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Volleyball team among best in nation

By: Matt Long
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The Northern California Volleyball Club 16-1 Black team placed 11th out of 32 teams at the Junior National Tournament held in Reno June 30-July 3, proving to themselves and the rest of the competition that they are one of the top teams in the nation. If there were any doubts as to how good the NCVC Black team was, it didn’t take long for the team to show it. After losing their first match in three games, NCVC Black next played Club Red Arizona, the top-ranked team in the nation, and beat them in two straight games, 28-26, 25-17. “That first loss was a good wake-up call for us and I think that had to do with first-match jitters,” coach Becky Potter said. “We went into that second game with the attitude of having nothing to lose. We just went out there with the feeling of how great an opportunity it is to play the top-ranked team in the nation and just played for fun.” Just months earlier NCVC saw Club Red at another tournament and were in awe of them, but the tables were turned this time. Good defense and blocking helped turn momentum into a win for NCVC. “Our blocking, Haley Simmons (from Oak Ridge) and Paige Folger (from Napa) was incredible,” Potter said. “Club Red has a 6’5” outside hitter and we blocked her off the court. That was the key to the match.” After the match it took the team awhile to realize what they had just accomplished. “I was in a daze,” Potter said. “The best part about it was the buzz that in created in the tournament. We would walk by and you would hear people say, ‘that’s the team that beat Club Red.’” Simmons added, “It was kind of unreal and so exciting. We had an opportunity and were able to experience playing them and that win just boosted out confidence and showed what we can do for the rest of the tournament. Our team just came together and that was the difference in the match.” Vista’s Caroline Sipiora, a libero who plays outside hitter at Vista, was equally excited about the win. “It was awesome and yet hard to describe,” Sipiora said. “We had nothing to lose and just played our hearts out. Afterwards it was just genuine shock, just realizing that we had beaten one of the top-ranked teams in America.” The win over Club Red did just what Simmons said it did, boosted the team’s confidence. NCVC rolled off five straight wins and started the tournament with a 5-1 record. To Potter, it was that point of the tournament as a whole that was better than the win over Club Red alone. “Finishing second in our pool was big,” Potter said. “We came seeded 24th overall and sixth in our pool so when we were sitting there 5-1, I think that was awesome and the highlight of the tournament for us. No one thought we would be there, much less by winning five matches in a row.” The team had two shots to finish among the top-8 teams in the tournament, but lost their next two matches in three games and dropped their last match in two straight games. “We just didn’t play our best in those matches,” Sipiora said. “We could have beaten those teams, but we just didn’t have the extra ‘umph’ to finish.” While Potter said that this team has been her favorite to coach, she’s thrilled to be coaching Simmons again this fall at Oak Ridge. “It’s is so hard to get the ball by Haley because she’s quick with her blocking,” Potter said. “Sometimes middles don’t get the praise that the outside hitters do, but Haley plays taller than she is and is putting the ball down much harder.” Potter said Sipiora also played well during the tournament. “Caroline was solid,” Potter said. “She always gets everyone fired up. Her ball control was outstanding in getting the ball to our setters.” Sipiora said it was a great experience for her. “Playing against such good hitters, I had to step up defensively and play a big role,” Sipiora said. “I had to get the setters a ball that they could set to the hitters. Playing with this team helped my leadership ability and that will help me when I go back to play at Vista.”