By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After a weekend of flying high, it came as a total shock to see Jurnee Robinson laid low.
The soaring, roaring offensive presence for the 17s A5-Mizuno Jing squad had a truckload of huge kills in the team’s 17 Elite title match Monday against Drive Nation, and it’s no surprise she had the finishing blow in what was a 25-21, 19-25, 15-9 victory. However, she landed awkwardly after making the shot and had to be helped off while the Kansas City Convention Center crowd watched anxiously.
She eventually made it back to the celebration, posing for pictures and reveling in an amazing performance. Her kills and a cluster of hard-to-believe blocks from teammate Milana Thornton were the obvious highlights as A5 Mizuno held on the claim the title, which they won as 16s last May at this event.
“I was ready for it. This matchup, I had no idea about Drive Nation, but to play like we did feels great,” said Robinson, who has signed to play collegiately at LSU. “We had nothing to lose, and in that third set we talked about having the energy we showed the whole game. We just dropped a bit in the second set … we always know other teams may be bigger than us, but we are stronger. We have confidence in everyone.”
Thornton had a message-delivering block to start off the third set; Robinson had one to make it 3-0, Thornton did it again for a 5-0 lead, and she added a service ace off the top of the net to push the lead to 7-1. Drive Nation found some footing late, pulling within 12-8, but one more Thornton block felt huge, and was a nice table-setter for Robinson’s final swing.
“I had faith and I was focused, it all felt really good,” Thornton said. “They had good hitters, but we decided to bring it right back at them, and harder. We won last year, so we wanted to get back in.”
“Sometimes we get a little bit down and look at the ground,” said A5 head coach Jing Hou. “Our blocking wasn’t good there for a while, and we didn’t get off to a good start in that second set. Those were great blocks (by Thornton) and really, really important. It totally shut things down.”
She didn’t get the early swings in the title match, but Ashley Sturzoiu eventually got into the flow and smoked a series of impressive kills that matched whatever Drive Nation was putting together on their end.
“At the end of the day we win as a team and lose as a team; whatever I can do to help is my job,” Sturzoiu said. “When I get my moment, I’ll take it, but until then I’m there for my team. I wasn’t too concerned about the second set, there was just a moment there when they took the momentum. But it wasn’t like they took all our energy. We made some errors, and I knew for the third set we’d just go all out.”