Fusion 17 Red comes oh so close; Illini Elite 17 Cardinal takes 3rd in Orlando

The “Magnificent Seven” came up a few points shy of claiming a national championship in the 17 Premier division of the AAU Boys and Girls Junior National Championships Sunday in Orlando, Florida.

Batavia-based Fusion 17 Red, nicknamed the “Magnificent Seven” by the club’s coaches, won its first 12 matches before falling to Palm Beach (Florida) Juniors 16 Elite 25-22, 20-25, 15-12 in the 17 Premier championship match.

“It was a great match,” Fusion 17 Red coach Joe Davidson said of the final. “(Palm Beach) is really, really good. They played well. When you get to the championship match, everybody deserves to be there. We just got beat.”

Fusion 17 Red dropped only one set all weekend heading into the championship, defeating Mizuno Northern Lights 17-2 out of Burnsville, Minnesota, 27-25, 20-25, 15-12 in Round 4 of Gold Pool play on Saturday.

“The girls played awesome all week,” Davidson said. “They did everything we asked them to do. They’re an awesome team, awesome volleyball players and really good kids. I was fortunate to be a part of that.

“Hopefully, we’ll make another run next year,” he added.

Fusion 17 Red team members Katie Jablonski, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter from Kaneland, Sam Juarez, a 5-6 libero from Batavia and 5-11 setter Katie Lanz from St. Charles North were named All-Americans.

Other members of the “Magnificent Seven” are Josilyn Borum, a 6-foot outside hitter from Sterling; Gigi Crescrenzo, a 5-9 outside hitter from St. Charles North; Kirsten Rogers, a 6-foot middle blocker from St. Charles East; and Glenbard North’s 6-foot middle hitter Maddie Vegrzyn.

Elsewhere Sunday, Bloomington-based Illini Elite 17 Cardinal went 9-2 and finished third in the 17 Open division after losing to A5 Mizuno 171 Jing out of Alpharetta, Georgia, 25-16, 25-19 in the semifinals.

“These girls worked so hard all year and everything clicked at the right time,” Illini Elite 17 Cardinal coach Michelle Erins said. “I’m really proud of them. They’re a really special group.”

Illini Elite 17 Cardinal advanced to the semifinals by outlasting Infinity VBA 17 Open out of Flowood, Mississippi, 25-23, 27-29, 17-15.

“That team was something special,” Erins said of Infinity. “They worked really hard and don’t go away. They had two very, very strong hitters, and they keep coming back at you.”

Illini Elite 17 Cardinal countered with two big and powerful outside hitters of its own — Hartsburg-Emden’s 6-foot Anna Hayes and Mahomet-Seymour’s 5-11 Samantha Matthews — who were both named All-Americans.

“With a few exceptions, the two of them never came off the court,” Erins said. “They hit about half of our balls.”  

Other team members are 5-8 outside hitter Mallory Bergbower and 6-3 middle hitter Morgan Koch from Bloomington Central Catholic, Bloomington’s 5-11 outside hitter Avery Carr and 6-foot outside hitter Hailey Flowers from Eureka.

Also, Rylee Hinton, a 6-2 middle hitter and Illinois recruit out of Champaign Central, Normal West’s 5-9 setter Dara Kane, 5-7 defensive specialist Annelise Sparks from Maroa-Forsyth and Normal U-High’s 5-11 setter/rightside hitter Macy Tongate.

In the 18 Classic division, Jenna Garrett, a 5-8 setter from Batavia, was named MVP after leading Sports Performance 18 Navy to a 25-22, 25-16 victory over Southern Performance 18 National Julie out of Irondale, Alabama, and the Aurora-based club’s third national championship in Orlando.

Coach Stephen Justice’s Classic national champions include Grace Furey, a 6-foot middle hitter from Hinsdale Central; Abby Nickell, a 5-11 outside hitter from Oak Park-River Forest; and Elizabeth Ford, a 5-7 defensive specialist from Geneva.

Also, Maddy Boyer, a 6-foot outside hitter from Batavia; Gabija Sinickaite, a 5-10 outside hitter from Naperville North; Oswego’s 5-11 outside hitter Rheannon O’Neil, and 5-11 middle hitter Samantha Rendon from Plainfield East.

Anna Skryd, SPVB 18 Navy’s 5-4 libero from St. Charles East, and Joliet Catholic’s 5-8 outside hitter Emily Holbrook joined Garrett on the 18 Classic All-American team.

In the 18 Club division, Chicago Elite 18 Elite went 11-1 and reached the championship semifinals before losing to eventual national runner-up COA 18-Red (Terra Haute, Indiana) 25-14. 25-17.

Members of the third-place team out of Chicago are 5-5 libero Leah Kodat, 6-2 middle blocker Brittany Wells and 5-11 setter Schuyler Williams from Wheaton Academy, and 5-9 outside hitter Maya Popernik and 6-1 middle blocker Atieno Hope from Whitney Young.

Also, 5-6 libero Alexandria Powrie from Payton, 5-6 defensive specialist Ella Dunavan from Oak Park-River Forest, and 5-5 defensive specialist Gabrielle Easterly and 5-10 middle blocker Mariella Szrom from Jones College Prep.

Named All-Americans from Chicago Elite 18 Elite were 5-10 outside hitter Jillian Kavalauskas from Jones and 6-1 opposite hitter Lia Moore from Chicago Christian.

Also in the 18 Club division, Lake Zurich-based Rolling Thunder 18 Blue went 11-2 and finished 10th overall after losing to Premier Onitsuka out of Maumee, Ohio, 25-17, 25-19 in the consolation finals.

Rolling Thunder 18 Blue team members are 5-11 outside hitter Catherine Hickey from St. Viator; Emily Bringer, a 5-6 outside hitter from Grant; Riley Cross, a 5-6 libero from Buffalo Grove; and Kylie Dykgraaf, a 5-9 setter from Lake Zurich.

Also, Shaelyn Foy, a 5-10 outside hitter from Cary-Grove; Jessica Janowski, a 5-6 setter from Wheeling; Jessica Riedl, a 6-foot middle hitter from Maine West; and Beverly Ryan-Darrah, a 6-foot middle blocker from Palatine.

Rounding out the roster are 5-3 defensive specialist Jane Sakowicz from Wauconda and 5-10 setter Margaret Streckert from Buffalo Grove.

Also Sunday, 1st Alliance 17 Onyx went 11-2 and finished second in the 17 Classic division, reaching the championship match before falling to ProLink 17 Black out of Athens, Georgia, 26-24, 25-23.

1st Alliance 17 Onyx team members include Kathryn Barnes, Deidra Foley, Kelly Kern, Jessica Levy, Mai Lombardo, Kailyn Matthews, Alyssa Mojica, Leah Rettke, Zoe Smith and Taylor Justice.

In the 17 Aspire division, New Wave 17 Tsunami defeated Vision 17 National out of Gainesville, Florida, 15-25, 25-15, 15-7, to win the Westmont-based club’s first national championship.

New Wave 17 Tsunami went 11-1 in the tournament. Its only loss was a 25-14, 15-25, 17-15 decision to Goldenwest 17 Black out of California in Round 3 of Gold Pool play.

New Wave’s Nina Crawford, a 5-10 middle blocker from Glenbard West, was named MVP of the tournament and was joined on the All-American team by teammates Sarah Hornacek of Lyons Township and Kasey Pfister, a 5-11 outside hitter from Chicago Christian.

Other members of New Wave 17 Tsunami are 5-9 opposite hitter Shannan Barrett from Hinsdale Central, 5-9 setter Jamie Janczak from Metea Valley, and Hinsdale South’s 5-7 defensive specialist Clarissa Marron.

Also, 5-3 defensive specialist Megan Merchant from Nazareth, 5-6 defensive specialist Madeline Pickering from Montini, Hinsdale Central’s 5-9 middle blocker Grace Rafferty and Downers Grove South’s 5-9 setter Abigail Valliere.


Other Illinois players who were named All-Americans on Sunday include Claire Byrne of SPVB 18 White, SPVB 18 Blue’s Hannah Yaconis and Maria Mayhew, and Natalie Gaszynski of Sky High Adidas 16 White.

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Jackie kuizenga
Jackie kuizenga
5 years ago

You forgot to mention sports performance 18 White getting 5th in 18 club and sports performance 18 navy winning 18 classics and 18 blue coming in thirds

5 years ago

The part about Sports Performance 18 Navy winning 18 Classic is right under the second set of photos. I think you missed that. As for SPVB 18 White and Blue, their All-Americans are mentioned at the end of the story.