MELISSA – Seven young volleyball players from Melissa have earned a spot in this year’s USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior Nationals at the Cobo Center in Detroit, June 25-July 4. Melissa’s qualifiers, with their individual clubs, include:
-Erin Anderson and Isabel De La Cruz of the Frisco Flyers 11
-Kenzie Segleski of Arete 13 Navy
-Brooklee Waltrip of Lonestar 14 Red
-Chelsea George of Madfrog 14 National Blue
-Caroline Kasson of Victory 16 Elite Black
-Susan Blake of TIV 17 Mizuno Dylan
To reach this prestigious level of competition, a club must produce a Top 3 finish in one of several Qualifier tournaments held across the country each year. Clubs typically compete in three Qualifiers per season. At these Nationals, 27 divisions spread over seven age groups, 11 to 17, will name a champion. With thousands of teams per division nationwide vying for a Nationals berth, only 35 to 45 teams per division make the grade.
It’s estimated that this year’s event in Detroit will attract over 40,000 players, coaches and spectators. Coaches from 116 colleges - including 48 NCAA Division I schools - are currently slated to attend, with many more expected to register as the event draws nearer.
Blake, 17, has been to Nationals four times already and last year her club reached its respective finals, narrowly missing winning the championship. She’s on a different team this year but with some of the same teammates. “It’s a four-day tournament,” Blake said after Melissa’s girls’ sports banquet, May 31. “It’s super-long so it takes a lot of mental toughness to get through that. It’s a really cool experience. No team is bad at Nationals. You always have to be on your game. It’s my favorite tournament of the year.”
Kasson, 16, has reached Nationals twice before, including last year when the event convened in Minneapolis. She’s been with her current club for three years. “It’s very challenging but we have lots of time to prepare for all of that,” Kasson said of her past experiences. “And we have lots of fun preparing. … Playing club definitely helps with getting more touches with the volleyball, getting more improved. I just want to thank my team for making it this far.”
Last year, Kasson’s club placed third in their division’s top-level Gold Medal matches at Nationals. “Sadly,” she said, “one of our players got sick the day we got to Minnesota for the tournament. If she hadn’t gotten sick I think we would have gotten first in Gold.”
Melissa’s girls will make their way to Detroit separately. Kasson plans to road-trip it with her father Dave Kasson, visiting family along the way, while mom Cindy Kasson flies up later. Blake and her mother, Lauri Blake, plan to fly. Anderson, 11, will fly up with her mom Angela Anderson while dad Paul Anderson – coach of Melissa’s 7 on 7 football squad - will fly up once that sport’s coinciding state tournament is completed. De La Cruz, 11, and her family are flying as well. Blake said while it’s not easy to meet up with other local players at this vast competition - with countless courts and start times - with some effort it’s possible.
Best of luck to these girls and their families while in Detroit.
For more information on this year’s Nationals, visit teamusa.org/usa volleyball.