Ken Wunderley reports that a team of WPIAL girls volleyball standouts will compete in a national tournament this weekend. Read his story below.
(Photo: Macy McElhaney of Beaver High School is among the WPIAL all-stars at nationals)
A team of WPIAL all-stars is entered in the United States Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships, which begin Friday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The 10-player squad, which includes nine WPIAL all-stars, will be the fourth team since April from the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Club to make an appearance at a national tournament.
"USA Volleyball holds its 18-and-under championships in April, then holds its other age bracket championships in July," said Jen Flynn Oldenburg, who is Pittsburgh Elite's associate director. "We had an 18-and-under team compete at nationals in April. We also had a 15-and-under team and a 16-and-under team compete at the AAU National Championships, which were held this month."
The team that began competition today is Pittsburgh Elite's 17-and-under elite team.
"Pittsburgh Elite has 344 girls competing on 35 teams in seven age brackets," said Flynn, who was a three-sport star at Baldwin High School. "We have girls from more than 20 different high schools.
"We pick the best 20 players in each age group. The best 10 [in each age group] make up our elite teams. The next 10 [in each age group] make up our premier teams. The rest of our girls play on regional teams. Each team plays in eight tournaments from January until June."
Pittsburgh Elite's 17-and-under elite team earned its national berth by placing at the East Coast Championships.
"The difference between the US Junior Nationals and the AAU Nationals is that you have to qualify for the US Nationals," Flynn said. "Any team can enter the AAU Nationals."
Pittsburgh Elite has its own training facility.
"We have a five-court facility in Emsworth, between Routes 65 and 79," Flynn said. "We also have summer leagues for high school teams, so we are busy every day of the week."
Flynn and executive director Laura Zewe run the club.
"We have 70 coaches with some serving as volunteers, but most of them are paid," Flynn said. "Our goal is to teach the game of volleyball to any girl who is willing to put in the time."
Boys teams compete
The Pittsburgh Volleyball Club has teams participating in the United States Volleyball Boys National Championships, which begin Saturday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio.
"This is the eighth year we've had teams competing at the national championships," said North Allegheny assistant coach Pete Madia, who serves as club director for PVC.
The Pittsburgh Volleyball Club has five teams entered in this year's tournament, one team in the open division and four teams in the club division.
"Teams must qualify for the open division," Madia said. "Any team can enter the club division."
The PCV has two 18-and-under teams, including one that qualified for the open division. The club also has a 16-and-under team and two 14-and-under teams entered in the club division.
"I'm not coaching at nationals this year," said North Allegheny coach Dan Schall, who serves as a club director along with Madia. "I have two sons playing on one of our 14-and-under teams. I will be a spectator at this tournament."