TAV Wins Open, USA Divisions at GJNC18

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | April 28, 2019, 6:06 p.m. (ET)

Texas Advantage wins the all-North Texas Region 18 Open Division title
TAV 18 Black wins 18 Open Division title in its own backyard in Dallas

DALLAS (April 28, 2019) – Texas Advantage Volleyball (TAV) didn’t need to travel far from its training headquarters of Carrollton, Texas, to win two gold medals in the USA Volleyball Girls 18s Junior National Championships (GJNC18) that concluded on Sunday.

TAV 18 Black (North Texas) and TAV 18 Blue (North Texas) captured both the 18 Open Division and 18 USA Division gold medals, respectively, in the GJNC18 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas. Also taking home gold are Laguna Beach 18MS (Southern California) in 18 National, FORZA1 North 18UA (Southern California) in 18 American and Sunshine 18 South Bay (Southern California) in 18 Patriot.

The three-day tournament started with over 3,000 participants and 280 teams vying for one of the five division titles. The vast majority of the players are current high school seniors playing their final club season before heading off to college.

Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for all USA Volleyball national championship events.

18 Open Division
TAV 18 Black, seeded seventh in the 48-team Open Division, won the event’s premier title by defeating North Texas Region rival TIV 18 Asics Black 25-22, 26-24 right in their own backyards in Dallas.

“It is indescribable. It is an awesome feeling,” said Jenna Wenaas, who was named most valuable player of the 18 Open Division. “My team and I have worked so hard. We all support each other the whole time. We are super excited.”

To win the title, TAV needed to overcome a six-point deficit in the second set to pull ahead for the 26-24 victory. Weenas, one of the younger players on the team as she is a junior at Liberty High School (Frisco, Texas) and playing up an age division, said TAV 18 Black just wanted to build momentum for the third set. That energy carried them through in a sweep.

“We were preparing for a third set, but we just kept fighting and we kept pushing,” Wenaas said. “Everyone kept on saying that we just needed to build up the energy, and we did that.”

TAV 18 Black earned its ticket to the finals by defeating Coast 18-1 (Southern California) 25-18, 25-13 before holding off Arizona Storm 18 Thunder (Arizona) 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 in the semifinals. TAV 18 Black finished the tournament with a 9-1 record, overcoming a three-set loss to Minnesota Select 18-1 (North Country) in the third match of pool play on the opening day.

TIV 18 Asics Black, which was seeded second in the tournament, entered the championship match undefeated with eight consecutive victories before falling in the finals. They earned a ticket to the gold-medal match two exciting come-from-behind victories, beating Minnesota Select 18-1 20-25, 25-21, 15-10 in the quarterfinals and SG Elite 18 Roshambo (Southern California) 22-25, 25-20, 15-5 in the semifinals.

In its fourth year as a standalone age division national championship, four different clubs have now won the 18 Open Division at GJNC18. TAV 18 Black was runner-up at the 2017 GJNC18 Open Division – also held in Dallas.

18 National Division
Laguna Beach 18MS, seeded eighth in its division to start the tournament, captured the 18 National Division title with a 27-25, 25-22 victory over Empowered 18 Elite Red in the gold-medal match. Kendall Kipp, the most valuable player of the National Division, slammed the final point to lead Laguna Beach to an undefeated record in nine matches. They lost only four sets the entire tournament, and twice had to come back from an opening set loss.

Laguna Beach reached the championship match by defeating Five Starz (Northern California) 25-18, 25-21 in the quarterfinals and Springfield 18Blue (Heart of America) 25-20, 25-23 in the semifinals.

“After we won our semifinals match, I said to myself and my teammates – I am living out my 13-year-old dream,” Kipp said. “I just remember watching my first junior nationals, I was dreaming of playing in the championships. It just feels so cool to end my senior year on a high note.”

While Kipp still has a couple more events before hanging up her club jersey and wearing the Cardinal uniform for Stanford University, she sees her career as an amazing experience to play against other top players from around the country.

“Getting to play against some of the best players in the country, including a player on Empower who is going to Florida, is a great experience,” Kipp said. I” am sure we will match up against each other at some point.”

Empowered 18 Elite Red went 8-2 in the tournament, and both losses came at the hands of Laguna Beach. Empowered earned its ticket to the finals by edging Rancho Valley 18 Premier (Southern California) 25-21, 22-25, 15-9 in the quarterfinals and Premier 18 Black (North Texas) 21-25, 25-20, 15-12 in the semifinals.

18 USA Division
TAV 18 Blue won a three-set gold-medal battle over VC United 181 Elite (Great Lakes) with a 27-25, 24-26, 15-7 victory.

TAV 18 Blue went 9-0 in the 18 USA Division, but needed to go the three-set distance in five of the nine matches. They earned a spot in the gold-medal match by sweeping The Diff 18 Black (Rocky Mountain) 25-20, 25-23 in the quarterfinals before rallying to defeat CTV 18 Elite (North Texas) 16-25, 25-16, 19-17 in the semifinal round.

VC United 181 Elite (Great Lakes) went 8-2 in the tournament, losing its first and last matches. They moved into the title match by sweeping Tampa United VBA 18U Rox (Florida) 25-14, 25-23 in the quarterfinals and CVC 18 Black (Ohio Valley) 25-21, 25-15 in the semifinals.

18 American Division
FORZA1 North 18USA rallied from an opening set loss in the championship match to defeat Houston Juniors Volleyball 18 Elite (Lone Star) 18-25, 25-16, 15-7 to win gold. With the victory, FORZA1 finished 9-1 in the tournament and gained a sense of revenge in the finals as Houston Juniors was the only team to defeat them in this year’s GJNC18.

FORZA1 reached the championship match by stopping Elevation 18 Dinkelacker (Ohio Valley) 25-23, 25-23 in a close quarterfinal battle before knocking off Nebraska ONE 18 Titanium (Great Plains) 25-17, 25-22 in the semifinals. Jenna Giambi of FORZA1 was selected as the most valuable player of the 18 American Division.

Houston Juniors 18 Elite ended the tournament 8-2, overcoming a first-round pool play loss to Arkansas Juniors Storm 18-1N (Delta). The squad earned its ticket to the championship match by defeating Colorado Juniors 18 Kevin (Rocky Mountain) 25-18, 17-25, 15-10 in the quarterfinals and Milwaukee Sting 18 Black (Badger) 25-19, 25-20 in the semifinals.

18 Patriot Division
Sunshine 18 South Bay defeated Seattle Juniors 18 (Puget Sound) 21-25, 25-10, 16-14 in the Patriot Division gold-medal match. Sunshine 18 South Bay went undefeated in 11 matches, losing just two sets along the way.

Sunshine 18 South Bay, the second seed in the Patriot Division, advanced to the championship match by defeating Elite VBTC 18 Goree (Ohio Valley) 25-15, 25-18 in the quarterfinals and SAVC 18-1 (Southern California) 26-24, 25-22 in the semifinals.

Seattle Juniors 18 went 9-2 in the tournament. They punched their ticket to the finals with consecutive three-set comebacks on the final day, including a 13-25, 25-16, 15-8 victory over Central Cal Senior Select 18-1 (Northern California) in the quarterfinals and a 12-25, 27-25, 16-14 rally over Surfside 18 MB Legends (Southern California) in the semifinals.