High-SchoolVolleyball: Club volleyball

Beach volleyball
Courtesy of Ciena LennonSusannah Muno goes for the kill at the AAU Beach Volleyball National Championships in Hermosa Beach last month.
In just four weeks, Susannah Muno collected three trophies and made history on the beach.

Muno, who will be a sophomore at Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), became the first athlete to claim the "triple crown" of junior beach volleyball when she won the three major tournaments on the AAU National Tour in the same year.

The 16-year-old from Hermosa Beach, Calif., played with a different partner at each stop.

Muno teamed with Sydney Bast of Upland, Calif., to win the AAU Beach Volleyball National Championships in Hermosa Beach July 14-15. Then, playing alongside Raeanne Greisen of San Diego, Muno won the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games in Hermosa Beach July 28-29. This past weekend, Muno and Gianna Guinasso of Huntington Beach, Calif, won the AAU Best of the Beach in Santa Monica, Calif.

Click here for more on AAU beach volleyball.
By Cosy Burnett

Cosy Burnett blogWin or lose, nationals can feel like a giant end-of-year party.
Cosy Burnett is a top 2013 volleyball recruit from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. She plays outside hitter and opposite for La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego. She has competed in the California State Finals and at Nationals for the past five years. She recently committed to play for BYU. In the latest installment of her blog, she shares her experience at the 2012 USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships.

The only things keeping me cool as I walked back to the hotel last Friday in 95-degree heat were the ice packs secured to most of my moving body parts. We were so close to that championship court at the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio! Literally, we had our last game on the court right next to it. Fifth place! My thoughts were flooded with the “what ifs,” which only made me more upset.

Cosy Burnett blog
Things are always interesting at nationals.
I pushed open the doors to the hotel and looked around the lobby. Teams were scattered, waiting for their rides with tear-stained faces, glum looks and exhausted parents. I talked to some of my friends wearing bronze medals, and they were just as dejected as the others. One of their dads summed it up the best. “Only one team really goes home happy,” he said.

So why do we do this?

Why do thousands of people spend thousands of dollars, travel thousands of miles to a hot Midwestern town over the Fourth of July, and spend their days navigating through a convention-hall maze packed with volleyball thrill-seekers tripping over half empty water bottles if only one team really goes home happy?

I thought about this on the flight home and came up with the following reasons to explain our insanity:

1. Level of play
It is there and only there that we can really face the best teams from across the country. Teams rise to their greatest potential and the competition is thrillingly fierce. It’s at the GJNC where you test your physical strength and mental stamina to see if you have what it takes to reach that middle podium and have the gold medal draped over your sweaty uniform. When you get there, you know that you have beaten the best, which now makes you the best.

Cosy Burnett
A volleyball mom goes beyond her traditional role.
2. Always something new
The organizers do a good job of trying to keep things light at GJNC with photo-op corners and goofy mascots roaming the courts. My favorite thing is observing the crazy volleyball culture, which we’re all a part of. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always something new. This year, I witnessed a volleyball mom taking her role to a new level. We were refereeing and I was doing books while my teammate was keeping score. After about 10 points, we realized that one of the moms was showing us the score on her iPad from across the court to make sure we were on task. I dared my teammate to flip the number for the wrong side. … Instead we snapped a photo.

3. National end-of-season party
We seem to completely take over a town, and we did in Columbus. The restaurants, stores, hotels, pools, ice cream shops and even airports are full of volleyball families. It’s like a big end-of-year party wherever we go. I see girls I met at volleyball camps, tournaments, recruiting trips, etc., and it’s so fun to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. Whether it’s celebrating a new college commitment (shout out to Grace!) or seeing a girl you spent hours on the sand court with two summers ago, it’s a great closure to the club season. It represents the lifelong friendships, which are such a big part of this experience for me.

So, it’s true that only one team goes home with a gold medal, yet most of us bring home something even more valuable. Every year, I come home with more than an overpriced T-shirt and bruises from unknown origins. Every year brings new experiences. There are tough losses, amazing wins, and with each point played, each kill, each error, we come home as a new person. Coaches always talk about how we have those “learning games.” I believe that every game is a learning game. We learn what it takes and if we have it or not.

Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog – on rookie sensation Kacey Nady – here.
Cosy Burnett is a junior outside and opposite hitter at La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) who also plays for Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego, Calif. Her high school team competed in the state finals for Division II last season and she has competed at nationals five times with her club teams. In the latest installment of her blog, she features rookie sensation Kacey Nady.

La Costa Canyon volleyball
Cosy Burnett
This is my third and final blog on a volleyball player who achieved a high level of play (and college offers) after just one year of playing club.

I first saw Kacey Nady at Coast Volleyball tryouts last December. Since my high school team was still competing in CIF, I just came to watch. My eyes were immediately drawn to Kacey on the court. She looked about 6-foot-3 and absolutely dominated the net. Someone had tried to tip the ball over her huge block after being blocked by her several times in a row, and I remember her taking the ball and slamming it back over the net. Her athleticism was amazing and she jumped through the roof.

It was great to see a tall athlete so quick and light on her feet. The best part about watching Kacey was seeing what a great team player she was. She was positive and kept her teammates motivated, and her energy brought others up to her level.

Kacey has an amazing story. This is her first year playing competitive volleyball outside of school, and she moved out to San Diego to do it. Kacey, who plays for West Hills (Santee, Calif.), has sacrificed a lot to play the sport she loves, and you can tell that the volleyball court is where she belongs.

Meet Kacey Nady.

Cosy: What position do you play?

Kacey: Middle blocker for Coast 18-1 (Class of 2013)

Cosy: When did you start playing competitive volleyball? How long after you started playing did you get your first college offer?

Kacey: I played every year in high school, but it didn't become truly competitive until club began in December of 2011. On Dec. 6, University of North Carolina was the first to contact me and said they were very interested. So I guess a couple days after I began club.

Cosy: What came easiest and hardest for you?

West Hills volleyball
Jimmy Gekas/Sideline StudiosKacey Nady moved to San Diego to pursue her volleyball dreams.
Kacey: The easiest was connecting with the girls on my team. They were very welcoming and everyone was nice and friendly. The most difficult was adjusting to the speed of the game. At this level, the intensity is very high and it was a huge transition from only playing high school to now playing club. I had a hard time keeping up, whether it was transitioning off the net or timing the set just right. Many things were difficult for me, and I still have problems with some of them to this day!

Cosy: Who was the most influential person who believed in you and helped you get where you are?

Kacey: Definitely my mom because as soon as she knew I wanted to play club and follow my dream of playing college ball, she allowed me to move in a heartbeat. Many mothers would not do that for their child. Especially at the age of 16. We have a lot of trust in our relationship. She knew I could accomplish it if I set my mind to it, and I'm where I am now today because of her.

Cosy: Where did you live before moving to San Diego?

Kacey: I was born and raised in Yuma, Ariz.

Cosy: What were volleyball opportunities like in Yuma?

Kacey: Every high school had a volleyball team, but once the season was over for the high school, club was not offered in that town. So the opportunities to play were very slim.

Cosy: How did you choose San Diego?

Kacey:When I went to the U of A camp, coach David Rubio knew many people in San Diego, so there were many options. San Diego was the closest town that offered club, besides Phoenix. Also, I had a lot of family that lived in San Diego, including my grandparents, aunts and uncles. I moved up here and live with family friends.

Cosy: Is it hard to live on your own?

Kacey: Not seeing my mom every day is very difficult because she is the closest person to me in my life. She does come up to most of my tournaments, though. My entire life, I've been very independent, so living on my own wasn't too hard for me.

Cosy: What is your favorite thing about the game?

Kacey: I love that there is always room for improvement. We didn't start off the season too well, but with good coaching and the willingness to improve, we did. We practice so hard, then use all of our skill sets on the court that were learned in practice, and it is amazing to see the transformation.

Cosy: Where do you want to play for college? Already committed?

Kacey:My goal is anywhere in California that is Pac-12 -- Stanford, USC, UCLA or Cal. Right now, I'm staying in contact with the University of Oregon and I'm very interested in them, as well. But, no, I haven't committed quite yet.

Cosy: What advice do you have for those just starting the game?

Kacey: To anyone just beginning, I would say one of the most typical statements out there: "With dedication and perseverance, you can do anything you set your mind to." And especially, be patient! Whether it's with colleges or improving your game, things will come with time.

Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog – on rookie sensation Ashten Gooden-Smith – here.

OVA Asics, Chicago Fusion claim crowns

June, 28, 2012
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OVA 17 Asics of Orlando, Fla., and Fusion 16 Black of Chicago won the final two championships at the 2012 ESPNHS Girls Showcase at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

In the 17U Open final of the AAU Junior Girls National Volleyball Championships, OVA defeated the Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold 2-0. Click here to watch a replay.

In the 16U Open final, the Fusion defeated the Milwaukee Sting 16 Gold 2-1. Click here to watch a replay.

More than 1,700 volleyball teams competed at the eight-day event.
By Walter Villa

Jud Buechler won three NBA titles as a member of the Chicago Bulls, but that’s not what makes him a great dad.

Buechler, 43, retired in 2002, and his main activity for the past decade has been raising his daughters, Reily, 16, and Brynn, 14, and coaching them in club volleyball.

Buechler family
Courtesy of the BuechlerAfter a 12-year NBA career, Jud Buechler became a volleyball coach to his daughters Reily (left) and Brynn.
And it’s that quality time spent with Reily and Brynn that the girls truly appreciate.

“Whenever I have an issue with school or just regular life, he is super understanding,” Reily said. “He puts the problem into the perspective of his own life. He’ll say: ‘Look at me, I turned out OK, and I went through the same things.’ ”

Reily, a 6-1 outside hitter, will start her junior year at Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.) this fall. She is a highly recruited star with offers from Stanford, UCLA and Southern Cal.

She said she wants to stay on the West Coast for college but hasn’t decided where. She can certainly turn to her dad for recruiting advice because Buechler was a standout athlete in high school who went on to play for Arizona.

From there, he was a second-round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics (1990) and went on to play for seven NBA teams. He only averaged 3.3 points in his career, but the 6-6 guard/forward stuck for 12 years in the NBA.

Soon after retirement, Buechler started coaching Reily with the Waves club team. She was 9 at the time, and as she has moved up in the age categories, Buechler has served as an assistant coach with each of those Waves teams.

Blazing her own trail

Brynn, a 5-7 setter who will be a freshman at Torrey Pines this fall, has not worked with her dad nearly as much as Reily.

“My dad is the best dad ever,” Brynn said. “I love him so much. I would never ask for another dad. He handles everything perfectly.”

One of the things he “handled” was when Brynn told him recently that she would rather someone else serve as her coach on the Waves.

“He has been coaching Reily a long time and taken her a long way,” Brynn said. “She’s really good.

“He’s been coaching me for three years, but I’m my own person. I told him that I want to play like I want to play. My sister can take direction and do it exactly like he wants. For me, it takes a little longer.”

Brynn acknowledged that she feels pressure to be as good as her sister. But, Brynn said, that just makes her want to push herself harder to “get respect.”

The family adjusts

Things at home haven’t always gone perfectly, either. Buechler’s marriage to the girls’ mother, Lindsey, broke up about six months ago, and they now share custody.

“He has handled the divorce thing really well with us three as a family,” Brynn said. “He understands how we feel. We can communicate with each other really well.”

Reily said that a positive that emerged from the situation was that she bonded more with her mother when she spent time at her house. And Brynn bonded more with her dad when she spent a couple of weeks living with him. Previously, the stronger connections were Reily with her dad and Brynn with her mother.

“It was good for us,” Reily said. “Our lives changed so much. Everything that I saw as true and real has changed. It was a good eye-opener.

“But we are still doing well in school, and we all get to see each other a lot.”

United by sports

Buechler and his daughters enjoy surfing and watching NBA games on television together.

And, of course, there’s always volleyball. At club practices, Buechler, who was a high school volleyball star himself, will often get in there and show his skills.

In the car rides home, volleyball is usually a main topic.

In May, Reily returned from taking eight months off to rest her shoulder.

“When Reily was a freshman and made varsity, she took a lot of swings for a 14-year-old,” Buechler said. “She had soreness in her shoulder, and we rested her. But the time off was good.”

Reily will compete in the Girls’ Junior National Championships, also known as the Junior Olympics, set for June 28-July 7 in Columbus, Ohio.

Reily’s club teams twice earned bronze medals at the event but have yet to win a national title.

This year’s team, 17Jeanne, named after head coach Jeanne Reeves, is stocked with Division I recruits.

Buechler calls Maddy Kerr (Cal recruit), Ryann Chandler (Pepperdine) and Reily “the three original gangsters” because they have played together for the past seven years. Maddy is the daughter of ex-NBA player Steve Kerr, and Ryann’s father, Chris Chandler, was an NFL quarterback.

“I look at all these girls like my daughters,” Buechler said. “It’s been incredible to see them grow from little girls to young women.”
By Kirstin Olsen

MORE FROM LONE STAR CLASSIC: Photo gallery

The 25th annual Lone Star Classic National Qualifier hosted 1,400 of some of the best teams in the nation this past weekend. The majority were Texas teams competing for bragging rights in their state and a bid to the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships in June and July.

In the 18 Open division, Skyline 18 RSB Royal took down Austin Juniors 18 Mizuno 25-23, 25-21. The two all-star teams boasted some of the cream of the crop in Texas, including ESPNHS All Americans Amy Neal, Katy Beals and Molly McCage for Austin Juniors and Andie Malloy of Skyline Dallas.

In the 17 Open division, TAV 17 Blue cruised to the gold bracket title with a 25-11, 25-20 win over Kuikahi 17 Wahine. TAV boasts second-team ESPNHS All-American Ebony Nwanebu.

In the 16 Open division, Houston Juniors 26 Elite took down Skyline 16 RSB Black in the gold bracket final, 25-20, 25-27, 15-12. Houston Juniors boasts LSU commit Mylan Eugene.

Inky Ajanaku, 2012, Club One 18 Black

Her Club One team plays in the National division, but this Stanford commit and Bishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.) senior stands out. The true middle plays outside hitter for her club team and hits high and hard over the block. It is easy to see why she was the Gatorade State Player of the year in Oklahoma and was named to the ESPNHS All-American first team.

Molly McCage, 2012, Austin Juniors 18 Mizuno

McCage is a woman among girls on the court. The Texas commit and Klein Collins (Spring, Texas) senior has an impressive vertical and is versatile in the middle with her attack in front or behind the setter. She has a great stature and will be an asset for Longhorns coach Jerritt Elliott next year.

Chloe Collins, 2013, Houston Juniors 17 Elite

She's only 5-8, but Collins plays much bigger than that. The lefty Texas commit runs a 6-2 offense setting and hitting for her team. The senior at Cypress Woods (Cypress, Texas) is a great athlete and has an explosive vertical leap.

Tayler Higgins, 2013, Kuikahi 17 Wahine

This 5-8 junior setter and Hawaii commit helped run the show for the Wahine. Higgins is the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Hawaii and a key member of state championship team at Punahou (Honolulu). Her team played great defense and she continued to feed her hitters and spread the ball around to get them optimal opportunities to score.

Haleigh Nelson, 2013, Triangle 17 Black

The 6-4 middle blocker was solid in the front row all weekend and helped her team to a fourth-place finish. The junior at Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.) has not committed to a school, but with her height and skill she'll be a great addition to any Division I program.

Sarah Sponcil
Bob Booth for ESPNHSSarah Sponcil of Spiral jump sets at the Lone Star Classic.
Ebony Nwanebu, 2013, TAV 17 Black

This 6-foot-4 USC commit is coming into her own after helping her team win the 17 Open division. Her stature and size are a college coach’s dream, and now she is taking advantage of those assets. She would absolutely punish the opposing team's outside hitters with her solid block, and she led her team in points as well. Under the tutelage of TAV coach Ping Cao, Nwanebu, a junior at Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), will surely improve even more before she goes to USC.

Elizabeth Shurbet, 2013, Alamo 17 Keapa Premier

This fiery little setter is fun to watch. She is a great athlete and hustles for every ball. The Kansas State commit sets consistently and will be an asset to the Wildcats in 2013.

Sarah Sponcil, 2014, Spiral 16 Black

The 5-foot-10 setter is wise beyond her years. She is the best athlete on her team and is an excellent competitor. Her volleyball IQ is high for her age, and she fights for every ball. The Veritas Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) sophomore is getting a lot of looks from college coaches and will be an excellent player at the next level.

Ashlie Reasor, 2014, Alamo 16 Kaepa Premier

This solid lefty opposite is a major contributor for her team’s offense. Her 6-1 frame and whip of an arm has caught college coaches' eyes. The sophomore at Ronald Reagan (San Antonio, Texas) helped lead her Alamo team to a sixth-place finish.

Abby Detering, 2014, Academy Cleveland 16 N Harvey

The 6-1 lefty from Lake Catholic (Mentor, Ohio) is a great asset for her team with great hands and an explosive attack. Only a sophomore, the News Herald Player of the Year has a bright future with interest from Ohio State, Illinois, Alabama, Iowa and FSU.

Big stars at Big South

April, 2, 2012
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By Kirstin Olsen

Big South Girls' Junior National Qualifier photos: Gallery 1 | Gallery 2

There was plenty of star power this past weekend in Atlanta when almost 1,200 teams from all over the nation competed at the Big South Girls' Junior National Qualifier at the Georgia World Congress Center trying to earn bids to the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio at the end of June.

Top clubs such as Triangle of North Carolina, Front Range Volleyball Club of Colorado and Orlando VB Academy of Florida featured high-level talent on all of their squads.

In the 16 Open final, A5 Mizuno 16-1 beat the young team of Front Range 16 Blue 25-14, 25-14.

In the 17 Open final, OVA 17 Asics topped Mizuno Northern lights 17-1 25-22, 16-25, 15-13.

And Tampa Bay Juniors 18 Black beat Orange County VBC 18 NIKE 25-17, 25-18 with the help of Miss Volleyball USA Jordan Burgess.

Here are 10 standouts with graduation year and club team:

Jordyn Poulter
Brian Gibson PhotographyJordyn Poulter of Front Range 16 Blue has a more polished skill set than you normally see in freshmen.
Jordyn Poulter, 2015, Front Range 16 Blue: This dynamic young lady had college coaches lining almost all of her Front Range 16 Blue team’s matches. She has a nice high delivery and can set behind at ease, advanced traits for a freshman. She put up a solid block and has great size. The Eaglecrest (Centennial, Colo.) star will be a treat for any top-10 program.

Jordan Burgess, 2012, Tampa Bay Juniors 18-1: You can’t walk into the gym and not notice Burgess. She is a dynamic weapon in the front row, moving the ball around, crushing angles and lines. She plays defense like a ninja and is equally dangerous with her back-row attack. The Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) senior will be an asset for Stanford and will definitely get playing time her freshman year. Her accolades for ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA and Gatorade National Player of the Year were very deserving.

Sidney Brown, 2014, Tampa Bay Juniors 18-1: This powerful outside hitter was an impressive balance to Burgess. In her first year of competitive club volleyball, she is definitely getting the attention of college coaches. The Berkeley Prep sophomore hits a very heavy ball and will continue to grow as a player under the coaching of Randy Dagostino.

Rebekah Roe, 2012, HPSTL 18 Navy: This fiery libero was a treat to watch scramble everywhere. She repeatedly dug ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA Jordan Burgess on a variety of sharp, hard angles with ease. The Marquette (Chesterfield, Mo.) senior moves around the court quickly and does a good job reading hitters' arms frustrating them when she continues to dig their hardest hits.

Madison Bugg, 2012, Triangle 18 Black: Bugg, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.), is a smart setter who knows how to use her weapons. The ESPNHS All-American does a great job running her offense and moving the ball around. Stanford will be lucky to have such a talent next year.

Christina Vucich, 2012, Triangle 18 Black: The 6-4 lefty opposite is multi-talented on the right with her setting skills. Triangle 18 Black has a lethal attack utilizing Vucich and Madison Bugg on the right. Vucich, a senior at Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) is quick on her feet and will definitely be a great contribution to Duke as she matures as a college player.

Kylie Randall, 2013, Asics Willowbrook 17-1: The 6-3 outside is solid on the right. The Magnolia (Texas) junior puts up a nice block and can hammer on the angle. She will be an asset for Ohio State in 2013.

Kali Funk, 2013, Top Select 17-1: The 5-11 fiery setter has great hands and location. The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) junior had several college coaches surrounding her court watching her and her Top Select 17 team battle on Day 2 of the Big South.

Carolyn Bockrath, 2014, Orange County 17-1: The 6-2 middle blocker is solid in the middle. She led her team to the final against Tampa Bay Juniors in the 18 open division. The Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) sophomore has yet to commit but will be an addition to any Division I team.

Kathryn Hutson, 2014, Alliance 16 Mizuno: The solid 6-3 outside hitter plays big at the net. She is the sister of University of Texas Longhorn 6-6 middle blocker Madelyn Hutson. The Ravenwood (Brentwood, Tenn.) sophomore has a heavy arm and has good size for an opposite.
By Kirstin Olsen

SCVA JUNIOR NATIONAL QUALIFIER PHOTOS: Gallery 1 | Gallery 2

The Southern California Volleyball Association's Junior National Qualifier was loaded with West Coast talent from up and down the Pacific Coastline. Here are 10 players who excelled this past weekend:

Joslyn Hayes, Sunshine Westside 18-1: This 6-foot-5 middle can shut down the net with her blocking and move the ball around in the middle. She is an uncommitted junior, and coaches are lining up to sign her after she made the switch to play for Sunshine 18-1s this year hoping to get more exposure.

Kiara Wright, AVA TX 18 Team Rox: This 6-1 outside hitter is the go-to on her AVA Texas team. She crushes on the outside and can terminate on the right as well. The USC commit is a fireplug for her team.

Kiara Wright
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSKiara Wright goes up for the kill.
Alexa Strange, Coast 18-1 Ozhan: The 5-11 setter, who is headed to Nebraska, is an athletic lefty who can hammer on the right and set the rock from anywhere on the court.

Hayley Hodson, Tstreet 17-Troy: This 6-2 outside is one of the best in her freshman class. She hits a variety of angles on the outside and has already shown some impressive court vision in her first year in high school.

Elise Ruddins, Laguna Beach 18 MS: This 6-4 outside hitter can continuously bring the heat on the left. The USC commit helped lead her Laguna Beach 18 MS team to a fifth-place finish this past weekend.

Brittany Abercrombie, Coast 16-1 JJ: This 6-3 lefty opposite was a finalist for ESPNHS sophomore of the year. She has a wicked snap and can terminate a variety of angles on the left that are hard to defend. She has already gotten a lot of college interest but isn’t jumping the gun and committing anywhere soon.

Emma Fuzie, Vision Gold 16-1: This 6-1 middle blocker helped her Vision 16-1 team to a third-place finish in the 16s open division. Fuzie was aggressive at the net and shellacked some overpasses to pump up her team and make the opposing team pay.

Sherridan Atkinson, TCA HB 16-Black: This 6-7 middle blocker will be a force to be reckoned with. She moves well and will be a great asset to any Division I program. She should grow into her frame nicely under the coaching system of Neil Mason.

Sarah Hughes, Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar: The 5-11 setter/right side is a spark plug for her Rockstar team. She sets and passes and hits on the right and is an unbelievably well-rounded player. Hughes is a fun player to watch and she plans to play sand volleyball at USC next year.

Alexandra Espinosa, City Beach Black 16-1: The 5-11 sophomore outside hitter was everywhere on the court and helped lead her team to a second-place finish in the 16s division over a very talented Coast 16-1 team.
By Cosy Burnett

Cosy Burnett is a junior outside and opposite hitter at La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) who also plays for Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego, Calif. Her high school team competed in the state finals for Division II last season and she has competed at nationals five times with her club teams. In the latest installment of her blog, she shares her tips on how to make the most of your time on the bench.

La Costa Canyon volleyball
Cosy Burnett
My first three years of playing club were spent on the bench. I once asked a high school coach whom I respected if it was better to play for a great team and sit on the bench or play for a lesser team and get the playing time. He thought for a while and said he was asked that question a lot. His answer was “Be the best player on the best team.” OK, thanks. I think.

No doubt it’s a very frustrating time. I learned a lot from my time on the bench and I want to share some hope to all you who may find yourselves warming the sidelines.

1. Remember, you are part of the team
You can contribute to your team’s success from the sidelines, and every award and victory the team achieves is also 100 percent yours. You work just as hard as everyone else and maybe even a little harder. Those reps you contribute at practice help make the team better as a whole.

2. Let recruiters know your situation
Before a big tournament, call the schools you are interested in and let them know to come and watch you during warm-ups. This may sound funny, but I did this and was surprised how many showed up. The warm-ups are your shot, so play hard.

3. Stand up and cheer
There is no need to sit on the sidelines with a long face. Go with it ... have fun! Teams feed off each other’s energy, and this is something you can do. If there is a big point, go crazy. Your teammates will feel your support and they will know you have their backs.

4. Communicate with your coach
Talk to your coach privately and make goals and benchmarks to earn more playing time. Find out how playing time is determined and make it clear that you are hungry. Then follow up with your coach to keep him or her honest. Your coach really does want you to play and to reach your potential – that’s why you are on the team.

5. Be positive
I can’t stress this enough. Just as you can be an asset to a team as a bencher, you can also be destructive. Do not talk badly about the coaches to other teammates. If your parents are supportive, great. If they overreact, be careful; it’s hard on them, too. It’s helpful to have a friend to vent to who knows nothing about volleyball. During the season, stay committed and positive to your team. When the season is over, it’s time to evaluate your goals. Be honest with yourself and move forward. If it’s club, you can always make a change. If it’s school, use club opportunities to improve for next season.

Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog – how to stage a comeback – here.
By Walter Villa

Minnesota volleyballCourtesy of Mary DimkeLydia Dimke, a 6-foot-2 sophomore at Blaine (Minn.), hopes to play setter in college.


Lydia Dimke -- and other players like her -- may be the future of girls’ volleyball.

Traditionally, tall girls such as the 6-foot-2 Dimke would be made into middle blockers as early as middle school.

Minnesota volleyball
Courtesy of Mary DimkeLydia Dimke spends three front-row rotations as a hitter and three back-row rotations setting for her high school team.
But Dimke, a sophomore at Blaine (Minn.), has a different dream.

“I want to be a setter in college,” Dimke said.

And the dream is very realistic because of the evolution of the sport. Tall players with good hands are now being trained as setters from an early age. What they may lack in quickness compared to a smaller player, they make up for in longer strides and the ability to cover more territory.

At the moment, Dimke is a part-time setter. She spends three front-row rotations as a hitter and three back-row rotations setting.

“I enjoy doing both -- it’s a great opportunity,” Dimke said. “I wouldn’t mind doing both in college. But if I had my preference, I’d like to be a setter.”

Walt Weaver, who coached Dimke to a national title with the Northern Lights 15s club team last season, said major colleges are lining up to earn her commitment.

Dimke, who wants to study medicine, said it’s too early for her to settle on a college. For now, her focus is on repeating as a national champion, this time with the Northern Lights 16s team.

A growing trend

Of the four full-time setters who made first-, second- and third-team All-America last season in NCAA Division I, none is taller than 6-0.

The list includes 5-11 Kendall Bateman of Southern Cal and 6-0 Alison Landwehr of Iowa State on the first team, 5-8 Bre Payton of Northern Iowa (second team) and 5-9 Brianne Barker of Oklahoma (third team). There is also 6-2 Kelly Murphy of Florida, who made the first team as a setter/hitter.

Compare those heights to the setters and setters/hitters who made the 2011 ESPNHS All-America first team, and you can see that size is trending up. The ESPNHS team featured 6-2 Andie Malloy of Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), 6-2 Megan Courtney of Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio), 6-1 Katy Beals of Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), 6-1 Madison Bugg of Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.) and 5-10 Katie George of Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

If you are counting, the top five college setters or setters/hitters are a combined 10 inches shorter than their five prep counterparts.

Logan Barber, who coached Bugg in high school, is convinced his former star will be a setter at Stanford. It’s the position where she can reach her full potential, Barber said.

Barber also said he thought the trend of taller setters began a few years ago.

“It started in college and has trickled down to high school and club,” he said. “Teams want to have more consistency on offense by using just one setter instead of having to change setters when she rotates to the front row.

“If you have a taller setter, she can stay in and be an effective blocker on the front row.”

Barber said 6-0 is the “benchmark” top college programs are looking for in terms of height for a setter.

“But if you are 5-10 or 5-11 and can jump, they won’t have a problem,” he said. “Colleges have to be wary about taking a tall player and trying to convert her to a setter. That’s hard to make happen late in the game.

“The primary thing is that she’s a good setter. If she’s an accomplished setter and happens to be taller, that gives her a bonus. Her phone will be ringing quickly (from college recruiters) in that case.”

The ideal setter

Cookie Stevens, an assistant coach who helped the Southern Cal Trojans make the 2011 Final Four; said the ideal setter is 6-0 or taller and left-handed. She also has to be quick, especially if you don’t have a precise passing team and she has to chase passes frequently.

“The advantage of having a tall setter and preferably left-handed is that they can hit the second ball over, and the blockers have to see if she is going to hit or if she is going to set,” Stevens said. “The blockers have to decide if they go up with her or with the hitter.”

Ryan Mitchell, who coached Malloy at Lovejoy, said coaches are getting smarter in how they are selecting players.

“It used to be that your smaller, athletic kid was your setter,” he said. “But now we’re taking big kids with athletic ability and training them to set.

“It’s just the evolution of the game when outside hitters in college are touching 10-4 or 10-6. If you have a 5-9 setter, you are going to lose that battle. So you have two options: Run a 6-2 with a setter in the back or get bigger setters.”
By Kirstin Olsen

Shane PetersSaeed Rahbaran/ESPNHSLibrero Shane Peters (in red) helped TAV 17 Black (Ft. Worth, Texas) upset top-seeded Tstreet 17-Troy (Irvin, Calif.) in the 17 Open division final.
The 26th annual Las Vegas Classic, one of the top volleyball recruiting tournaments of the season, took place Feb. 18-20 in Las Vegas. The three-day event featured a record 556 teams divided into 18-Open, 18-Club, 17-Open and 17-Club divisions. ESPNHS breaks down the winners in each division.

17-Open Division
Third-seeded TAV 17 Black (Ft. Worth, Texas) didn't drop a set all weekend, culminating in a win in the 17-open division final over top-seeded Tstreet 17-Troy (Irvin, Calif.) on Monday. TAV beat 17-Troy 26-24, 25-14, behind terrific play by junior middle blocker and Cal commit Chiaka Ogbogu.

17-Club Division
The 17-club division included 140 teams, and seventh-seeded TCA Houston (Houston, Texas) took down No. 1 seed OVA 17 Molten (Orlando, Fla.) 25-21, 22-25, 18-16 in the final.

18s Open Division
Vision Gold 18-1 (Los Gatos, Calif.) and its plethora of talent, including Stanford commit Brittany Howard and Duke commit and Gatorade California Player of the Year Emily Sklar, were able to withstand playing 11 matches in three days. Vision beat Club Red 18 Jason (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in a barnburner of an 18 Open final 22-25, 35-33, 15-8.

“It was a great tournament for us," said Vision coach Jason Mansfield. "Our goal was to get better each match and each day, knowing the competition would get better [each round] as well. I think we did that.

“Club Red is way more than one player, so if you focus on one hitter, someone else will burn you," said Mansfield. "We focused on reading the situation and being ready for anything that was coming at us. “

18-Club Division
The largest division of the tournament included 200 teams. No. 2 seed TAV 18 Blue (Ft. Worth, Texas) eliminated intra-state rival and No. 1 seed AJV 18 Cedar Park (Austin, Texas) in the gold bracket semi-finals, then topped No. 4 seed Asics Rainbow 18s (Honolulu, Hawaii) 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 in the title game.
By Kirstin Olsen

Alyssa JensenSaeed Rahbaran for ESPNHSAlyssa Jensen (10), a 5-10 setter for HPSTL 18 Gold, starred during Day 2 of the Las Vegas Classic.
The 26th Annual Las Vegas Classic, one of the major volleyball recruiting tournaments of the season, featured some of the best 17s and 18s players in the nation. Here are athletes who caught our eye with their standout performances during the three-day event.

Jasmine Burton | Junior | Sunshine 18-Westside
The 5-foot-11 opposite hitter was lighting balls up on the right side all weekend. She hit a few so straight down the line that a couple of spectators let out yelps. The left backs she faced on defense looked like they wanted to put on helmets. Burton has not yet made a college commitment, but should have a plethora of options after this tournament.

Carley Dehoog | Junior | Club West 18 National
The 6-4 left-handed opposite from Ontario Christian (Ontario, Calif.) has committed to Washington. Although her team lost to Rancho Valley 18 Premier and Surf City Adam, her offense on the right was impressive and powerful.

Amy Neal | Senior | Austin Juniors 18 Mizuno
This 5-10 spark plug is a joy to watch. She plays bigger than her size, providing power in the front row and finesse passing. The Texas Gatorade Player of the Year was a key ingredient for Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), which the Class 4A state title and finished No. 2 in the final 2011 POWERADE Fab 50.

Katherine Workman | Senior | Sports Shack 18 Asics
The 5-11 outside hitter was a big reason why Sports Shack won the gold medal at last year's Classic. A Boston College commit with amazing court vision, Workman, a senior, has flown relatively under the radar during her career despite posting an impressive 1,700 kills during her high school career.

Taylor Racich | Senior | Santa Barbara 18-1s
This 6-1 left opposite is the core of her team, and her positive energy radiates through every play. Racich, who has committed to Pepperdine, has a whip of an arm and a great snap.

Brittany Howard | Senior | Vision Gold 18-1
Howard has almost single-handedly taken over matches for her high school team, Mountain View (Mountain View, Calif.). The 6-3 outside hitter dominates the front row but also takes care of business passing and playing defense in the back row as well. She gets low and takes care of the ball like a libero.

Alyssa Jensen | Junior | HPSTL 18 Gold
The Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year, Jensen is a treat to watch. One of only two juniors on her club team, the Cal commit is an elite athlete with a great attitude and should be a leader once again for her St. Joseph’s Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) team next season.

Sarah Benjamin | Sophomore | Coast 16-1 JJ
The 5-7 libero’s 16s team moved up to play in the 17 Open division in Vegas. Benjamin, whose sister Hannah plays at Stanford, has a huge upside. Given more high-level experience like this she will get more looks from college coaches.

Cassie Strickland | Senior | Tstreet 18 Joaquin
Strickland is a tenacious defender and a terrific all-around player. She was the go-to star on her Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) team. The 5-8 libero and Washington commit and has a fierce jump serve, plays hard and is not shy about screaming for the ball.

Laura Leap | Sophomore | Shorts Shack 18-1
This 6-5 middle blocker was the talk of the tournament. Leap, an uncommitted sophomore, appears to be in no hurry to make any decisions and is busy finding her own place on the talented defending champion team.
By Kirstin Olsen

Mizuno Long BeachSaeed Rahbaran for ESPNHSTstreet Troy (Irvine, Calif.) went undefeated in pool play at the Las Vegas Classic behind the strong play of Tia Scambray, Bailey Tanner and ESPNHS Sophomore of the Year Crissy Jones.
The 26th Annual Las Vegas Classic, one of the top volleyball recruiting tournaments of the season, kicked off on Saturday in Las Vegas. The three-day event features a record 556 teams (316 in the 18s division and 240 in the 17s) drawn from all over North America. Teams are divided into 18-Open, 18-Club, 17-Open and 17-Club divisions.

Following pool play on Saturday, ESPNHS weighed in on which teams from each Open division brought their A-games.

17 Open Division

Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar
Southern California-based Mizuno Long Beach (Calif.) Rockstar took care of business in pool play on Saturday, dropping only a set to a Main Beach Gold 17-1. Junior setter Sara Hughes recently verbally commited to USC to play sand volley but plans to keep playing indoor volleyball in high school for Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and with Rockstar to keep her options open. Sophomore Frankie Shebby was also a force on the outside.

Tstreet 17 Troy
Tstreet Troy (Irvine, Calif.) went undefeated in pool play behind the strong play of ESPNHS Sophomore of the Year Crissy Jones, sophomore Tia Scambray and standout freshman Hayley Hodson. It will face Southland rival Mizuno Long Beach 17 Rockstar on Sunday.

Mizuno M1
M1 171 (Bloomington, Minn.) won all three of its matches in pool on Saturday, going three full sets with only with LAVA 17 Beau. Minnesota commit Taylr McNeil was a contributor on the outside, while Akron commits Brenna and Callie Mack ran the defense. M1 will face Sports Shack 17-1 (Beverly Hills, Calif.) on Sunday.

OVA 17 Asics
OVA 17 Asics (Orlando, Fla.) went 3-0 on Saturday thanks to some strong play by setter Hailey Luke, a Florida State commit, as well as middle blockers Christina Markowski and Alexandra Monserez. 17 Asics will next face a talented WVBA Mizuno 17 (Seattle, Wash.).

TAV 17 Black
With her impressive 10-foot-5 reach, middle blocker Chiaka Gbogu keyed TAV 17 Black (Ft. Worth, Texas)'s undefeated run through pool play. The Cal commit and 17 Black will face Central Cal Gold 17-1 (Fresno, Calif.) on Sunday.

18 Open Division

Coast Volleyball Club 18 Ozhan
Pinpoint accuracy from setter Alexis Strange allowed Coast 18-1 Ozhan (San Diego, Calif.) to breeze through the first round. Strange, who has verbally committed to Nebraska, bested Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year Alyssa Jensen and Mizuno HPSTL 18 Gold (St. Louis, Mo.).

City Beach Blk 18-1
City Beach (Palo Alto, Calif.) won its pool with but was pushed by Legacy 18 Elite (Santa Clarita, Calif.). City beach boasts the majority of 2011 POWERADE Fab 50 No. 9 Palo Alto’s CIF Division 1 State Championship team. Washington commit and ESPNHS All-American Melanie Wade was a force on the outside.

T Street Joaquin
T Street 18 Joaquin (Irvine, Calif.) looked strong in pool play, despite losing a match to Synergy 18 Orange 25-18, 25-19. Washington commit Cassie Strickland and North Carolina commit JoJo Schnabl were key contributors.

Austin Juniors Mizuno
Austin Juniors 18 Mizuno (Austin, Texas) has an entire roster of signed seniors. Texas Gatorade Player of the Year Amy Neal’s jumping ability coupled with her powerful swings made her a force to be reckoned with on the outside. Austin went undefeated in pool play, beating top contender Imi Ike.

Imi Ike 18s
This Imi Ike team (Waipahu, Hawaii) has some bigtime hitters. Junior Hannah Rooks put up a massive wall on the right side, Hawaii commit Nikki Taylor came up with some big kills and New Mexico commit Ashley Kelsey served tough to help Imi Ike secure the No. 2 seed in its pool.

Taylor Williams also contributed to this report. Kirstin Olsen is live-tweeting the Vegas Classic. Follow her at @KirstinESPNHS.


By Walter Villa

When Dakota Hampton and her father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, get together they don’t usually play sports. They make music.

“I play piano, and my dad plays the saxophone, guitar and the drums,” said Dakota. “We play ‘70s and ‘80s songs (from bands) like The Who, Aerosmith and Three Dog Night.”

Dakota Hampton
Ashley Gawdowski/ESPNHSHampton (16) was named first-team All-Conference for Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.) last season after recording 364 kills and 250 digs.
When she’s not playing “Pinball Wizard,” Hampton is usually playing volleyball for her high school, Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.), or her club team, Sports Performance 17-Mizuno.

A 6-foot junior, Hampton made first-team All-Conference for Sandburg last season after recording 364 kills and 250 digs. Sandburg finished the season 32-7, losing in the sectionals to eventual state finalist Marist, a team it had defeated during the regular season.

Hampton is the type of all-around athlete -- she also plays golf and tennis for Sandberg –- plenty of colleges are seeking. But her father said she is still “apprehensive” about the recruiting process.

“I tell her to work hard, but I also tell her to have patience,” he said. “My physical maturation didn’t come until age 19, 20, 21.

“She’s a terrific player right now. She has a great build for an athlete, and she has been the glue on every team she’s ever been on. But she’s going to be even better in two or three years.”

Hampton, who lives with her mother, Julie Craig, said this club season will be key for her career as she strives to earn scholarship offers. Her dream school is Arizona State, which is located near where her grandparents live in Phoenix.

“If I go to school there, my mom would move out that way,” said Hampton, who has a 3.0 grade-point average and is also interested in Central Florida, New Mexico, Florida Atlantic and her father’s alma mater, Arkansas.

Dan Hampton, who won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1986 and played in four Pro Bowls, said his daughter inherited his competitive zeal –- among other things.

Dakota Hampton
Courtesy of the Hampton family/ESPNHSDakota Hampton shares a love of sports and music with her dad, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton.
Hampton relates what he swears is a true story about his daughter while she was vacationing in Hawaii four years ago. She was alone on a beach, practicing volleyball, when former Bears center Jay Hilgenberg spotted her.

“You look like you could be Dan Hampton’s daughter,” said Hilgenberg, who was shocked to find that she actually was his ex-teammate’s child.

Hampton has never shied away from her father’s legacy. She sports the same No. 99 her dad wore while making a name for himself with the Bears whenever the jersey has been available on one of her teams. (She wears No. 16 for the Eagles because there is no No. 99 uniform available.) “I think there is some pressure being his daughter,” she said. “But it’s a good pressure. It pushes me to be better than the average player.”

Dan Hampton attends most of his daughter's home matches and said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Dakota -- and not just because she’s a good athlete. In fact, he has urged her to have varied interests, including, of course, music.

“She’s so busy right now with school and volleyball,” he said. “But as she gets older, she’ll learn that music is a friend who’s always there.”
By Cosy Burnett

Cosy Burnett is a junior outside and opposite hitter at La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) who also plays for Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego, Calif. Her high school team competed in the state finals for Division II last season and she has competed at nationals five times with her club teams. In the latest installment of her blog, she shares her tips for snacking smart on game day.

La Costa Canyon volleyball
Cosy Burnett

It’s tournament day, which means you will get up at about 5:30 a.m., caravan to your mega volleyball industrial center, walk around wrapped in your polar fleece blanket in the early cold and navigate your way through a bunch of fired-up moms holding Starbucks cups to find your makeshift campsite for the day. The big question is what to eat all day so that you'll perform at your peak level. It's going to be a long day, and volleyball players eat A LOT. So here are my food ideas for the big day:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Water is the best possible drink, and it’s great to start hydrating one or two days before your tournament. Start by doubling your normal water intake; your body will need that extra liquid come game day. Some athletes love sports drinks or electrolyte powders; just make sure you take in whatever you'll need to stay hydrated. Always have a full, clean bottle nearby -- and drink, drink, drink!

Start with a healthy breakfast
My favorite thing to eat when I first arrive at the tournament site is a carton of greek yogurt mixed with blueberries and a little granola crisp. I like to eat protein and good carbs to keep my sugar level even. I try to eat something that is light and easy to digest. You don’t want to feel it on the court.

Build a great sandwich
After my team's first match, I start to “build” my sandwich. I start with hearty whole-grain bread (my fired-up mom actually makes it) a good seeded mustard, sliced turkey, cogswald cheese, jicama slices, sliced tomatoes, shaved carrots and a whole pile of fresh spinach. The sandwich is so huge and crunchy and sweet. I cut it in quarters and eat it throughout the day.

Avoid the sugar lows
Pass on the cookies, donuts and mini brownie muffins. Try not to eat anything high in sugar, which will cause spikes and lows. Mix your high sugar fruits with fats and protein.

Recovery Drink
During my freshman year, I went on a recruiting trip to a top volleyball program and the team's trainer told me that after significant research, she discovered that chocolate milk was the best recovery drink. It has the right amount of fat, protein and carbs. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it sounded good to me! So, since then, chocolate milk has been my favorite drink at the end of a long day.

Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog -- about her favorite “pregame pump-ups” -- here.

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