17-1s Gold Medal Championship Ceremony at 2018 Colorado Crossroads
The 17-1's found their game in Colorado as they swept the field with a 10-0 tournament championship. The gold medal did not come easily however, as four of the ten matches went to three sets.
Days one and two provided good competition as the players proceeded to grind out the victories. But it was on day three that the team really found their stride. Knowing that a bid was on the line, everyone knew it was going to take an impressive effort to finish in the top three of the 16-team single-elimination field.
Round one turned out to be a surprisingly easy early-morning win over Tsunami 17's, 25-12, 25-13. However, competition in the quarterfinals picked up dramatically as Five Starz faced off against undefeated OP2 17's, a team from Oklahoma that had beaten us in pool play at last year's tournament. Not truly believing its ability to handle the Oklahoma team, Five Starz dropped set one, 22-25. Finding some mental toughness, the team was able to turn it around in sets two and three by reducing unforced errors, winning 25-21 and 15-12.
In the semi-finals, Five Starz defeated CIA 17 Black 26-24, and 25-14. Spirited defense was key in this match eliciting a nice compliment from the opposing coach. This win in the semis guaranteed a bid to Junior Nationals which was a relief to all. And, best of all, the team found itself playing for all the marbles as they faced off against undefeated Smash 17's in the championship match.
Matching Smash point for point through the first half of set one, the Five Starz players pulled ahead to win 25-16 with strong serving and absolutely brilliant defense. Smash tried to regroup in set two, but with the Five Starz strong passing Brooke Ono was able to distribute the ball to all five hitters providing some potent offensive attacks. The players continued to show off their scrappy defense winning set two, 25-22, and securing their first qualifier championship over the past three years.
Middles Trinity Barr and Tiya Kamba-Griffin both hit for a .400 tournament percentage while Bailey Palestini and Taylor Whyte provided impressive power on the outside, especially on day 3. Alona Walker, at the opposite position, provided many crucial kills as well.
One of the most impressive parts of the team's performance was the tenacious defense that emerged on the final day. Opponents were stymied on offense as Five Starz players refused to let balls drop. Caty Cordano, Makahla Bolko, Angel, Gamboa, Jessica Baker, and Taylor Whyte patrolled the backcourt refusing to let balls drop.
Another key to day 3's success was the steady passing that allowed us to stay in system on offense and involving every hitter in our attack. Key serves by a number of players kept our opponents off-balance as well.
The Five Starz 17's are a team without a star, but rather a group of players that can all contribute as well as having impressive depth. The team's goal to secure a bid to Junior Nationals was accomplished and winning the tournament was simply the cherry on top.
Congratulations to Jessica Baker, Trinity Barr, Makahla Bolko, Emily Casner, Caty Cordano, Angel Gamboa, Mia Gladding, Tiya Kamba-Griffin, Brooke Ono, Bailey Palestini, Megan Trottier, Maraia Tuqiri, Alona Walker, andTaylor Whyte.