2023 Tournament Recap - Week 19
The Juniors Grand Slam was hosted by The Juniors program for a 2-Day tournament! Most of our post season teams played and here is how they did!
We entered the weekend at the Juniors Grand Slam in downtown Milwaukee with some adjustments needing to be made due to legitimate player conflicts, which made the Open/Premier division even more challenging than it would have been at full strength. But, the girls did an incredible job of dealing with the challenges and played some really solid volleyball.
On Saturday, Avery Pierce had to play MB after being a force at RS in Minneapolis. She accepted this role willingly and selflessly. This required us to have Sierra Hoeft, one of our setters, to play RS in the front row. While these may be minor changes, there is some level of nervousness for players when this occurs. At the end of Saturday, we finished 2nd in our pool to a spirited Penguins team who we fell to in 3 sets. This placed us in the Gold Bracket on Sunday, with even more adjustments to be made.
On Sunday, Sierra had to run a 5-1 for the first time this season, our typical libero, Morgan Vetter, had to play OH, while Ana Degner moved to MB, and Abby Barthelemy moved over to libero from a middle back DS role. This moved Maddie Katte into a more frequent DS role, while Isabel Hilgart had to play in the backrow. We went over serve receive rotations before we played in a quiet corner of the concourse of the Convention center and worked through some gitters as we geared up to play a Milwaukee Juniors team that we had beaten 3 times previously in tightly contested matches, so we knew they were looking forward to playing us one last time. Our girls got their feet underneath them, began to minimize errors, and we ended up winning that match in 3 sets, capped off with a Hannah Heitzkey kill at match point. This propelled us to the semifinals where we faced a very talented MOD team from the Chicago area, a player who was absent returned so we were able to put some players back to their normal positions. We took the first set from them, paced by an incredible serving run in the early part of the first set by Laurn Leuth which included an ace in the face of their libero! We won the first set rather convincingly. Our opponents were able to tighten up their first contacts in the subsequent sets and we ended up losing in 3 sets.
In the 3rd place game, we played Iowa One, and may have played our cleanest volleyball in quite some time. We made quick work of them with our OH's being very effective and efficient, our first contacts were very crisp, and we did a great job of bettering the ball to win rallies. We secured 3rd place and were able to finish the weekend with a solid level of play to reflect on as we head to nationals. While all of our players had some really nice stretches of play over the weekend, Abby Barthelemy was dominant in the backrow on serve receive and handling some really hard hit balls, a lot of WOW plays came from her. Also, Sierra Hoeft did not come off of the court at any time this weekend, with much of it running a 5-1 for the first time; she even had 2 overpass kills! Both of them made the all-tournament team!
We very much look forward to bringing this level of play, energy, selflessness, and teamwork to nationals. We are heading there with a 43-12 record and I spoke with Coach Abby on the way out and asked her if we could get to 50...she confidently said yes. I believe her!
When it rains it pours! This team is on a hot streak like no other! They had a hefty challenge waiting for them this weekend. We had to play down few players on Saturday when we had 4 matches in pool play and all of them were tough because we played in the Open/Premier Division. Our first match vs 608 Juniors was tough out of the gates and each set was tight to the end but our team refused to lose and won 25-22, 23-25, 17-15. Our next match was was against a Michigan team, Impact Dynamite, and our team played struggled with consitant made serves and had streaks when no one made a serve. This allowed the other team to get some energy while we drained our own so soon. Luckily we were able to pull out another 3-set win (25-15, 17-25, 15-7). The next matches we settled in and dominated. We beat One Wisconsin Bay 25-6, 25-20. Then played 414 Elite for 1st or 2nd and just overpowered offensively and won 25-14, 25-17. Ending a very long day with all smiles.
Being in Pool 3 we still had a play in game for the Gold Bracket and faced off the team that beat us in the Badger Region Finals in the Open Division, WI Juniors. It was like a championship match right off the bat. Game one we had control most of the time and won. Game two we got our butts kicked but we made some adjustments that I was super proud of the team for executing and we were able to take it to the wire and won 16-14 with a kill from Paige Proefrock on the outside!
Now in the Semi-finals we played a new team from Illinois, MOD Elite. Their middles ran quick but that was the only edge they had on us. Once again we clawed for each point and won in 2 close sets, 15-20 and 27-25. Now we are in the Finals!!!
We faced off against Midwest Penguins who also beat us in the Badger Region Qualifier and knocked us out extremely early. That was probably one of our lowest points of the season. The team was looking forward to this rematch and we came out on fire taking a big lead early. Unfortunately our serve receive was fatigued and may have been aced 8-10 teams in that first set. We had 23-20 lead and just couldn't close and lost 26-28.
But All Great Championships Go Three!
We once again came out with a huge lead and kept applying pressure. We take the 2nd set 25-18. Now we have a sprint to 15 where it went back and forth all the way to 11's and Mia Grisolono went back and served up some aces to end the match winning 15-11!
What a weekend as that make 4 tournament wins in a row! Now we head to Kentucky and then Chicago for Nationals!
Congrats to Paige Proefrock, Eden Roethel, and Mia Grisolono for making the All Tournament Team!