The Keystone Juniors 17 Black team went into the 3 day festival in Washington, D.C. in very unfamiliar territory - they were healthy. This would be the first time in the last 17 matches all 10 players were available to play. And boy did they all come ready to play and contribute. Starting out as the #20 overall seed in a 32 team tourney - it was obvious from the beginning the girls had something to prove.
First up was the #1 seed in the pool and #4 overall seed for the tourney - North Carolina Coastal. The good guys dispatched of them in 3 sets, winning the 3rd 15-13 - something that would become a common theme over the weekend. Next up was one of the 2 teams from New York, the SureShots. Following the successful formula of the first match, the girls won in 3 sets, winning the 3rd set by a score of 15-12. Last up was the other team from the Garden Empire Region, CALI from Long Island. Going into the final match of the day the girls realized two very important things: if they won the final match of the day, they were free to leave for the day to get some food and there actually was no rule permitting them from winning a match in 2 sets. With this new found information at their fingertips, the girls won in straight sets 25-18, 25-21, to clinch first place in their pool on Day 1.
Day 2 brought new challenges as all the teams in their pool were either 1st or 2nd in their respective pools the previous day.
First up were the NYC Juniors. Not learning the valuable lesson of winning in 2 sets from the Day 1, the girls decided it was better to get as much playing as possible and won in 3 sets, winning 15-13 in the 3rd. Next up was a team from Central Jersey. With the "if it aint broken, don't fix it mentality" coming to the forefront, the girls decided to once again win in 3 sets, winning the 3rd 15-12. With first place on the line, and a trip to the GOLD MEDAL bracket wrapped up, the girls took on a good Brooklyn Elite team. Like a broken record, the girls went into the 3rd and deciding set, this time falling a little short in a very heated match, losing 16-14.
Monday morning brought the best 8 teams together at 8am for the GOLD quarterfinals, with Keystone facing East Carolina Premier. After a very slow start the girls dropped the first set 25-15. After an inspirational and passionate pep talk after the first set, the girls found their groove and won set 25-20 forcing, you guessed it, a deciding 3rd set. After falling behind by as many as 6 points early, the girls showed their true character and rallied all the way back to tie the score 13-13. But it was not to be. East Carolina won the next 2 points and a spot in the semifinals winning the 3rd set 15-13.
On the weekend, the girls went 5-2 in match play and 12-8 in sets played. Offensively the team was led by the outstanding duo of OHs Bridget McGuinn and Meghan Peters, for whom no one had answers for all weekend long. Running the show, making the right decisions and getting the ball to the hitters in the optimum situations were setters Juliana Cloran and Kelly Garvey, who kept the opposition guessing as to who was getting set next and where the attack would be coming from. The defense was anchored by the big blocks of Emily McGinn, Golda Mehl, Emma Travetti and Jenna Zwilling, forming what at times to be a wall along the net. The back row was led by the stellar defense of Emily Collins and Hannah McGroary, digging ball after ball that made it to the back row, frustrating the opposing hitters.
The girls started out the weekend as the number 20 seed and ended up placing 5th. A tremendous improvement and showing. They announced they had arrived and are ready to play with anyone, anywhere. The future looks extremely bright!!!!