauds. “That doesn’t happen too often. In my past experiences, if one small change was made in the line-up it was the end of the world. With my players this season, when changes were made they just went with the flow and had fun with the different situations they were put in.”
She also thinks her coaching style blended well with this group of girls. “I became more confident in my coaching style and philosophies. I’m not really a screamer or a yeller. I try to stay as positive and upbeat as possible. Maybe I just got lucky, but I was blessed with an incredible group of players that responded very well to my coaching style.” While playing the best teams in the region, Rolfes and her crew never forgot the one component that sometimes escapes players at this level. “They knew how to have fun during both practices and matches. I think they figured out that it’s a lot more enjoyable to play when you’re having fun doing it.”
Rolfes and Melo, both former Sun Devils, put forth maybe the season’s most important lesson of all, one the team will take with them in the future. “I hope after this season the girls learned the importance of playing together as a team. It doesn’t matter who is out on the court if you work together, believe in yourself and your teammates a lot can be accomplished.”
With Zia’s first Open Championship in her pocket, Rolfes’ coaching future seems to best be described in two words; smooth sailing.
Grand Canyon ’s 16-Gold was aptly named at the beginning of the season.
Megan Jacobson’s team battled a tough field, flirting between Open divisions two and three the entire season, but put together their best day with a convincing win over Arizona Junior’s 16-1’s team to win the 16 Open title at Arizona State University on May 12.
The final showed the work that not only the girls have put in all season, but the work their coach puts in as well. “AJ’s is a very physical team so we had to discuss different opportunities to compensate for that.” Jacobson says. “We are a very good serving and passing team. We knew that if we kept that up on serve receive we could run our offense “fast” and force one on one situations with the block. Our serving and passing, in my opinion, is what won the first game in the match.
But Jacobson knew AJ’s was storming back. They took a 6-0 lead when she called a timeout. “We discussed how we needed to get back on track with our block and our defense and how this wasn’t going to be easy and that it was going to take “grueling mental focus” for us to start chipping away at the lead and maintain it.”
Grand Canyon did just that, whittling away until they tied the game at 18’s. “It literally became a point for point game all the way to the end.” Jacobson says. “They would side out with a huge swing, and then we would side out with one. It was great to watch as a coach and exciting to be a part of. To see two teams battling like that, showing so much heart, makes for wonderful volleyball. We finally gained the advantage at 28-26.”
Jacobson points to the talent her girls showed all season long. “ This team was special because of their hard work and talent. For being such a young team (most of her girls didn’t turn 15 until February) they showed quite a bit of maturity and an ability to learn and apply new and different skills that were taught throughout the season.”
“I truly believe the difference this year was talent. It is great to know that in any situation you can go to your bench and rely on any one of them to get the job done or pull out of a tight situation. Every player on this team was very hard working and competitive. I had a lot of confidence in them.”
The season didn’t go without the normal bumps though. Chemistry shined in the finals, but it was a process Jacobson worked on throughout the season.
“To be honest we had struggled somewhat throughout the season with not coming together all the way as a team.” She says. “It is difficult sometimes to have so many talented players with different personalities on one team. It is only normal that those players, especially at age 14, 15 and 16, may struggle with ego and embracing a certain role that will benefit the entire team and not just themselves. I think we finally “got it” at the end of our season. The amount of selflessness shown at Regionals could be used as a lesson to all of us coaches, parents, etc.”
“Whether they were in the match or not they were all cheering for each other, hugging each other, laughing with each other and most importantly, supporting one another.” Jacobson says proudly. “To me, that’s life. Sometimes you may not always get what you want or you may not always get along with everyone, or like your coach but as long as you can figure out how to deal with these situations in a positive and mature light, you’ll be in good standing for the rest of your life. They learned that lesson, they got it, they figured it out and I couldn’t be more proud of how these young ladies came together to accomplish what they did. That, to me, was the difference.”
Jacobson’s sees nothing but bright in this team’s future. “They are all so young and can continue to play in the 16’s age group next season. If they do that I believe they will be even stronger, as a team.”
Zia’s 15 Elite need to check their ID’s.
The entire season, under the guidance of head coach Kristin Marin and assistant Autumn Baker, their girls took it to the 16’s division. They won the Cactus Classic’s 16’s division and despite starting the season as the 59 th ranked team in the Championship division, they won 4 of their 5 tournament, took second in the other and played older teams throughout the season long march.
That experience must have helped as they held off Az. Storm’s 15-Thunder to win the 16-Championship division held at Highland High School on May 5 th. That win got them invited to the 16-Open Championship at Kingdom Courts on May 12 th where they again lived up to their Elite moniker and won the silver division, beating a 16’s team in the final and ending the season as the top 15’s team in the Region.
Marin loved the team’s heart which helped carry them through the tough spots in the season. “ These girls knew how to fight for a point and how to fight for a match.” She says with a broad smile. “There were many times where we were down by a significant amount and they could always recover and come back. A couple times we were beaten badly in the first game and we came back strong to win. I have never seen a team play so hard in such crucial situations.”
That characteristic came out in full force when the team played the Az. Storm 15-Thunder in the finals of the Championship division. “ We had lost to Storm in Colorado previously this year, so the girls came out to win. Storm was the only 15’s team in AZ that we had lost to this year so I think that gave the girls even more motivation.”
Marin hopes her Elite girls enjoy the moments and the lessons learned over the season. “I hope the team felt like they had a successful season. It’s not often that they will get to experience winning the Cactus Classic and Regionals in the same year. I think they have learned a lot about how to work hard, how to persevere during tough times, and how to play as a team.”
Despite being one of the smallest regions in all of USA Volleyball, the Junior National Team tryouts proved that Arizona isn’t lacking in talent.
Scottsdale’s Tara Mueller and Tucson’s Whitney Dosty were both named to the 12-player roster of the 2007 Junior National Team that will represent Team USA at the FIVB U-20 World Championships held July 19-27 in Nakhonratchasima, Thailand. The dozen are scheduled to train in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center July 5-16 in preparation for the World Championships. Prior to leaving for Thailand, the team will train alongside and scrimmage members of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Mueller and Dosty made the team at the final tryout held in Austin on May 18-20. Coach Andy Banachowski, the legendary coach at UCLA, was pleased with his Arizona selections.
“ Tara is such a great player, a complete player.” Banachowski lauds. “Although
her hitting and blocking skills are superb, she is going to concentrate on
being our libero for this team on this trip. She is one of the quickest
defensive players I have ever seen and she brings her aggressive attitude to
her defense. She has tremendous range on the floor with her quickness
and size, and this will allow her to cover so much of our passing duties.”
Talking about Dosty, Banachowski adds, “Whitney is the type of player that should be the future of USA volleyball. She can become unstoppable on the net, and intimidating as a blocker. We welcome her size to the roster, and expect that she can play an important role for us at the World Championships.”
The tryout process for Dosty was both fun and good experience. “ It isn't often that you get to play with or against the other top 23 volleyball players in your age group all at once.” She says. “I'd like to say that I just went into the tryout with the mind set of working hard and having fun.”
For Mueller, this was a bit of redemption after an ill timed injury forced her off last year’s team. “ Making the team this year was such a huge relief and feeling of accomplishment,” she says, “especially because of how I broke my wrist and had to leave last year. Ever since I found out that my wrist did break last summer, this was all I could look forward to and I’m so happy that I am given the chance to compete again.”
Coach Banachowski announced the team after the final practice, and Dosty was elated. “ When I found out that I made the team I was extremely excited! It’s often hard to know how the coaches have evaluated you over the course of the tryout compared to the other girls, and knowing that I made the team just feels like the hard work is paying off.” Whitney adds, “I couldn’t be more excited to take a trip to Thailand and get to play volleyball that kind of thing just doesn’t happen all the time!”
The Nebraska-bound Mueller sees the training as a step up from any of the volleyball she’s been involved with up to now. “ When we arrive in Colorado Springs and begin training, this will be the hardest and most competitive volleyball I will have ever played.” She says excitedly. “Being in this environment helps you so much to become prepared for the next college level. Being pushed to your limits is huge with this team and being a part of all of this will help me to hopefully be on the court next year at Nebraska.”
Making the Junior National team has been a springboard to the Olympic team for some athletes. Both Tara and Whitney aren’t that far in thought just yet. For Dosty, her goals right now are immediate. “ The goals that I have set and I imagine the other girls have set, is to go to Thailand and win!!”
Mueller’s goals are also polished, but in a bit of a different direction. “My goals for USA are so focused on this year and playing in that starting libero spot.” She says intently. “I want to be on the court competing this year in Thailand. As far as future Olympics, I think I would rather play beach volleyball and possible compete in the AVP.”
One thing both girls agree on is the chance to be coached by a legend like Banachowski. “ I really like Andy and from what I could tell from the tryouts he has a lot of good advice to offer.” says Dosty. Mueller agrees, saying, “ On the court he is ready to get down to business and make it happen, which I love that intense drive, and off the court he is sarcastic and fun to be around. I am so excited to be training with him as our coach!”
You can follow the progress of the Junior National team on the USA Volleyball website.
Tara Mueller and Whitney Dosty weren’t the only Arizonans asked to train with a National team this summer.
Andrew Dorney, a middle blocker from Chandler who played with Arizona Primitive this past season, was selected for the Boy’s youth A2 training camp and competition. Coached by Ohio State University head Coach Pete Hanson, the boy’s A2 team will practice in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida July 16-26 and compete in the High Performance Championships held there July 22-25.
Also now entrenched in the High Performance pipeline is 13 year old Haley Lawless who was named to the USA Volleyball High Performance roster for its Select A1 program, the top program USAV offers for volleyball players born in and after 1992 . The team will be coached by former National team player and coach, Rod Wilde. This group will train and compete in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from July 16-26. The training portion will be July 16-21. After the training block, the group will be divided into four teams and compete representing USA Volleyball in the 2007 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships July 22-25. Haley plays for East Valley Juniors and became involved in the High Performance program at last years’ HP camp held in Phoenix.
Congratulations to both of these outstanding athletes.
The Arizona Region is finalizing plans to host its first annual Golf Tournament to help raise funds for charitable programs throughout the Region.
The tournament will be held at the Phantom Horse Golf Club located at the Pointe South Mountain resort in Phoenix.
A 7:30 a.m. start on September 15th includes a golf car, practice balls and bag tags in addition to lunch. The cost for the event is $120 per individual and $400 per foursome.
The tournament will coincide with the Region’s General Assembly held before the beginning of the 2007-08 club season. For costs and availability, contact Christy at the Region office at 602-454-1367.
USA Volleyball is offering free specific online newsletters for Junior Girls, Junior Boys, Beach, Women’s National Team, Men’s National Team and Coaches Education. You can go to http://www.usavolleyball.org/FreeNewsletter/ to sign up for the newsletter you want.
In order to make these newsletters as timely and as interesting as possible, USAV is asking for your help. Please let them know about stories that feature junior players, coaches, and programs. They want to know about accomplishments on and off the court. Do you have any photos to share? Are there any budding poets or authors in our junior ranks?
Please help us recognize these talents and accomplishments that we know flourish at the high school and club levels. Feel free to submit photos and story ideas at any time to Bill Kauffman (girls) and BJ Evans (boys). Please get the word out to coaches, players, parents and tournament directors that USA Volleyball wants and needs your ideas and contributions.
Check the Arizona Region site at www.azregionvolleyball.org and check out the Camps link to find links to several volleyball camps going on around Arizona and surrounding areas.
The Arizona Region, in conjunction with Phoenix College, will again support the USA National High Performance Program with their second annual 2007 High Performance Camp.
After last year’s successful venture, and by popular demand, the Region’s HP Camp has been expanded.
This year’s camp is still accepting applications for both camps. For information, click http://www.azregionvolleyball.org/juniors/camps/index.html
Men and Women over 50 (Especially men 60-70) are needed to fill Senior Olympic teams in the upcoming year. There are three tournaments a year, the next one in Prescott in August. The cost is $20 per player
Join the Senior Olympics!!! You'll have a lot of fun and you might see some old friends......
Phoenix College Volleyball Coach Karen Sitkiewicz announced this week she is forming leagues for High School aged girls over the summer to be played at PC.
The leagues will run for 4 weeks on Tuesday nights (6, 7, and 8pm match times). Your team chooses if they would like to participate in June, July, or both and the teams will play in 2 matches per night. One official and a scorekeeper will be provided, no uniforms are needed and there are unlimited substitutions.
For information on this league and other programs at Phoenix College, contact Coach Sitkiewicz at email@example.com
Karen Crook has served in the AZ Region office as Registrar for the past 3 and half years. She came in as a favor to help us finish out the 2004 season when we were short handed and stayed three more years. Karen has decided that 3 1/2 years is long enough and she is moving on to bigger and better things. She will still be around as she and her husband Steve Crook run Club Red Juniors. THANKS to Karen for her time with us. We will miss her very much!
Betsi Metter has picked up right where she left off last year.
The 14 year old from Ahwatukee has teamed with three different partners for three wins in her first three tournaments of this young 2007 Junior Beach Program.
Metter and partner Katie Rutherford from Peoria won the second 16’s tournament on May 31 st, outlasting a field of 31 teams. Metter and Anna Gott won the seasons first 18’s tournament on May 24 th and Betsi and partner Bethany Jorgenson took the gold in the first 16’s tournament held May 17 th.
Metter has been the most consistent force on the beach the past few seasons, winning the 16’s points total championship last year as a 13 year old and finishing second in points in the 14’s division. Betsi also won the 2006 Jr. Beach Nationals in California in the U14’s division.
Other notables this season include:
- The play in the 12’s division of Hannah Brown and Sydney Schumacher who have won the first two tournaments of the young season
- Katie Rutherford who has a first and a second in her 2 16’s tournaments this season
- Jeff Dumbrell who has a gold and 2 silver medals in three tournaments in the boy’s 16’s and 18’s tournaments so far this season.
- Props to Drew Hatch, all of 9 years old, as he and Mom Amy won the 12’s division of the Mother/Son tournament held on Sunday, May 27 th.
Congratulations to these amazing athletes. If you want to be a part of the action, you can still register at tournaments and play. The season ends at the end of July.
Coming soon; stops in Tucson and Flagstaff, Junior coed tournaments, the Father’s Day father/daughter tournament and the college girl’s tournaments. Check out the Region website under the Beach banner to get the calendar, sign up information and any and all other info you might need.
Please let us know what you think of this newsletter and any ideas you have for future e-newsletter stories or suggestions. Also, what did you think of the Region’s newsletter Covering the Court that was mailed to your home last week. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank You.
If you are interested in advertising in the Quick e set Arizona Region e-newsletter, contact Eric at email@example.com