Second place is not always a bad thing, especially in a national setting.
The 14-year-old Ripon-based Rage volleyball club made history in the club's sixth year after becoming the first team to medal in the biggest Junior National setting in the country, taking the silver medal in the Junior National Championships for volleyball in Minneapolis, Minn.
“Definitely super proud of the kids, first medal for the club. First time anybody medaled at the tournament and super proud about that and it was the Open Division, which was the toughest in that division,” said the Rage 14s head coach Gabriel Leal. “It is an honor to be here, but to get the medal is huge.”
With a strong core of a team with talent across the board, including six Turlock and Hilmar based players, the 14-year-old squad was able to topple their opponents in straight sets leading into the final eight teams.
Whitney Barnes, Audrey Dykzeul, Kennedy Folly, Jadyn Tubbs and Kaylin Randhawa are all from Turlock on the squad and Julia Handy is from Hilmar.
They went 7-0 in two days, playing some of the toughest competition in the country.
“No team is soft here, this is the best of the best. All these teams are state winners and top in their region and state, it’s really impressive volleyball,” said Rage club representative Dave Collins.
Heading into the final two days, the Rage 14s went on a two-game hot streak where they were able to creep their way on to the final four after beating down the Cleveland Volleyball Company, which is the number one 14s team in the state, in three games, 24-26, 25-23 and 15-7.
“The girls just shut down Cleveland and won big at the end,” Collins said. “I will tell you what, those girls they didn’t let a ball hit the floor, their blocking was incredible and they dug every hit up and left poor Cleveland wondering what they needed to do to score a point on these guys.”
The next game would prove to be a close one again after meeting the number one team in the state of Arizona—Aspire.
The Rage won the first game 25-19, then dropped the second 21-25 only to bounce back and clip their win with a 15-11 score at the end.
“There’s no easy teams at any day, anybody can come out and win. With that win they guaranteed themselves a medal in the national’s tournament,” Collins added.
In the final four, the Rage met the number one team from Kansas, the Asics Mavs.
The first game went their way as they notched a 25-22 victory and then handed the top Kansas team a ticket home after beating them 25-21 in the second game to end it in straight sets.
“Incredible volleyball, the defense was stellar. The blockers, amazing. And the hitters, very powerful,” Collins said. “Oh man, both teams played well, Asics played phenomenal volleyball, but Rage played better. The setter, Julian Handy, focused and determined. Leadership was absolutely there.”
“Big Whitney Barnes wouldn’t be denied on her powerful hits. Jadyn Tubbs, the 5-foot-5 outside hitter with big hops couldn’t be stopped — not only were her hits impossible to contain but her back row defense was spot on. She had amazing plays and Kennedy Folly served nails all game long,” Collins added.
Their win over Asics guaranteed them a silver medal, making them one of the top two teams in USA volleyball.
After three days of competing against the best that the nation had to offer, the Rage were finally stopped as their amazing 10-0 run came to a halt when they met the Tampa Bay Volleyball Academy in the grand finale.
Tampa Bay was able to best the Rage in straight sets, 25-19 and 25-13.
“Tampa Bay is one of the tougher teams we played all year, they won second national tournament and shows how good they are,” Leal said. “Very physical and they definitely were the better team this match; but overall very proud of the girls since we beat a lot of good teams to get here.
“This is the last tournament of the year for us, so next year they will be reformed and girls need to come out and try out again. This group of Turlock kids will compete with other girls to join the team again and to be part of the organization,” Leal added.