Oh, so close.
VC United 181 Elite didn’t exactly get off to a blazing start at the USA Girls Junior Volleyball National Championships this weekend in Dallas, Texas, dropping its first match in the 18 USA division to Viper 18-Rafu (Temecula, California), 21-25, 27-25, 15-6.
However, the Rockford-based club did a lot of good things between its first match Friday and final set Sunday in Dallas.
After dropping its opener, VC United won its next six matches, including a 25-21, 21-25, 16-14 victory over IL HPSTL 18 Select and a 25-10, 25-14 victory over Blue Steel VBC 18’s Edge, to reach the Gold bracket of the USA division.
In Sunday’s quarterfinals, VC United 181 Elite rolled past Tampa United VBA 18U ROX (Tampa Bay, Florida), 25-14, 25-23, before eliminating CVC (Cleveland Volleyball Academy) 18 Black, 25-21, 25-15, in the semifinals.
Then, after the teams split the first two sets by the narrowest of margins in the championship match, TAV (Texas Advantage Volleyball) 18 Blue (Fort Worth, Texas) ended VC United’s long tournament run, racing to an 11-4 lead in the third set on its way to a 27-25, 24-26, 15-7 victory.
“It was obviously an emotional final,” said VC United 181 Elite coach Eric Schulze. “We had a decent lead in first set, but TAV came back and ended up taking the set late. That took an emotional toll on us. They had a 7-, 8-, 9-point in the second set.
“I told the girls … one last dance. Let’s go. All you can do is chip away.”
VC United won the second set on an ace by Belvidere’s Brooklyn Messenger that, “hit the net as hard as you could without falling on our side of the net,” Schulze said.
VC United changed its line-up in the third set to take advantage of Messenger at the net with Katie Erdmann of Forreston serving. The move did not pan out, however.
“We rolled out a rotation in the third set to really try to maximize the way Messenger was playing,” Schulze said. “And Katie is one of the better servers around. But by the time Erdmann rotated out of back row, we only had 4 points.”
TAV took an 11-4 lead in the third set and never looked back.
“There are days when you realize you didn’t put it all out there, that you should have gone harder,” Schulze said. “But these guys played their tails off. In this match, they (TAV) just outplayed us.
“Sometimes you just got to tip your cap. It was a beautiful performance by TAV.”
VC United 181 Elite team members include Durand High School’s 5-foot-7 outside hitter McKenzie Damon (Central Michigan), Belvidere outside hitter Brooklyn Messenger (North Dakota), and Katie Erdmann, an uncommitted 5-10 junior outside hitter from Forreston.
Also, Raeann Bergman, a libero from Stockton (Western Illinois); Gabriella Depersio, an opposite side hitter from McHenry (DePaul); and Katelyn Keefe, an outside hitter from Rockford Guilford (Air Force Academy).
Also, Lauren Kunke, a middle blocker from Woodstock North (Bradley); Bailey Nelson, a middle blocker from Oregon (Western Illinois); LaSalle-Peru libero Kamryn Olson (Kishwaukee College); and Elizabeth Shult, a junior from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
Elsewhere, among the 12 Illinois teams in Dallas, Fusion 18 Red finished ninth in the 18 National division, Adversity G18 Adidas took 13th in the 18 American division, and Blue Steel VBC 18’s Edge won the 18 USA division Silver B bracket.