Girls Varsity Volleyball · Gunn Girls Volleyball Athletes do well at Club Nationals

Academy volleyball rewarded with a trip to junior nationals

The Academy 17 Gold won the American Division at Colorado Crossroads, earning a trip to the junior nationals in Indianapolis in June. Photo courtesy of Sandra Smith.

Reagan Smith (12) and Natalie Grover (7) share a laugh with Mariah Grover (11). Photo courtesy of Sandra Smith.

The Academy Volleyball 17 Gold team, comprised almost entirely of local high school juniors, won the American Division title at the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier in Denver over the weekend to earn a bid into the Junior Nationals this summer.

The Junior Nationals run June 26 through July 6 in Indianapolis.

Academy defeated The Edge Volleyball Club 17 Jim of Lakewood, Colo,, 25-23, 25-14, in Sunday’s championship match. Their reward? Study Hall.

These are players just as motivated by academics as by athletics. Getting behind also means not being able to travel. Academy leaves Thursday for the Pacific Northwest Qualifier in Spokane.

The roster includes six players named to an all-league team in the fall, including Sacred Heart Prep’s Reagan Smith, Menlo-Atherton’s Natalie Grover, Woodside’s Elena Campbell and Molly Buddie, Gunn’s Odeya Russo and Presentation’s Andie Valenzuela.

Just as important are the other six players, who all contributed to their high school teams: M-A’s Mariah Grover and Bella Shermis, Palo Alto’s Grace Thayer, Menlo’s Kayla Ting, Washington Fremont’s Kaeli Monahan and More San Jose’s Kate Blackwell.

Academy Volleyball is relatively new to the club scene. Based in Palo Alto, the team also practices at Woodside. Administrators and coaches include former Paly coach Danielle Desiderio, current Paly coach Benjamin Saetang, M-A coach Jairo Sierra, Woodside’s Sonja Gavioli and SHP boys’ coach Ren Almanzor.

The 17 Gold is coached by former Stanford star Denny Falls, currently an assistant for the Menlo College men’s team. There are also dozens of current or former college players around to help.

Academy won all 10 of its matches in straight sets and only twice won 25-23. The first was in the opening match against Gulf Coast 171 Coast, based in Clear Lake, Texas.

The 17 Gold also beat teams from Amarillo, Dallas, Omaha, Tempe, Brighton, Colo. and Burnsville, Minn.

Teams from Vision and Encore were also in Denver. Vision teams also feature local players. Vision 18 Blue was the club’s top finisher, placing fifth with a team that includes Woodside’s Lena McDonough, in Denver.

Vision has already qualified eight of its teams to junior nationals, including 18 Gold (Menlo senior Selina Xu, M-A senior Alicia Letvin, Menlo senior Sianna Houghton), 17 Gold (Menlo junior Abby Holleran) and 16 Gold (Gunn sophomore Lauren Griffin, M-A sophomore Emma Spindt) to the Open Division.