A normal high school volleyball season is about 30 matches long.
The East Columbus Volleyball Club’s 14-year-old squad played almost that many in nine days.
Playing as the East Columbus Crush, the team participated in two prestigious national tournaments back to back this month — the AAU National Tournament in Orlando, Florida, June 19-22 and the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship in Indianapolis June 24-27.
Not only did the Crush play in both tournaments, but they played extremely well, placing second out of 156 teams in the Classic Division of the AAU tourney and taking fifth out of 64 teams in their bracket at the USAV event.
“This is the most rewarding finish that I’ve ever had with a team,” ECVC coach Dave Newland said.
In Orlando, the Crush won 13 consecutive matches over four days before losing in the championship against a Florida Club that had 55 teams playing in various divisions of the tournament. On the way to the final, East Columbus defeated clubs from Minnesota, Iowa, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Georgia.
Three ECVC players — Madyson Foster and Hannah Sabotin of Columbus and Bailey Reynolds of Seymour — were among the 12 players to earn All-America honors at the tournament.
Abby Schmidt, also of Seymour, played with the Crush.
The AAU tournament would have been enough to wear out most teams — but the Crush came back home and went up to Indiana on one day of rest to take on another loaded field.
On Friday, the team played without Foster — who passed out — and still posted a 3-1 record to keep itself in the Gold Division. Anna Mensendiek filled in for Foster at setter and did an admirable job, helping ECVC beat teams from Arizona, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Against the Arizona club, Arrowhead, East Columbus was down 14-10 in the decisive third set before rallying for a 17-15 victory.
After going 2-1 on Saturday, ECVC came back Sunday and avenged its first loss of the tournament, routing the SoCal club from San Diego before adding a victory against Vision from San Francisco. Those two wins set up a Monday match against Lava West of Los Angeles, which won to lock East Columbus into a fifth-place finish.
Nine days, 24 matches, 20 wins. Not too shabby.
Newland had plenty of praise for his players, saying that Foster compares favorably with the four Division I college setters he’s worked with previously. He calls Reynolds “the best seventh-grader I’ve ever coached.”
Though East Columbus didn’t come away with a national championship in either tourney, it certainly showed that it’s capable of hanging with the best club teams in the country — which certainly bodes well for the future of volleyball locally.