Local spikers serve up title at Junior Olympics

Young champions exceed expectations in Miami
By: Andrew Eggers, Special to The Press Tribune
-A +A
The Northern California Volleyball Club’s 14-and-under women’s team exceeded their own expectations in conquering the American Division at the USA Junior Olympics Girls’ Volleyball Championships in Miami, Fla. in the first week of July. It marked the first time a team from the club has captured a gold medal at such an event. The team’s coach, Vera Nelson, who also coaches the women’s team at Sierra College, said that this collection of girls enjoyed playing the game of volleyball more than any team other she has ever led to battle. “It was a special group that really played for themselves,” Nelson said. “They weren’t there for their parents or coach. They have incredible passion and they all got along and supported each other and believed in each other.” “In the beginning of the season we didn’t expect – we just wanted to go to (Junior Olympics),” said outside-hitter Morgan Lees. “We never thought we could win it and when we got there we played awesome. We just all love each other and we’re a great team and we have lots of fun.” It was a group that consisted of eight players heading into their freshman year at local high schools such as Rocklin, Oakmont and Bella Vista, and three which will be eighth graders in the fall including Nelson’s daughter, Taylor. The squad started practicing last December twice a week and after qualifying for Junior Olympics in early May, the team competed in the 16-and-under division at the California Finals at Cal Expo. Nelson was more than impressed when her team finished 25th out of some 80 teams. “They played like they belonged there,” Vera Nelson said. “After that tournament, we set a goal to be in the top 10 at the (Junior Olympics).” The young ladies were able to document their goals after Vera’s coaching mentor, Carl Ferreira, gave her a goal-orientated workbook last summer titled, What Makes Winners Win Lies Within. Although the book is not yet sold in stores, Vera was able to get a copy for each team member and it proved influential in their success. “It was mostly about setting goals and how you were going to accomplish them,” Taylor Nelson said. “Each week we wrote down what we were going to do to improve our skills in volleyball. It helped a lot and when we looked back on our goals it was cool to see all the ones we accomplished and how we improved.” “I’ve never written down (my) goals until I joined this team and it helped a lot,” Lees said. “We learned skills in practice and instead of just leaving the court and forgetting about them, we would write them down and look at the (workbook) everyday and think of what we could do to accomplish (the goal).” With only a handful of newcomers joining a team used to playing alongside one another over the past couple years, both Taylor Nelson and Lees thought the team’s close-knit nature played a large part in creating team unity on and off the court. Whether it was their group trips to the movie theatres or traveling together to tournaments across the state and country, these young ladies enjoyed each other’s company and it showed in their success. “We all worked hard to accomplish those (goals),” Taylor Nelson said. “We all put in extra time (in practice). Even those that weren’t playing and on the bench, had a good attitude so that helps.” “We just had a lot of fun with each other and it definitely helped us on the court come together as a team,” Lees said. “We were all encouraging and supporting each other. There was no drama at all and that is really hard to find in most teams.” FYI: The NCVC 14-1 Black roster includes Taylor Nelson and Maddy Deters from Granite Bay, Katie Carte and Alison Koumelis from Roseville; Allison Childs and Sara Sheehy from Rocklin; Morgan Lees from Newcastle; Kirstin Schauble from Auburn; Kyndra Scott from Carmichael and Bernedette Swain from Elk Grove.