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Prep volleyball: Ultimate competition

Local club sends four teams to prestigious national tourney

Posted: June 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Some of the elite volleyball players in the Santa Clarita Valley will get a chance to call themselves true national champions.

To do it, they’ll have to sift through the top volleyball clubs from around the nation in this week’s Boys Junior National Volleyball Championships in Minneapolis.

Valencia-based Legacy Volleyball Club is sending four teams to the event, two of which will participate in the more competitive open division tournament, which began Wednesday and runs through July 6.

Those teams include Legacy’s 18-1 and 17-1 teams while two other 16-year-old teams, 16-1 and 16-2, will take part in the club division, which is open to all teams.

“For this tournament, every top volleyball player in the country is under one roof,” said Teddy Goetz, head coach of the 18-1 team made up mostly of local players.

The roster includes Valencia senior-to-be Griffin Ender, recent Valencia graduates Broc Oppler and Shane Nazarian, Hart graduates J.J. Mosolf and Taylor Gregory, and Saugus graduate Caleb Pilarski. Two other former Valencia volleyball players, Griffin Nichols and Kurt Fults, also play for the team but didn’t travel to the event due to injuries.

Goetz also played for Valencia and graduated in 2006.

His team now is mostly the same group that’s been playing club together at Legacy for the past three years.

“It’s kind of a sentimental thing, too, because it’s our last chance to win a medal — to win a gold medal — with the same group of guys I’ve been playing with the last two or three years,” Gregory said.

The team’s best finish came last year at the same event when they finished ninth overall in the open division as the 17-1 team.

Kevin Ker, head coach of the 17-1 team, says Legacy has gained a lot of notoriety among SCV athletes since its inception in 2008.

“We’re getting a lot of basketball players that come over and make the switch because there are a lot of similarities between the sports,” said Ker, another 2006 Valencia graduate.

This year’s 17-1 team brings a new crop of mostly local high school players, including Austin Csiszar, Daniel Salovich and Eric Ensing from Valencia, Colby Wilson and Matt Coleman from Saugus, Alec Schlossman from Golden Valley and Michael Foster from Canyon.

At the Junior National Championships, the best junior volleyball clubs in the country will be in attendance, most of which originate in Southern California. It also brings teams from the Chicago area, Milwaukee and Honolulu.

College scouts are sure to be in attendance, and Ker said 17-year-olds will be their main targets.

“It’s not like basketball or baseball where it’s kind of already developed, and they’ve been playing it for a number of years,” Ker said. “Most of the boys in volleyball don’t start playing until they’re in high school, so you can’t start looking at them until they’ve been playing for two or three years.”

The different age groups begin playing on different days throughout the week, but they all play similar formats. The first two days of pool play narrow the field down to the top eight teams, which advance to the gold bracket.

From there, a single-elimination tournament determines an overall winner.

The pools are set up based on predetermined rankings.

Though the tournament provides a format for younger players to showcase their talents, players like Long Beach State-bound Gregory see it as a final chance to capture gold at the junior level.

“When it gets to club, we know this is the best place in the country,” Gregory said. “It’s the highest level of competition we can compete at and you just get a lot more fired up for it.”

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