A local club volleyball team was one win away from taking home a championship in a recent international tournament in Phoenix. But the 13-year-old girl's team knows it has a bright future ahead of them.
The 2011 Volleyball Festival, which took place at the Phoenix Convention Center June 23 to 27, saw teams from across the nation as well as from Puerto Rico and Canada compete, and the team made up of mostly Ahwatukee Foothills girls held its own among some tough competition.
The team, called East Valley Juniors Mizuno, went undefeated through the tournament until they met Wave 13 Abra from Encinitas, Calif. The loss was costly and knocked them into the loser's bracket of the tournament.
But they rallied back, won the rest of their games and made it to the championship, where they played Wave 13 Abra once again. Unfortunately, the end result was no different and they lost in three sets: 25-19, 19-25, 15-9. They finished second out of 52 teams in the age group.
"It is definitely exciting and rewarding to win matches and get to the championship," said head coach Kelsey Thomsen. "A high-pressure situation like this is good for them and prepares them for the next level."
The team has girls who stem from Summit School of Ahwatukee, Kyrene, Akimel, Altadeña and Centennial middle schools. They were practicing three times per week, about two hours a day with some scrimmaging thrown in on top.
"We were working together and it showed we are a really good volleyball team," setter Jessica Leo said. "Most of us have played together for four years so we know each other really well."
Thomsen said the integral part of club volleyball is to develop fundamentals and strengths so that when they get to high school, they can move on to more advanced strategies of the game.
"From their consistency standpoint, they have improved significantly since the start of the season," she said. "Their strength and power has also increased and it's nice to see their skills fine-tuned."
The East Valley Juniors Club placed many different teams in the recent tournament. Among them, the Mizuno 17-year-old team finished fifth out of 57 teams and the Mizuno 15-year-olds finished 13th out of 96 teams. The second place finish was the best finish for a Thomsen team in this tournament.
To find out more about the club, visit www.azeastvalleyjrs.com.
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