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Junior volleyball: SCV goes national

A group of Foothill League players make elite USA beach, indoor teams

Posted: July 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia High's Delaney Knudsen competes in an AAU beach volleyball match as a member of Valencia's inaugural beach team this past spring.

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One local volleyball product — Saugus High graduate David Smith — is already headed to the Olympic Games this summer to play volleyball.


But the road to the Olympics starts with junior competitions and club tournaments, which have allowed several Santa Clarita Valley high school players to travel around the country to compete in prestigious events.


Beginning with beach volleyball, four Valencia High students were selected for USA Junior Beach High Performance A1 teams at various age groups, while one West Ranch player made an elite roster for and indoor USA team.


Valencia High’s Sierra Sanchez and Delaney Knudsen made the U19 girls team while Kaitlyn Uythoven made the U17 squad along with Lindsey Knudsen, Delaney’s younger sister.


Another recent graduate of Valencia, Eric Ensing, made the U19 boys team.


To wrap up those making USA squads, West Ranch’s Haley Lind is headed to the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships after making the USA Girls’ Youth National team.


Other than Ensing, who will play for Long Beach State next season, the other five players all plan on returning to their respective high school teams in the fall.


The four Valencia girls will head to Hermosa Beach to take part in the beach version of the High Performance Championships running from Wednesday to July 22.


“It’s pretty big,” Sanchez said. “The (players are) really good, better than most people I’ve played with. ... They’ve been training at a really high level for a really long time, and me and Delaney just do our thing.”


The four of them made the roster after attending a tryout in Chula Vista, where they were sized up based on sprints, vertical leaps and other measurable attributes before being asked to compete in standard two-on-two competition.


Afterward, players were selected to either A1 of A2 teams. The four locals all made the more elite A1.


It was one of several tryouts held around the country, and it places this group on a select list of junior beach players.


“It’s really high level volleyball,” Delaney Knudsen said. “It’s going to be really fun. It’s going to be really competitive all the way around because they are the top girls from all around the nation.”


Moving away from the beach game, Lind is scheduled for the HPC indoor tournament in Des Moines, Iowa from July 24-28.


Lind, who will be a junior at West Ranch, is competing as a libero on her team, which will be matched up against elite youth teams from around the world


This is the third straight year Lind has made a USA youth volleyball team, but it will be her debut at the HPC.


“It will be a challenge for me because whenever I get there, the girls are unbelievable,” Lind said. “It will be good though just because it helps me a lot for high school.”


Saugus also got in on the USA Volleyball action, with sophomore-to-be Julianna Dole participating in the USAV Girls’ Junior National Championships (formerly known as the Junior Olympics).


Dole, a defensive specialist/setter for Saugus, traveled to Columbus, Ohio with her Los Angeles Volleyball Academy club team and competed from July 2-July 5 in the 15-year-old division.


There, her team took 25th place among the 47 entrants.


“It was fun seeing the teams you haven’t seen before because in Southern California, especially when you’re playing the top level teams, you’re seeing the same teams over and over,” Dole said.


The LAVA team finished 7-3 at the tournament, and Dole said she expects the same group to perform even better next year at the 16-year-old level.


“I hope that my teams can keep making it to the (Junior Nationals) because once you get there, you feel like it’s the standard and you want to keep going back and you want to improve,” said Dole, who is one of many SCV athletes to play for LAVA.


That includes Lind, who plays on the club’s 16-1 team.


LAVA and Valencia-based Legacy Volleyball Club are the two primary volleyball organizations that serve the SCV.


On June 30, the two clubs faced off in the 17-year-old girls division at the Volleyball Festival in Phoenix.


In a battle of two teams chock-full of SCV high school players, Legacy took down the championship for the second straight year in its age group, winning by scores of 25-22, 25-17 before taking the final set 26-24.


Delaney Knudsen was among the six locals on the winning team, joining fellow Valencia Viking Kellie Kleszcz, Saugus’ Rachel Eaton and Amy Buffham, West Ranch’s Sarah McGough and Hart’s Amy King.


“The stands were packed,” Knudsen said. “It was so intense. We were all pushing so hard. It was so much more than just a championship match. There was so much more behind it.”


The two locally based teams took first and second place in a field of 65 teams from throughout the West Coast.


It could be yet another sign of the sport’s rise to prominence in this valley.

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