Mark D. Motz reports:
Cincinnati sits 540 feet above sea level. Dallas, Texas, rests 110 feet lower at 430.
The change in elevation in Dallas proved a welcome change for the Elevation from Cincinnati.
Yes, Elevation, with a capital E.
The Elevation volleyball program based out of Sports Express near Kings Island sent four teams to the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National tournament in Big D the week of Independence Day.
The most successful Elevation squad – the 16-year-old team coached by Sycamore High School girls varsity head coach Greg Ulland and filled with an all-star roster of rising juniors from across the city – finished fifth in the upper-division tournament.
The team won an lower-division national title the previous summer.
Three of the 10 Elevation 16 players – Abby Williams, Katherine Edmondson and Lauren Wilkins – were part of Ursuline Academy’s 2012 Division I state title program last fall under Lions head coach Jeni Case.
“That kind of competition can only be good for our area’s high school teams,” said Case, who owns and operates Sports Express with her husband, former Purcell Marian High School multi-sport star John Paul Case. “The level of play is unbelievable.”
More than just a team event, the national tournament was a family affair for the Case clan. Logan Case is an 11-year-old heading into sixth grade at St. Margaret of York. She played up with the Elevation 12-year-old team that took 13th place nationally among 48 qualifying teams.
“Logan’s 12s didn’t lose a tournament all year, but when you get to nationals, you see a whole different level of volleyball from other parts of the country,” Jeni said. “Some of the California teams, those girls have been playing the beach since they were 4 years old.
“We have kids playing in third grade now in CYO – which I still think is pretty young – but those girls already have five years in by that age. It’s good for the parents to see that we’re good here, but there’s a much bigger world of volleyball. They see what it takes to compete at that level.”
Teams play multiple matches each day, including two days of pool play before dividing into National (upper-level) and American (lower) brackets to determine the championship.
“Playing four days in a row like that, to focus on just the volleyball for that long, is a big help; it’s intense,” Case said. “You can’t go and have a really bad day – especially in pool play – and expect to win. To keep that competition on that level really helps their mental game as much as their physical game. You really have to stay focused.”
In addition to the 16s and 12s, Elevation teams competed at the 13- and 14-year-old levels. The Elevation 13s finished 11th nationally, while the 14s competed in the American bracket and earned a bronze medal.
The Elevation 15 squad competed in the 40th annual AAU championships in Orlando, taking 10th place.
Elevation 16 roster
Abby Gourley – McAuley
Abby Williams – Ursuline
Ally King – Mason
Katherine Edmondson – Ursuline
Kendyll Kraus – St. Henry
Lauren Moeller – Milford
Lauren Wilkins – Ursuline
Madi Maisel – Wyoming
Margo Wolf – MND
Sarah Marlatt – Loveland
Coaches: Greg Ulland, Jon Miller
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