High-SchoolVolleyball: Jordan Burgess

Big stars at Big South

April, 2, 2012
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 Walter Villa

ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USADavid VillegasJordan Burgess credits a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her senior season that ended with a state title, a Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy and being named ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA.
POSTSEASON AWARDS: Gatorade National Player of the Year | Junior of the Year | Sophomore of the Year | Freshman of the Year | Coach of the Year | ESPNHS All-America Team | Gatorade State Players of the Year

Ask Jordan Burgess for her favorite hangout place, and you won’t hear the name of the local lunch spot, the corner Starbucks or any other typical high school response.

“I hang out in our gym,” said Burgess, a 6-foot outside hitter for Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.). “I’m there more than anywhere else.”

Mackenzie Dagostino, a fellow senior at Berkeley Prep and Burgess’ setter the past four years, said she can vouch for her friend’s dedication.

Dagostino, a Maryland recruit and the daughter of Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino, said Burgess is the first player at the gym each day and almost has to be dragged off the court at the end of the night.

“She’s different than any other player I’ve played with,” Mackenzie Dagostino said. “After practice, she begs my dad to keep the net up so she can hit a couple more serves or block a couple more balls.”

Burgess’ devotion to her sport is one reason why she has been named ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA. Burgess was also named the Gatorade National Player of the Year last week.

A Stanford recruit, Burgess set Berkeley Prep records this year for single-season and career kills. She also led her school to a third straight state title, a 30-2 record and a final No. 5 POWERADE FAB 50 national ranking.

“She’s the best passing outside hitter I’ve ever seen at this level,” said Randy Dagostino, whose team has not lost to another Florida school in more than two years. “She had a fabulous career.”

The coach said he has had players who get up for big games, but what sets Burgess apart is her consistency. No matter if it’s a practice, a scrimmage or a big match, you can always count on Burgess giving it her best.

The same goes for Burgess in the classroom.

A straight ‘A’ student, Burgess plans on studying medicine at Stanford. She also said she will purchase a “sick” bicycle to get around the massive campus in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Stanford era of Burgess’ life will also mark the first time she is apart from her twin brother, Nick, who will stay in Florida for college.

“He’s been by my side through the good and the bad, but I guess it had to happen eventually,” Burgess said of the twins taking different paths. “It’s going to be weird and a bit sad.”

Berkeley Prep fans will also be sad to see Burgess go. She led the Bucs to 59 straight wins against in-state competition and finished her career -- on match point in the state final -- with an ace.

But despite those dramatics, Burgess is rarely satisfied. She is still upset at her performance in the Asics Challenge final in Chicago, a two-set loss to No. 3 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

“Assumption, 100 times over,” Burgess said when asked about her regrets from this past season. “I want to play them again. I know I would do things differently.

“Their libero -- I don’t even know her name -- she dug me like no other. I was hitting cross court, and she dug ’em all. They scouted me perfectly.”

Burgess was referring to senior libero Chelsea Bowles, who held the Berkeley Prep star to zero kills in the first set. In the second set, Burgess made the adjustment and started hitting down the line, resulting in nine kills.

It wasn’t enough to rally her team to victory, but Burgess said it was a lesson she will take with her to Stanford.

“I learned I need to take more risks,” Burgess said. “Normally I hit cross court, and the ball finds the floor. But in college, I will have to hit different shots and go out of my comfort zone.

“I just need to keep working.”

For anyone who knows Burgess, it comes as no surprise that her solution to any volleyball problem is more time in the gym.

“That girl,” Mackenzie Dagostino said of Burgess, “lives for volleyball.”

Getting nostalgic, Dagostino added: “I know I will have other good volleyball connections in college, but I’ll never have (an on-court) bond like I’ve had with Jordan. That was a special one.”

Click here for a list of all-time winners of the ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA award.
By Mark Tennis

Here is the list of all-time winners of the ESPNHS Miss Volleyball USA award:

2011: Jordan Burgess, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) Sr.
2010: Krista Vansant, Redlands East Valley (Redlands, Calif.) Sr.
2009: Ashley Wittman, Shakopee (Shakopee, Minn.) Sr.
2008: Kristin Carpenter, Hanover (Mechanicsburg, Va.) Sr.
2007: Missy Harpenau, Mother of Mercy (Cincinnati) Sr.
2006: Alix Klineman, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) Sr.
2005: Foluke Akinradewo, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Calif.) Sr.
2004: Cynthia Barboza, Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.) Sr.
2003: Stesha Selsky, Marymount (Los Angeles) Sr.
2002: Kristin Richards, Timpanogos (Orem, Utah) Sr.
2001: Beth Haberli, Divine Savior Holy Angels (Milwaukee) Sr.
2000: Jennifer Sealeauma, Bonita Vista (Chula Vista, Calif.) Sr.
1999: April Ross, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) Sr.
1998: Logan Tom, Highland (Salt Lake City) Sr.
1997: Sara Sandrik, Pelham (Pelham, Ala.) Sr.
1996: Denise Boylan, Benet Academy (Chicago) Sr.
1995: Kerri Walsh, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) Sr.
1994: Misty May, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) Sr.
1993: Misty May, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) Jr.

Notes: All-time list derived from combination of previous Student Sports Magazine players of the year (1995-2002), Cal-Hi Sports State Players of the Year (1974-2011), Gatorade National Players of the Year (1995-2011) and additional research.
POSTSEASON AWARDS: Gatorade National Player of the Year | Junior of the Year | Sophomore of the Year | Freshman of the Year | Coach of the Year | ESPNHS All-America Team | Gatorade State Players of the Year

Jordan Burgess of Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) has been named the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.

The senior, who plans to play for Stanford next year, was honored in a ceremony attended by April Ross, who earned Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year honors in 1999-2000.

Click here for the full story.
ESPNHS All-AmericansCourtesy of LoneStarVolleyball.comOutside hitter Andie Malloy helped Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas) become the first team in Texas history to win four straight 3A state titles.
READ MORE: Madison Bugg practically perfect

Meet the players who have been selected to the 2011 ESPNHS All-America volleyball team.

First team

(With name, position, year, school and college destination)

Taylor Morey, L, senior, Muncie Burris (Ind.), Notre Dame
Although her FAB 50 No. 45 team had its run of consecutive state titles end at 14, the 5-foot-6 Morey put up better numbers across the board. From her junior year, she went up in kills (415 to 436), digs (233 to 424) and aces (59 to 105).

Inky Ajanaku, MB, senior, Bishop Kelley (Okla.), Stanford
There was nothing dinky about the accomplishments for the 6-foot-4 Inky in her career for the FAB 50 No. 49 Comets. She led the team (32-3) to three state titles in four years with a .634 kill percentage as a senior.

Molly McCage, MB, senior, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas), Texas
A 6-foot-3 player who was captain of the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team last summer, McCage also led her high school team to a 32-10 record. She had 260 kills and 107 blocks and is known for her leaping ability.

Megan McGehee, MB, senior, Lee's Summit West (Mo.), Stanford
She came into this season as a two-time all-state pick and was academic all-state three times. The 6-foot-3 blocker then did even more, leading her team to a runner-up finish in the Class 4 state playoffs with 393 kills, 80 blocks and 103 digs.

Melanie Wade, MB, senior, Palo Alto (Calif.), Washington
The 6-foot-5 Wade was a major reason the FAB 50 No. 9 Vikings (36-3) became the first school from Northern California to win back-to-back CIF Division I state titles. She had 27 kills in the final match against Marymount of Los Angeles and ended the season with 594 kills, 65 aces and 255 digs.

Jordan Burgess, OH, senior, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), Stanford
The Gatorade Florida Player of the Year for 2010 and 2011 also was the ESPNHS National Junior of the Year for 2010. Burgess, who is 6-foot-1 and multi-talented, led FAB 50 No. 5 Berkeley Prep (30-2) to its third straight state title. She had 553 kills, 366 digs, 48 aces and 32 blocks.

Nicole Dalton, OH, senior, Chaparral (Parker, Colo.), Texas
Considered the best player in Colorado history by many, Dalton is a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year and led Chaparral to two straight Class 5A state titles and a final No. 8 ranking in the FAB 50. The 6-foot-2 member of last summer’s U.S. Youth National Team finished with 492 kills, 406 assists and 267 digs.

Amy Neal, OH, senior, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), Texas
She isn’t the biggest outside hitter around at 5-foot-10, but makes up for that in many different ways. Neal led the FAB 50 No. 2 Cavaliers to a 50-0 record and has been chosen as the Texas Gatorade State Player of the Year. She had 538 kills, 287 digs and 63 aces on the season.

Kadie Rolfzen, OH, junior, Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), Nebraska
Last year’s top sophomore in the nation followed it up with another stellar season. At 6-foot-3, Rolfzen and twin sister Amber form the nucleus for Papillion-La Vista South’s teams that have gone 82-0 the last two seasons and have been FAB 50 national champions twice.

Emily Sklar, OH, senior, Presentation (San Jose, Calif.), Duke
She didn’t even start playing volleyball until she was a freshman three years ago and has quickly become one of the top players in the nation. The 6-foot-2 Sklar led the FAB 50 No. 14 Panthers (41-2) to the CIF Division II state title and had 584 kills and 487 digs for the season.

Katy Beals, S, senior, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), Washington
She joined with teammate Amy Neal to lead the Cavaliers to their 50-0 dream season. The 6-foot-1 Beals nearly had 1,000 assists with a final total of 970. She also had 153 kills, 228 digs and 31 aces.

Madison Bugg, S/OH, senior, Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.), Stanford
She’s one of those players who shined at a different position in high school than the one she’s going to play in college. The 6-foot-1 standout was an outside hitter for Cardinal Gibbons and led the Crusaders (22-3) to their third straight Class 3A state title. She’ll be a setter at Stanford and has been a setter for the U.S. Girls’ Youth Team.

Megan Courtney, S/OH, senior, Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio), Penn State
A versatile 6-foot-2 player who did it all for her Division II state finalist team, Courtney won the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year honor and has been all-state three times. For the season, she had 451 kills, 426 assists and 316 digs.

Katie George, S/OH, senior, Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), Louisville
Her credentials include the usual such as Miss Kentucky volleyball and Gatorade State Player of the Year, but the 5-foot-10 George also was MVP at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas and made the all-tournament team at the Asics Challenge (an MVP was not named) in Chicago. She led the FAB 50 No. 3 Rockets to a 43-1 record and a state championship.

Andie Malloy, S/OH, senior, Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), Iowa State
The 6-foot-2 Malloy helped her team become the first in Texas history to win four straight Class 3A state titles. She was a U.S. Junior National Team member last summer and ended the high school season with averages of 4.2 kills, 4.7 digs and 6.1 assists per set.

Second team

Caitlin Nolan, L, senior, Carroll (Southlake, Texas), Iowa State
Sheridan Zarda, L, senior, St. James Academy (Lenexa, Kan.), Nebraska
Sarah Burrington, MB, senior, Riverview (Fla.), Florida State
Meghan Haggerty, MB, senior, Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.), Wisconsin
Kierra Holst, MB, senior, Coppell (Texas), Oklahoma
Ebony Nwanebu, MB, junior, Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), USC
Mackenzie Bigbee, OH, senior, Williamsburg (Iowa), Iowa State
Macey Gardner, OH, senior, Gilbert (Ariz.), Arizona State
Brittany Howard, OH, senior, Mountain View (Calif.), Stanford
Paulina Prieto, OH, senior, Palmer Trinity (Palmetto Bay, Fla.), Penn State
Amber Rolfzen, OH, junior, Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), Nebraska
Lauren Sieckmann, S, senior, Marian (Omaha, Neb.), Nebraska
Alexis Viliunas, S, senior, Lyons Township (LaGrange, Ill.), Illinois
Rebecca Strehlow, S/OH, senior, Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.), UCLA
Taylor Racich, Opp., senior, Dos Pueblos (Goleta, Calif.), Pepperdine
By Walter Villa

Girls volleyballCourtesy of Catherine WegnerJackie Wegner, an outside hitter for East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), is hoping to get a Tim Tebow Broncos jersey for Christmas.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been the talk of the sports world this season, his No. 15 is among the NFL’s hottest-selling jerseys, and everyone, it seems, has an opinion of the quarterback.

high school
David Villegas"He's an amazing player, and he is humble at the same time, and it's really fun to watch people like that," Berkeley Prep's Jordan Burgess says of Tim Tebow.
Girls’ volleyball players are no exception when it comes to Tebow-mania, especially those who play in Tebow hot spots Florida and Colorado.

Jackie Wegner is a case in point.

The 5-foot-9 outside hitter for East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) has been a Tebow fan since he started playing for her favorite college team, the Florida Gators. She has a Tebow Gators jersey and is hoping she gets a Broncos No. 15 for Christmas.

But Wegner’s support for Tebow extends beyond the football field.

“I’m a big Christian, and I like what he represents,” said Wegner, who has committed to play sand volleyball at Tulane. “Tebow does a good job balancing his sport and his faith.”

Wegner read Tebow’s book, “Through My Eyes,” and was amazed to discover that he was almost aborted due to health concerns.

“But his parents kept the faith that everything would come out OK,” Wegner said. “It’s crazy that he almost didn’t live, and now he’s awesome.”

Janae Hall, a 6-1 senior middle hitter for Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), started following Tebow when he was drafted by Denver. Her father, Darryl Hall, is a former Broncos defensive back, so she hears a lot of Tebow talk in her home.

“Some of my dad’s friends think Tebow gets hyped up too much, but most of my friends like him,” said Hall, who has signed to play at Kansas. “I like the way he plays. Even when things go bad, he always finds a way to pull it out in the end.”

Hall is certainly correct. Tebow is 6-1 as a starter this season and has led the Broncos to a first-place tie in their division.

As for Tebow’s views on religion, Hall said she appreciates the NFL star’s candid approach.

“I like that he is secure enough in his relationship with God that he wants to spread the word,” Hall said.

Nicole Dalton, a 6-2 senior setter/hitter for Chaparral (Parker, Colo.), is one of the nation’s top recruits and is preparing to enroll at Texas this summer.

Dalton said she wants to follow Tebow’s example, especially as it pertains to the next stage of her life.

“He stayed strong with his faith, and that’s hard to do in college,” Dalton said. “We all know there are parties and stuff in college.

“I think Tebow is great. Pope John Paul II said ‘be not afraid,’ and obviously Tebow is not afraid.”

Dalton said Tebow Fever is everywhere in Colorado. During one of her matches this past season, the Chaparral fans all kneeled in the Tebow pose, just as an opponent was about to serve.

Back in Florida, “Tebowing” has also caught on in high schools.

Jordan Burgess, a 6-0 senior outside hitter for Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), said she’s seen people photographed doing the pose at school, at the mall and just about everywhere else.

“It’s spreading the nation,” said Burgess, who signed with Stanford. “Him getting down on one knee and thanking God, it amazes me because he’s a superstar. He could easily run around the field, attracting attention to himself, jumping around like a lot of other football players do.

“But he is completely selfless. That’s probably why he has such a following. He’s an amazing player, and he is humble at the same time, and it’s really fun to watch people like that.”

high school
Courtesy of keyserimages.comEmily Podschweit says she tries to emulate Tim Tebow's response to negativity: "Faith first, confidence to push forward and loving the journey along the way."
Nicole Edelman, a 6-0 senior setter at Fairview (Boulder, Colo.), said she is “not hugely religious” but is still a fan.

"If that’s what motivates him, that’s awesome,” she said. “As long as he’s being honest, I’m all for it.”

Edelman said what resonates with her most about Tebow is how he has responded to his voluminous critics. She said she dealt with some criticism when she was selected for the U.S. Youth National Team that went to Turkey last summer.

“You’re always going to have critics, but I like how (Tebow) put all the controversy aside and just kept playing,” Edelman said. “I’ve just started dealing with it, but he’s obviously dealt with it a lot more.”

Emily Podschweit, a 5-7 senior libero for Chaparral, also draws inspiration from Tebow.

“My journey to be a collegiate beach athlete has been tough already,” she said. “So many people are negative against my location and my size. I can let it hurt me or I can choose to handle it the way Tebow has -- faith first, confidence to push forward and loving the journey along the way.”
2011 Asics Challenge Photo Gallery

By Kirstin Olsen

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Day 2 of the Asics Challenge highlighted some of the nation's top players. Only pool winners had a chance for the title, but the silver division was packed with talent.

Here are the top 10 players of the tournament.

Jordan Burgess
Dave Villegas/ESPNHSJordan Burgess stands out in any gym.
Jordan Burgess, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.): The 6-foot senior outside hitter was once again the most talented player in the gym. She skies, she digs she scores. She absolutely crushes the seam and can hit over the block. If you are late on your block, she will make you pay. She is a joy to watch and the nucleus of her team.

Megan Lipski, Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.): The 5-10 senior outside hitter was a force on the left. She did a great job hitting the seam and the tandem in the middle.

Daiva Wise, St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.):The 6-2 senior middle blocker was explosive in the middle. Her heavy, quick arm helped the Spartans rally and defeat defending Asics Champs Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.) in a tough three-game match.

Melanie Jereb, Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.): The 6-foot senior outside hitter was effective in the back row as well as the front. She was light on her feet and picked up a ton of balls on defense, allowing her team another opportunity to score. Her jump serve was effective as well.

Nicole Walch, Martin County (Stuart, Fla.):The 6-2 senior outside hitter is the go-to on her team. The Florida State commit moves well and is an offensive threat in the front and back row with her lively arm. The Tigers suffered a tough loss to host McAuley in pool play and again to Sacred Heart Saturday morning, but Walch and her team went down swinging.

Bridget Powell, Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.): The 5-6 senior libero is having quite a week. After recently committing to Purdue and helping her team beat No. 3 Berkeley Prep Thursday night, she covered the floor defensively for the Mighty Macs, helping them to a semifinal appearance against Berkeley Prep. Unfortunately, her match was cut short by a knee injury.

Alyssa Dawson, Catholic Memorial (Waukesha, Wis.):The 6-foot junior outside hitter put a ton of balls away for the Crusaders. She hammered line and angle and mixed in a few tips and cut shots to keep opposing teams' defense on their toes.

Sidney Brown, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.): The 5-11 sophomore outside hitter was a good balance with Burgess. She terminated on some nice angles and challenged the block. Just a sophomore, she is a good athlete and still has room for improvement.

Chelsea Bowles, Assumption (Louisville, Ky.): The 5-4 senior libero is a defensive diva. She digs so many balls with ease, giving her team a multitude of opportunities for transitioning plays. She is the core of their defense and will be an excellent addition to Tennessee-Martin next year.

Alex Holbrook, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.): The 5-11 senior middle blocker is just coming back from ACL surgery and is a true quick hitter. She gets up early and does a nice job hitting the 31 and the slide. She is uncommitted and would be a steal for any program.
By Walter Villa
high schoolDavid Villegas/ESPNHSMother McAuley lost libero Bridget Powell (2) to a knee injury in the semifinals of the Asics Challenge.
2011 Asics Challenge Photo Gallery

CHICAGO, Ill. – Asics Challenge host Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.) will never know what may have happened this weekend had they stayed healthy.

Standout libero Bridget Powell suffered an injury to her right knee during McAuley’s 25-21, 25-16 semifinal loss to Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.).

McAuley, 35th in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, had beaten No. 3 Berkeley on Thursday in a pre-tournament surprise.

McAuley had also battled Berkeley to an 18-18 tie in the first set of the rematch when Powell slipped on the court.

“Her leg went one way, and she heard a pop,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “It’s not good, but we really don’t know yet.

“She’s going to get an MRI. We’re expecting the worst but hoping for the best.”

Jordan Burgess, Berkeley’s star player, paid tribute to Powell.

“She’s amazing,” Burgess said. “That girl is really good. I think her injury was a really big deal in the match.”

Powell said she has never had a knee problem before and has never had an injury more serious than a twisted ankle.

“It hurts, but it’s not that bad right now,” said Powell, who was on crutches after her match. “I’m a little bit nervous.”

Powell, a senior who has committed to play her college ball at Purdue, shouldn’t fear for her scholarship, DeJarld said, even if the injury is serious.

“She has a bright future and will not be affected,” DeJarld said. “But it will affect us. She has been a starter since her sophomore year. No one else has played that position on our team except her.”

After Powell was hurt, McAuley lost the Berkeley match and a three-set battle for third place against Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.).

To replace Powell at libero, DeJarld used senior Marykate Mixan, a quick player with experience playing in the back row, especially in club ball.

“We can’t mourn a loss,” DeJarld said. “We have to move on. I have high hopes for this team. I think we have the best team in the state, which is saying something in Illinois.

“Beating Berkeley on Thursday night was one of the highlights of my seven years as a coach. We played a beautiful match, and our semifinal started the same way.

“Who knows how it would have turned out had Bridget not gotten hurt.”

Aquinas accepts challenge

Lisa Zielinski, coach of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), was just looking to play in the 2012 Asics Challenge.

She got her wish a year early.

Aquinas is not the type of school to turn away from a challenge – in any sport. Evidence of that includes the Aquinas football team, which is second in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings and regularly beats out-of-state powers.

So when Venice (Venice, Fla.) backed out of this year’s Asics just two weeks before the start of the tournament, Zielinski took advantage and brought her team to Chicago.

Zielinski, who got great support from school administrators and players’ parents to make the trip on just 10 days’ notice, made the decision to come even though the Raiders may not be quite ready to beat top-level competition.

“We’re young -- we start all underclassmen,” Zielinski said. “But our girls have great potential.”

Aquinas’ key players are 5-foot-9 junior outside hitter Allison Belanger; 5-5 junior setter Ana Pedraza; 6-0 freshman opposite hitter Nikki Lyons; 5-7 sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski; and 6-3 junior middle hitter Brooke Lyons.

Aquinas started the week 6-0 but suffered three straight losses to top-notch competition. Before heading home, they lost to No. 18 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). On Friday at Asics, Aquinas lost to St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.) and No. 5 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), both in straight sets.

Still, Zielinski said it was a great experience, especially after winning two out of three matches on Saturday and finishing in 18th place out of 24 teams.

“The girls wanted to do this,” she said. “They wanted to face this type of competition. We hadn’t really had a challenge until the Gibbons game.

“When we looked at the pools, we knew what we were up against. I’m not saying we didn’t fight and give it our best, but we knew. We’re just hoping this will help us in the postseason.”

Odds and ends

-- Of the top nine finishers at the Asics Challenge, only one was unranked – Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.), which came in fifth after a three-set win over No. 39 Marist (Chicago, Ill.).

-- The lowest finish by a ranked team was turned in by No. 31 Martin County (Stuart, Fla.), which came in 15th.

-- In its first ever appearance at Asics, No. 41 Huntley (Huntley, Ill.) finished eighth.
By Walter Villa

Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 last year when it ran into Mercy (Louisville, Ky.).

The matchup, which came in the final of Berkeley’s Premier Volleyball Tournament, was won by Mercy in five sets. Mercy won the final set 19-17 to knock the Bucs off the top spot.

This year, Berkeley is ranked third in the FAB 50 and is off to another strong start at 6-0, including a five-set win over 2010 state champ East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.).

But the Bucs will be challenged to an even greater degree this Friday and Saturday when they host the 19th annual Premier tournament. The field will again include Mercy, which is unranked this week but has won the tournament six times in the past eight years.

To his credit, Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino, whose team won the tournament the other two years, keeps inviting Mercy back.

“I’m always looking for teams that will push us and make the tournament better,” Dagostino said.

Dagostino may have “discovered” another such team in No. 18 Chattahoochee (Johns Creek, Ga.). The Cougars went 50-5 last season but really opened eyes this year. They are the only team to beat No. 5 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) so far this season.

Chattahoochee (25-4) is 5-0 this season against Kentucky teams, including wins over No. 34 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) and Mercy.

The other teams entered at the Premier are No. 50 Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.); Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.); Leon (Tallahassee, Fla.); Francis Howell (St. Charles, Mo.); and Springstead (Spring Hill, Fla.).

Berkeley is the top seed in the tournament, but Dagostino doesn’t think his team has “clicked” just yet. He’s had to replace three of his seven starters from last season, and Dagostino says star outside hitter Jordan Burgess has yet to hit her peak since returning from Turkey, where she was playing for the U.S. Youth National team.

“She’s had a lot of nagging – I don’t even want to call them injuries,” Dagostino said. “She’s just played a lot of volleyball, and she missed a couple of weeks of jelling with her teammates while she was in Turkey.

“But we’re working hard. We’ll get there.”

high school
Josh Holmberg/ESPNHSFaith Ma'afala of Kamehameha was the lone freshman to make the all-tournament team at the 2011 Durango Fall Classic.
Young guns in Vegas

Six underclassmen made the 17-player All-Tournament team last weekend at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., including 5-foot-7 freshman opposite hitter Faith Ma’afala of Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii).

Three sophomores made the team: 6-2 outside hitter Brittany Abercrombie of La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.); 6-2 middle blocker Crissy Jonesof Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.); and 5-9 setter/outside hitter Alex Filley of Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

The two juniors on the prestigious team are 6-3 middle blocker Taylor Paulson of Assumption and 5-7 outside hitter Amanda Benson of Xavier (Phoenix, Ariz.).

Glass half full, or half empty?

Los Alamitos coach Dave Huber was pleased with his team’s performance at Durango, especially the way they battled after blowing a 24-21 second-set lead to Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the semifinal.

“To kind of have one taken from us like that, I didn’t know how we would respond,” Huber said. “But we regained our composure and got to the final. I’m proud of the way we fought back. Our girls were in it physically and mentally.”

Coach Pat McDougall of La Costa Canyon was also feeling good, even after his team lost in the semifinals to Assumption.

“We had only played two matches coming into Las Vegas,” said McDougall, who also praised his new setter, Jordan Robbins, a 5-10 junior. “We didn’t know what to expect, but I’m very happy with the results.”

Meanwhile, Marymount coach Cari Klein was upset her team continued a recent trend of falling behind early only to rally late.

“Our kids gave a great effort,” Klein said after the loss to Los Alamitos. “But we need to get better. We need to block smarter. We seem to think we can give up points and battle back, but we can’t do that against really good teams.”

Senior setter Lauren Fuller was named to the all-tournament team, and Klein praised Fuller’s twin, Manon Fuller, a 6-0 senior outside hitter and said that 6-2 junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Edwards has “come alive.”