With Girls’ 18s USAV Championships upon us, it’s time for a review of whom to watch as the first whistle gets blown starting today in Anaheim, California. Below are the listed divisions and how teams can qualify for each division:
- 18 Open: qualify through open-level USAV National qualifiers, top 3 qualify, at-large bids given after all qualifiers are completed
- 18 National: qualify through USAV regional competition, bid allocation process determines number of qualifiers per region
- 18 USA: qualify through USAV National qualifiers only at ‘USA’ level
- 18 American: qualify through USAV at ‘American’ level and secondarily allocated bids at the regional level
- 18 Patriot: no qualification process required, similar to AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida
The top division every year at every National event features the who’s who of volleyball, the majority of which move on to play at the collegiate level. The players who do not play collegiate volleyball the following fall are most likely non-seniors, however their verbal commitments are usually done well in advance of those players’ senior years. Here’s a rundown of the top seeds in each pool:
- Circle City 18 Purple, Indiana
The top overall seed has kept the majority of their roster intact for the last two club seasons. They’ve won four qualifiers since January of 2017 (Windy City and Mid-East, both 2017 and 2018) and placed well in many others. Players to watch include 6’7″ middle Julia Wohlert, who initially committed to Butler but has officially signed with Wisconsin, 6’3″ middle Jael Johnson, a two-time state champion who signed with Purdue, and 6’3″ middle Amiya Jones, who will attend Iowa next fall. For this author, the top player on this team, 6’3″ outside Caitie Baird, is the only player listed on Circle’s roster without a commitment. She has spent time training with the US Youth National Team and has been rumored to be receiving interest from Stanford and Duke.
- Legacy 18 Elite, Michigan
This entire roster has already either signed their NLIs or have given verbal commitments to their choice universities, regardless of when they graduate high school. Aside from a massive comeback effort by Munciana in the Triple Crown tournament in Utah earlier this year, Legacy has a play-anyone-anywhere mentality as a club and is well-prepared for what Anaheim has to throw at them. They are led by sophomore setter Celia Cullen, who has verbally committed to Michigan State for her entrance in 2020. Other big-time players include high-flying 5’10” right side Solei Thomas, who has signed with Clemson, 6’1″ outside hitter Abbey Malinowski, who has signed with Michigan, and 6’2″ middle Chandlar Duff, who will be an Oregon Duck in the fall.
- Aspire 18 Rox, Arizona
Another program with the entire roster having signed NLIs or verbally committed to play at the next level comes from Tempe, and has earned the number 3 overall seed out of 36 in Anaheim. They’ve played everyone and anyone in the southwest and proven that they can play with the big girls and go just as fast as the quick offenses the Mid-west has to offer. Pac-12 teams have already figured out the value of these players, which include signed NLIs from 6’4″ middle Abby Hansen (USC), 5’11” outside Brooke Nuneviller (Oregon) 6’1″ setter/right side Tatum Rohme (Arizona State) and 5’11” middle/right side Nya Buckner (Oregon State).
- KC Power 18-1, Kansas
KC Power as a club is recognized as one of the top clubs year-in and year-out, and the hardware shows; the 18-1 team from a year ago won the USAV 18 Open Championships, their second Open Championships in the last 10 years. Size, speed and ball control highlight this solid squad, which include Nebraska signee and 6’4″ middle Callie Schwarzenbach, 5’9″ outside/libero and Illinois signee Taylor Kuper and 6’3″ middle Annika Welty, who will be a Creighton Blue Jay in the fall. The only non-senior on the roster is high-flying 6’1″ outside Anna Dixon, who has verbally committed to play at Kansas State in 2019.
- Texas Tornados 18 Mizuno and San Antonio Magic 18 Elite, Texas
Rounding out the top 6 seeds at USAV this year are two teams from the same ultra-strong Lone Star region. The Texas Tornados boast 6’3″ Cal Poly signee Meredith Phillips, 6′ Mississippi State signee AJ Koele and 2019 libero Georgia Murphy, who will attend Oregon.
The SA Magic are no slouches either, keeping almost all of their signees and verbal commitments in-state. Libero Taylor Voss will attend Texas A&M in the fall, while three Texas State signees, setter Emily Dewalt, middle/outside Lauren Teske and middle Jillian Slaughter, all become Bobcats in the fall.
OTHER TEAMS AND PLAYERS TO WATCH FROM OTHER DIVISIONS
- 18 National: Northern Lights 18-1, Minnesota
- Top signee: Lauren Turner, University of San Diego
- 18 USA: Northern Lights 18-2, Minnesota
- Top signee: Esther Grussing, Ball State
- 18 American: Momentous 18-1 Randy, California
- Top signee: Kelsey Campeau, UCLA
- 18 Patriot: Laguna Beach 18MS, California
- Top signee: Mia Christensen, Washington State (2020)