SPVB 16 Elite rules Sunday’s Power League … with help

What a difference a day makes.

Twenty-dour hours after losing to Iowa Rockets 16R 25-22, 25-19 in the Bracket A finale of the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open division, Sports Performance’s top 16s team did the next best thing – it beat the team that beat Iowa Rockets earlier Sunday.

SPVB 16 Elite moved to the top of the class in the 16 Super Open division Sunday by besting SPVB 15 Elite 25-23, 25-18.

“We played a lot cleaner today,” SPVB 16 Elite coach Erik Vogt said. “Our first contact was much better. It’s so early in the season and we’re still trying to figure things out. Some of the ups and downs that we’ve had happens with the territory this early in the season.”

Earlier Sunday, SPVB 16 Elite earned a spot opposite SPVB 15 Elite by beating Lions 15-1 for the second straight day, 25-8, 25-19.  Saturday, Lions 15-1 gave SPVB 16 Elite all it could handle before falling 25-23, 25-16.

“We came out way more aggressive than we did the first time we played Lions,” Vogt said. “Our blocking was considerably better. We made better passes and we served aggressively. They (Lions) were always in a difficult spot, which put us in a better spot defensively and offensively.”

A subtle lineup change also aided SPVB 16 Elite.

“We tried some different moves today with (Glenbard North’s 6-foot outside hitter) Maddie Meyers receiving serve and passing,” Vogt said. “She did a really good job. That helped take the pressure of (Aurora Christian’s 6-1 outside hitter) Cate Long having to pass and hit.

“Hopefully, we cleaned it up and will have a good showing next weekend during the Presidents’ Day Tournament,” he added.

SPVB 15 Elite did little to damage its No. 1 seed at next weekend’s Presidents’ Day Tournament although its needed three sets to down Epic United 16 Elite ROX 25-22, 24-26, 15-12 before slamming the door on Iowa Rockets 16R 25-20, 25-20 in the Bracket A semifinals.

A pair of kills by 5-10 outside hitter Jillian Elsouso from Marist helped SPVB 15 Elite squelch an Iowa Rocket rally that saw the girls from Cedar Rapids close to within 22-19 after trailing 18-13 in Game 1. She also had a big kill toward the end of Game 2.  

“We’ve talked about what has been missing for us … the mental stuff,” SPVB 15 Elite coach Luke Stapleton said. “It’s nothing physical. It’s really learning from certain things we saw that we needed to make adjustments for. It was doing stuff on our side a little cleaner, a little better.”

Lions 15-1 finished third in Bracket A for the second straight day, shaking off that first-set drubbing at the hands of SPVB 16 Elite to ground Iowa Rockets 16R 25-21, 25-20.

A block by 6-foot setter Rachel Muisenga of Benet and a kill and an ace from teammate 5-10 outside hitter Kyla Kenney allowed Lions 15-1 to hold off Iowa Rockets in Game 2.

“The girls didn’t play well the first game (against SPVB 16 Elite),” Lions 15-1 coach Courtney Keefe said. “They were playing as individuals. They have to come together as a team if they want to compete.”

Keefe refused to use the absence of Newark’s 6-1 outside hitter Madi Malone (who was dressed Sunday but did not play due to lingering illness) as an excuse.

“There are other players who can contribute to this team,” she said. “We’re trying to create a team, not individuals who play.”

Lions 15-1 will take the next two weeks off before returning to Power League play on February 25.

“We’ve got some things to work on,” Keefe said. “A lot of it is communication. It’s good to see them struggle sometimes because you learn things about your team you might not necessarily have known. It’s a learning game for all of us.

“You take the good and the bad and you make something out of it,” she added.

Saturday was almost all bad for Michio Chicago 16 National. After edging Cyclones 16 Black Adidas 25-19, 18-25, 16-14 in their opener, the south siders lost to FaR Out 15 Black 29-27, 25-22 and SPVB 16 C-Fed 24-26, 25-19, 15-20.

“We didn’t play well at all Saturday,” Michio Chicago 16 National coach Naveed Nizam said. “They were all close matches, but everything was off … our serve-receive was off, our hitting was off, our serving was off. “

But as the saying goes, tomorrow is another day.

“We were a very different team (Sunday),” he said. “The evil twin sister stayed home.”

Michio Chicago 16 National defeated Cyclones 16 Black Adidas (25-20, 25-16), Motion Volleyball 16 BLU (25-19, 25-23) and WI (Wisconsin) Juniors 16-1’s (25-20, 13-25, 15-12) to earn a spot opposite Lions 15-1 in Bracket A when league play resumes February 25.

“The last two days, our middles (Leila Wallace of Munster, Indiana, and Miara Bolden of Homewood-Flossmoor) have been really scoring points for us,” Nizam said. “If we get our passes to our middle blockers and they’re getting kills, it opens up the rest of our offense.”

Now after a weekend in Bracket B, Michio Chicago 16 National is headed home.

“It’s a good move for us,” Nizam said. “We feel we belong up there.”

Meanwhile, one day after moving up to Bracket B, Illini Elite 16 Cardinal avoided dropping back into Bracket C by besting Cyclones 16 Black Adidas 25-15, 27-25 and Capital 16 Adidas 25-21, 27-25 for fifth place.

Illini Elite 16 Cardinal had an uphill climb Sunday after spotting Motion Volleyball 16 BLU the first 11 points of their morning match, a 25-23, 25-21 Illini Elite loss. The Bloomington bunch also had to overcome a 16-10 deficit in Game 2 against Cyclones.

Service errors at 22-22 and 23-23 against Cyclones nearly forced Illini Elite to contemplate a third set and a possible exit to Bracket C.

“We’re not playing great, but we’re learning from our mistakes and it’s all part of it,” Illini Elite 16 Cardinal coach Andy Erins said.  

A pair of kills by 6-2 freshman middle hitter Mira Chopra from Champaign Central finished off the second set against Cyclones.

“She got two swings when it mattered, but I think that was the first two swings she got the entire match,” Erins said. “We changed the defense toward the end and got a couple blocks that gave us a little motivation. We got a little lucky at the end.”

In Bracket C, 1st Alliance 16 Black turned around its luck by overcoming a 25-13 spanking in its first game Sunday morning to defeat Sky High Adidas 15 Black 13-25, 25-13, 15-10.

“I know it’s the 8 o’clock morning game and you have a shorter warm-up, but the girls just need to get focused,” Ist Alliance 16 Black coach Gregory Manos said.

The Western Springs girls later defeated Fusion 15 Red 25-12, 25-20, and Wildcat Jrs. 15 Black 25-14, 27-25, to win the bracket and move up to Bracket B in two weeks.

“In this age group, there’s a lot of inconsistency across the board,” Manos said. “It’s a game of errors.  The girls just need a clearer focus. When they’re playing focused, we can be very competitive. When we’re not focused, it’s tough for us.”

Fusion 15 Red also earned a spot in Bracket B by besting WVA (Wisconsin Volleyball Academy) 25-16, 25-15 for third place, while Sky High Adidas 15 Black avoided a tumble to Bracket D by stopping Uno Girls 15 Elite 25-21, 25-12 in the fifth-place match.

Finally, in a Bracket D battle between downstate clubs, CI (Central Illinois) Elite 16 Red turned back Illini Elite 15 Cardinal 22-25, 25-15, 15-7 to finish third and earn a spot in Bracket C when league play resumes February 25.

“They’re learning to play at a faster speed,” CI Elite 16 Red coach Brian Martin said of his players. “We play our b
etter teams in practice so that helps. All the girls are improving, and by moving up you get to play better competition.

“The girls want that,” he added. “It’s all about learning how to play with (better competition).”

Sky High Adidas 16 Red will also be moving up after finishing second in Bracket D on Sunday.

For more results and schedules, go to www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(2ef4tu45krvfzcuh33mis2qh))/Standings.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDM90&d=60257

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