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The Nansemond Volleyball Club’s 17-year-old team is made up of student-athletes from Nansemond River High School and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and has performed particularly well in high level tournaments the past two weekends. Back row from left, Rachel Kent, Lizzy Fowler, Tatyana Thomas, Caylin Harris. Front row from left, Claire Shields, Brooks Gillerlain, Kaylor Nash, Brianna Rowe.
The Nansemond Volleyball Club’s 17-year-old team is made up of student-athletes from Nansemond River High School and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and has performed particularly well in high level tournaments the past two weekends. Back row from left, Rachel Kent, Lizzy Fowler, Tatyana Thomas, Caylin Harris. Front row from left, Claire Shields, Brooks Gillerlain, Kaylor Nash, Brianna Rowe.

Volleyball club keeps girls sharp in offseason

Published 8:32pm Saturday, April 13, 2013

A group of volleyball players from Suffolk’s high schools are getting an opportunity to take their skills to the next level and play together throughout the school offseason with the Nansemond Volleyball Club.

The club is only three years old, and though the girls making up the team for 17-year-olds have been together for even less time, they have experienced notable success in tournament play over the past couple of weekends.

At the Old Dominion Region National Bid tournament on Saturday and Sunday in Richmond, the Suffolk team, comprising players from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Nansemond River High School, finished second.

“The coolest part about this past weekend was most of the girls had their best tournament ever,” said NSA head coach Robyn Ross, who is also the head coach of the 17s team. “Our biggest hitters are Tatyana (Thomas) and Caylin (Harris) in the middle and Kaylor (Nash) playing on the outside. But this past weekend, Brianna Rowe had the best hitting weekend that I’ve ever seen her have. And Claire (Shields) played as our libero and played the best defense and serve/receive passing that she’s ever played. So everybody really turned in a huge effort.”

The team began playing in events in January and participates in about two or three tourneys per month, generally playing in seven to nine matches during the course of two days. The team’s record is 22-22.

During the Easter weekend, the squad played in the Big South National Qualifier tourney in Atlanta, Ga., where they finished 23rd out of 40 teams.

The 17s team, one of four different age-specific teams in the club, is intended for serious volleyball players who want to improve. Ross, known for being an intense coach, said her style can be an adjustment for some girls, but “then you also have a group of girls that really want to excel in the sport, so in another sense, it’s easier to mesh them together, because nobody’s just doing it for fun.”

Third-year club player Kaylor Nash had 57 kills, four blocks, 12 aces and 89 digs in Richmond, and she has seen her own improvement through playing for the club.

“Playing year-round helps a lot, because I’m always touching a volleyball, always hitting at least three times a week,” she said. “So it definitely helps. And playing with different girls, I can learn other things from other girls.”

Second-year club player Tatyana Thomas, who recorded 55 kills and 12 blocks in Atlanta, has been especially grateful for Ross’ tutelage.

“She’s helped me with my endurance,” Thomas said. “She’s pushed me in places I haven’t been able to push myself in school volleyball. It’s more competitive and athletic than school volleyball.”

The Atlanta tourney was popular with college scouts.

“That was one of the big pushes for us,” Ross said. “This is the first year that we’ve taken any of our teams to any of these bigger tournaments.”

The 17s team still has a chance to make it to the national tournament at the end of June in Dallas, where there will be about 150 different teams per age group.

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