Little giants on the court
Published 9:25 pm Friday, March 27, 2015
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, someone once said, “Size matters not.”
The group of sophomore girls on the Nansemond Volleyball Club’s 16s team are proving the saying true.
Not only are the girls short by volleyball standards, with no one on the team taller than 5 feet 9 inches, but they are also few in number, with only seven players on the roster.
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Nevertheless, on Saturday, they improved to 24-2 this season, winning an Old Dominion Region USA Volleyball-sanctioned tournament in Virginia Beach without dropping a set.
The team’s coach, Robyn Ross, said her little team is doing so well mostly because her players possess superior discipline at this age level when it comes to the basics of volleyball.
“We beat people because we serve them off the court, we play defense better than most and we pass better than most,” she said. “So, if you can serve and pass, you can beat a lot of people, especially at that 16s age level where I don’t think everybody works on the fundamentals as much as we do.”
Ross noted the other primary component contributing to their success is their mental toughness. She helps develop this by making practice very difficult, so much so that actual matches seem like a mental breather, by contrast.
“They do what’s been ingrained in their bodies and heads after lots of hard practices,” Ross said.
The Nansemond Volleyball Club has featured some talented teams in the past, but this little team that could has now become the most successful squad in the club’s five-year history.
“It kind of doesn’t seem believable,” said 5-foot-7-inch Livi Bono, who led the team this past weekend with 40 kills and five blocks over the course of five matches. She noted the team is little, but added, “We’re strong and mighty,” and she highlighted Ross’ training as key.
Except for the NVC squad, every team competing in the tournament on Saturday had at least one girl that was six feet tall, and most teams had two or three, Ross said.
The size contrast between the NVC 16s team and its opponents was so significant that Ross said you could hear parents for opposing teams talking during warmups, suggesting the match was going to be a joke.
Then, her girls would typically rout the competition.
“It’s really fun to watch,” Ross said.
In pool play, the 16s team defeated U-Turn 16 Light Blue 25-22, 25-9, 25-14, trounced Outbreak 16 Blue 25-10, 25-9, 25-6 and handed SERV 16 Black a 25-10, 25-12, 25-10 loss.
For the semifinal and final matches, which were best-out-of-three, the NVC 16s team topped SERV 16 Teal 25-10, 25-11 and beat Beach Elite 16R Adidas 25-18, 25-22, respectively.
Logan Harrell, a captain for Ross’ team, led the seven girls with 53 points scored on her serves and 23 aces on the day, with only three misses.
“Just a ridiculous job from the service line for her,” Ross said, later adding Harrell also piled up 18 kills and 30 digs.
Also turning in strong service games were Ashley Petroski, who had 45 points scored on her serves, Lindsay Knierbein, who had 41, and Bono, who had 34.
“Basically, what that’s telling you is that there’s never really a let-up,” Ross said, later adding, “That is a picture of why these girls are little and can still beat these teams.”
Petroski said she sees the team’s small size as an advantage.
“I think it teaches us to work harder,” she said.
With only seven players, everyone has to make solid contributions or risk sinking the team.
“They know that they don’t get to have bad days,” Ross said.
The team is headed for Richmond today to participate in another Old Dominion Region tournament.