by Michael DeLeon
The Triple Crown NIT is now fully underway and we had some amazing match ups in each age group. We picked a few matches to cover and this one really peaked everyone’s interest. The match I covered was Houston Skyline 16 Royal versus Coast 16-1. Both teams are no stranger to big stages and big-time play. Let’s take a closer look at how both teams fared against each other.
Houston Skyline 16 Royal
These young ladies are no stranger to winning as they ran through the Open level competition in three USAV National Qualifiers last year. The only thing that has changed is this star-studded squad has gotten better, faster, and stronger. Key the Kanye West song play in background as you read the rest of this article. They go ino this matchup having already played two matches against two of the toughest teams in the tourney. Last year’s USAV Open division runner up Arizona Storm 16 Thunder and their awesome outside Teraya Sigler bested Houston Skyline (25-21, 26-24). Their second match went the distance also as they fell to 1st Alliance 16 Gold (23-25, 29-27, 15-17). Anyone who knows this tournament well will tell you that every match is going to be tough. That is the beauty of it.
Coast had a much different day as they went into this last match undefeated. They had already dispatched Milwaukee Sting 16 Gold (25-27, 25-17, 15-9). Coast’s second match was another tough battle with a retooled Drive Nation squad who we have seen a few times this year. Coast took the match (25-19, 25-23). Next up was another super tough Texas squad. After watching Coast today, I know one thing is certain. They will not give up without a fight.
Even though both teams had different outcomes of their first two matches, this matchup was super intriguing to me. Coast’s ball control and defense is second to none and is kind of the standard operating procedure of each team in the club. Cali teams are always great at the overall game and usually wear their opponent down by digging everything that comes their way. Houston Skyline is your typical Texas team in that they are extremely explosive offensively and can bang the ball with anyone.
The first set saw both teams trading punches in the middle of the ring for the first three quarters of it. Neither team would let the other go one a run as they were going shot for shot. No one had the upper hand. That is until the defense on the Houston Skyline side started playing extremely well. Taylor Porter, who is well known as an explosive point scorer on the pins, started playing phenomenally in the back row. She picked up everything that came anywhere near her zone. Ava Poinsett of Coast was the one who had an answer for every Houston Skyline point that was scored. Miss Poinsett was brilliant moving the ball around the block and finding holes everywhere. Stella Dillon was also banging away on the right side of the court for Coast. Skyline eventually pulled away and won the first set 25-18 thanks to Bailey Warren and Baleigh Minor who began to score at will.
Set 2 was never close as Skyline’s Porter was throttling the ball down the line on the right side. She took advantage of a hole and Coast never adjusted. Kassidy O'Brien was brilliant as she moved the ball around so well to each of her hitters to keep Coast’s defense off-balance. I was thoroughly impressed with the play of Ella Lewis of Skyline as she routinely let some bombs loose from the back row during out of system plays. Coast went on a small run toward the end of the second set when their libero Paulina Baille started to frustrate Houston Skyline’s attackers by picking up everything that came her way. She is one of the best liberos in her grad class in the state of Cali and she showed it in this match.
However, Houston Skyline eventually pulled away and won the second set 25-21, which closed out the match in two straight sets. This was a fun match to cover and both teams showed why they were invited to the power pools.