The 17-year-old Ripon-based Rage volleyball club concluded their Junior National Championship run on Wednesday after finishing 20th out of 24 teams in the USA division in Minneapolis, Minn.
Despite an early boot out of the country’s biggest amateur volleyball stage, the Rage 17s were still happy with their result, especially after playing with injuries that plagued them all season long.
“In the season we had some rough patches with the injuries in the middle, outside and everywhere it seems like. We had some rough times with many injuries slowing us down this year but the girls still did well,” said Rage 17s head coach Gregory Soliz. “To get to the tournament is a huge deal just being here.”
The injuries didn’t stop the Rage 17s, however, as they earned their way into the national setting after placing second in the USA Division tournament in Southern California a few weeks prior.
By the end of the second match on the first day, the Rage were up 2-0 before a two-loss setback really put this team on their toes.
After winning the next two and jumping out to a 4-2 posting, the Rage were put in a very unfortunate situation after getting in a three-way tie, which the Rage lost due to point total.
Out of the big tourney, the Rage then dropped three of their last four matches.
“Everyone started off hot then really the games just got away from us after that,” Soliz said.
Pitman High’s Ashleigh Phelps only played in the final two matches after being out due to a sickness, but fared well and played a solid amount in the only win of the final day on Wednesday when the team went 1-1.
“Ashleigh [Phelps] played last two games and she is a big playmaker for us, she works hard every day, kept playing well all season,” said Soliz. “Having her out was big, because she did a good job at the libero position and without her we definitely struggled. She came in and played a different position and did well overall.”
Madelyn Halteman of Pitman ended up playing every game for the Rage as the undoubted setter.
“Madelyn is a great setter and captain for this team, she is always moving the team and at this level you need a good setter as well as a captain who takes charge. She basically ran the team and was a key player on why we were successful this year,” Soliz said.
The team finished in the top 20 in the country for 17-year-olds in volleyball. Although coach Soliz wanted the team to finish with a medal, he could not be happier for what his team accomplished this season.
“As any team coming in we felt we had a team that could get there and compete but at this level you need to be on every day but we let up a bit and by doing that it left us just outside of the next round,” Soliz said. “Expectations were high but at the same time to come here and play top teams in the country since other squads really want to, is the biggest thing. The girls accomplished a lot.”
This team we have great kids and their parents as well. I am definitely going to miss everything about this team because the parents were truly great supporters,” Soliz added. “ Overall the 17s couldn’t have been a better team to coach. We couldn’t have done anything without the help of the parents, we are all very thankful for all they did.”
The 16-year-old squad is currently 7-0 after their first seven matches and have won all but their first match, in straight sets.